[NetBehaviour] The Unreasonable Ecological Cost of #CryptoArt (a not very deep reading of a high price piece of cryptoart)
ruthcatlow at gmail.com
Mon Feb 1 16:45:10 CET 2021
I enjoyed your analysis a lot more than I enjoyed looking at the image of
EthBoy (which was hard on my sensibilities for many of the same reasons you
picked up on)!
The thing that I don't "like" exactly, but do find fascinating, and think
is important for investigation, is how the meaning and value of the
blockchained digital art image is locked into its relationship to different
modes of ownership, collaboration and price.
The clunky handling of art cannon (both visually and in the textual
interpretation) doesn't seem to impinge on the artistic or economic value
of the work, because what is more important (to this community of artists
and collectors) is its ability to promote its celebrities and technical
innovations. All of this brings out the art snob in me.
But it is exciting to start to see how technical infrastructures for art
trading are starting to explore different operating systems of ownership
that connect artists with audiences in more interesting ways.
I found the Interdependence Podcast on "*Artist tokens, Community Owned
Institutions and the Reliance Alliance with ZORA*" a really good listen and
it helped my understanding of some of the new approaches being explored
On Fri, Jan 29, 2021 at 9:29 PM Edward Picot via NetBehaviour <
netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> wrote:
> Ruth and everyone,
> I've been spending some time looking at this image and thinking about it.
> The first thing that struck me about it was its horribleness. It's a bit
> difficult to put your finger on exactly where this horribleness comes from,
> but I think it's got something to do with the fact that different sections
> of the picture - different layers, rather - are in completely different
> styles. The butterfly, for example - one wing's in shadow and the other is
> in light, but apart from this nod to three-dimensionality it's just a flat
> shape, a cut-out. The Ethereum logo kites in the background - likewise
> these have got panels in light and panels in shade, but they don't actually
> make sense as three dimensional shapes, and the really infuriating thing
> about them is the way the 'strings' on which they're supposed to be
> 'flying' don't join up accurately with the corners. Then you've got the
> chair, the ruffs on the Harlequin costume, and the boy's hat, hands and
> feet - all lifted straight from Picasso, but the way in which they're
> painted no longer makes any sense because of how they've been cut and
> pasted out of context. Actually one of my first thoughts about the
> painting/artwork was 'he doesn't look as if he's properly sitting in that
> chair, it's almost as if he's been draped across it or he's leaning against
> the edge of it' - and when I look at the Picasso original there's some of
> that same feeling. But Picasso is deliberately doing something with the
> pattern of the Harlequin costume, making it too bold and slightly wonky and
> playing it off against the wistful and lost look on the boy's face - all of
> that gets lost in this reworking. The painting of the face - Vitalik
> Buterin's face, Vitalik Buterin being one of the founders of Ethereum - is
> in a different style again. It almost feels as if his face is going to
> split open into a toothy grin, and we're going to realize that we're
> looking at one of the older and more painterly front covers of Mad
> magazine. And that may even be deliberate, because the writeup alongside
> the picture makes it apparent that there's some kind of satirical intent
> The effect of these different layers, different fragments, different
> styles all being put together in one picture is jarring and banal.
> That writeup: 'Leaning against a large chair, the boy genius fiddles with
> his fingers in a somewhat nervous manner; nevertheless, he stares directly
> at the viewer with what appears to be a confident, ‘Mona Lisa-like’ smile.
> Vitalik has no idea what the future has in store for him, but he’s prepared
> to face any obstacle ahead as he begins life's adventure'. The satirical
> intent is most apparent in the phrase 'boy genius'. I think what Trevor
> Jones, the artist, is trying to convey is a sense that Vitalik is out of
> his depth but determined to front it out. But there's a clumsiness in the
> phrasing - is 'confident' really the right adjective for the Mona Lisa's
> smile? Shouldn't Vitalik be overcoming obstacles rather than just facing
> them? Don't obstacles belong to a path rather than an adventure? And is he
> really just beginning life's adventure when he's already become so famous
> and made so much money? The metaphors don't quite work, and the clumsiness
> of this piece of writing seems to be a kind of parallel with the clumsiness
> of the artwork.
> But the other thing this writeup is doing, apart from telling us that this
> is a piece of art about Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum and blockchain culture in
> general, and that it's got a vague satirical flavour to it, is making
> connections with the canon of 'great art' and 'great artists' - most
> obviously Picasso, but also the Mona Lisa. And if you look at Trevor
> Jones's website, and other examples of his art and how he describes them,
> this is obviously a concern of his.
> Then you've got what might be termed the new media aspect of the artwork.
> When I came back and looked at it again after a day or so, it had changed.
> The butterfly was in a different place. The background had changed - there
> used to be a rainbow behind the chair, but now there were some chains of
> blue cubes; and there used to be some seagulls, but now there were some
> Pokemon-style creatures. This is where it gets interesting. It turns out
> that the picture consists of a number of different layers, and some of the
> layers move over time, and their movements are determined by what's
> happening to the value of Ether and the price of oil. It was when I started
> to find out about this aspect of the artwork that I started to wonder
> whether it maybe wasn't so bad after all. After all, anyone that creates
> art digitally will be familiar with the process of working in lots of
> different layers. When you've finished the process of creation what you
> normally do is meld all these layers together to create the illusion that
> the finished piece is a single flat image like a drawing, a painting, a
> print or maybe a photograph. But the difference is always there, and
> actually you can see that difference in artwork that's been created
> digitally if you know where to look for it. So what Trevor Jones is doing
> in Ethboy is putting this use of layers into the foreground, instead of
> trying to pretend that it's not there: he's conceptualising it and
> developing its digital potential. He's created a piece about Ethereum and
> the workings of the blockchain that actually brings those workings into the
> artwork itself as a form of animation. That's kind of funky.
> And if you look at Trevor Jones' website, there's actually some quite good
> stuff on there. He did another earlier artwork called Ethgirl, which I
> actually much prefer to Ethboy - much more cubist in style, incorporating
> the Ethereum logo again, along with other things such as the Twitter logo,
> a smiley face, a cat face and so forth. It's much more unified as a picture
> because the style is less disparate and it's painted in the greys and
> browns that are characteristic of a lot of Cubist pictures. There's another
> one called 'Picasso's Bull' which I also like. Both of these are animated
> like Ethboy, but in a slightly different way - sections of the Cubist
> structures swing apart to reveal other parts beneath, rather than the
> Ethboy process of different layers simply moving while the central image
> remains stationary.
> There are also some paintings on the website based on QR codes (the
> paintings are scannable), and some earlier ones on the theme of
> synaesthesia (music translated into mainly-abstract art). I like all of
> these more than I like Ethboy.
> There's a lot of explanation on the website, and it gives quite a strong
> sense of how Jones has found his way to the space he's working in now. 'I
> consider myself a traditional painter but one who is also absolutely
> fascinated with art and tech collaboration.' He starts his story with the
> synaesthesia paintings, and then describes how he seemed to lose his
> audience when he became fascinated with QR codes: 'very few really
> understood why I, as an artist, would be so excited about these odd looking
> squares'. Then in 2012 he 'discovered Augmented Reality' and 'I felt
> rejuvenated because I was no longer creatively constrained to these
> seemingly arbitrarily patterned squares'. But on the other hand the sense
> of being at odds with his audience continues: 'It's been a long and
> arduous process pursuing my passion for technologically inspired paintings
> while at the same time gradually coming to the realisation that these works
> would struggle to be accepted into the more conservative Scottish art
> establishment and commercial galleries.' As a result, 'Since 2015 I've
> slowly distanced myself from the local art scene I've been focusing on the
> tech world and connecting with fans of my new work on an international
> level.' The contrast of 'art establishment' and 'local art scene' with 'the
> tech world' and 'fans' seems significant, as does a comment he makes
> elsewhere on the website - that when he discovered Bitcoin he 'fell down
> the rabbit hole'. You get the impression that here's a 'traditional
> painter' who has gradually found his way into very different territory, but
> without being able to completely lose his desire to be judged in terms of
> old school artistic values - hence his desire to make connections between
> his work and artists such as Picasso or great paintings such as the Mona
> Lisa. When you go back to EthBoy, you find yourself wondering whether it's
> really Jones himself who is the central figure, out of his depth but trying
> to front it out, not really sure of his bearings any more but trying to
> forge ahead nevertheless.
> I don't like EthBoy, but I do think it's got some interesting ideas behind
> it, and I do find Trevor Jones an interesting figure. I suspect that he'd
> be a more successful artist in aesthetic terms if he could dump some of his
> preoccupation with pre-digital art - but on the other hand the sense of
> tension and uneasiness in a work like EthBoy seems to come from the way in
> which his 'traditional art' references jar against his digital
> experimentation - and I suppose you could argue that that's what makes it
> Time for supper!
> On 23/01/2021 11:28, Ruth Catlow via NetBehaviour wrote:
> Hi Graziano,
> These are the things I observe about the Cryptoart scene - and that puzzle
> - no one talks about the imagery, meaning, concept - evva!
> - and prices are always given in $$$s not a cryptocurrency
> Anyone want to volunteer do a deep reading of a piece of high-price
> crytpoart? Perhaps this one
> [image: image.png]
> It would be great to know if these artists are cashing out their crypto
> immediately after the auctions. If not why are we not hearing about the
> prices in the cryptocurrencies with which they were bought?
> On Fri, Jan 22, 2021 at 4:53 PM Graziano Milano <grazmaster at googlemail.com>
>> In 2020 the crypto artist "Beeple" (Mike Winkelmann), that is mentioned
>> in “The Unreasonable Ecological Cost of #CryptoArt (Part 1)”, has broken
>> records on Gemini’s Nifty Gateway platform by selling a collection of 20
>> artworks for a sum of $3.5 million:
>> By the end of this century the value of these 20 Beeple’s artworks may
>> increase or completely collapse as it may happen to Bitcoins and other
>> crypto currencies.
>> On Fri, 22 Jan 2021 at 10:50, Ruth Catlow via NetBehaviour <
>> netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> wrote:
>>> re: http://cryptoart.wtf
>>> I mean... It's a great troll but it's not good enough!
>>> The meme of blockchain's outrageous energy use is a barrier to more
>>> diverse people entering the development space.
>>> Blockchain technologies are important because species collapse and
>>> climate emergency is an effect of the global political economy. Blockchains
>>> tech like cryptocurrencies, tokens, and smart contracts are the only tools
>>> we have (as yet) to organise directly p-2-p at a planetary scale.They are
>>> still new but they offer a way to imagine and realise both money and
>>> governance at a global scale, independent of states and corporations.
>>> The debate about blockchain's environmental impact usually focuses
>>> around its high energy use.
>>> [EXPLAINER: Blockchains' level of energy use are due to the consensus
>>> mechanisms (CMs) they use to verify transactions, and to "mine" currency.
>>> The amount of electricity used varies according to the CM. The two dominant
>>> CMs are Proof of Work (PoW) and Proof of Stake (PoS)
>>> Bitcoin uses PoW and infamously consumes the same amount of electricity
>>> as 159 countries. Ethereum (the platform for programmable money - and
>>> therefore the focus of a lot of work on new forms of governance) is moving
>>> to Eth2 a PoS system which uses far less energy. But this is still 2 years
>>> Questions about the environmental impact of blockchain are important and
>>> difficult to answer. It's right that we assess the impact of Blockchains
>>> but we need better ways to compare all emerging digital infrastructure
>>> ecosystems - including other financial techs, IoT, ML AI, 5G.
>>> A focus on reducing energy use is not enough. As @alsodanlowe put it
>>> "It would be crazy to ban or dissuade colleagues from participating in an
>>> effort to decentralize money away from the forces that create the priority
>>> for fossil fuels (much of it built on debt) just because those forces
>>> exist. PoW is agnostic. Banks and existing oligarchy is not."
>>> Blockchain is a future technology. It is built for use in a world of
>>> clean, limitless, renewable energy.
>>> Efforts need to focus here...and on the political economies and the
>>> cultural adoption patterns that they can support and grow beyond
>>> accumulative self-interest and extractive capitalism if we are avoid
>>> accelerating climate collapse.
>>> This morning I retweeted this from Sarah Friend "If I hadn't spent the
>>> past five years working in crypto, I'd probably be moralizing about it too,
>>> and this is perhaps part of why I am so profoundly annoyed by its
>>> superficial detractors - my shadow selves, who know so much less than me
>>> and are so much more sure they're right"
>>> There's so much more to say about all of this. Especially about the
>>> role that art has to play.
>>> On Fri, Jan 22, 2021 at 9:35 AM Annie Abrahams via NetBehaviour <
>>> netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> wrote:
>>>> The website http://cryptoart.wtf pulls in random blockchain-based
>>>> CryptoArt from the web, and estimates the ecological impact of each work
>>>> in terms of energy consumption (kWh), and greenhouse gases released
>>>> (KgCO2) as a result of blockchain-based transactions relating to the
>>>> NetBehaviour mailing list
>>>> NetBehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org
>>> Co-founder & Artistic director of Furtherfield & DECAL Decentralised
>>> Arts Lab
>>> +44 (0) 77370 02879
>>> *I will only agree to speak at events that are racially and gender
>>> **sending thanks
>>> <https://www.ovoenergy.com/ovo-newsroom/press-releases/2019/november/think-before-you-thank-if-every-brit-sent-one-less-thank-you-email-a-day-we-would-save-16433-tonnes-of-carbon-a-year-the-same-as-81152-flights-to-madrid.html> in
>>> *Furtherfield *disrupts and democratises art and technology through exhibitions,
>>> labs & debate, for deep exploration, open tools & free thinking.
>>> furtherfield.org <http://www.furtherfield.org/>
>>> *DECAL* Decentralised Arts Lab is an arts, blockchain & web 3.0
>>> technologies research hub
>>> for fairer, more dynamic & connected cultural ecologies & economies now.
>>> decal.is <http://www.decal.is>
>>> Furtherfield is a Not-for-Profit Company Limited by Guarantee
>>> Registered in England and Wales under the Company No.7005205.
>>> Registered business address: Carbon Accountancy, 80-83 Long Lane,
>>> London, EC1A 9ET.
>>> NetBehaviour mailing list
>>> NetBehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org
> Co-founder & Artistic director of Furtherfield & DECAL Decentralised Arts
> +44 (0) 77370 02879
> *I will only agree to speak at events that are racially and gender
> **sending thanks
> <https://www.ovoenergy.com/ovo-newsroom/press-releases/2019/november/think-before-you-thank-if-every-brit-sent-one-less-thank-you-email-a-day-we-would-save-16433-tonnes-of-carbon-a-year-the-same-as-81152-flights-to-madrid.html> in
> *Furtherfield *disrupts and democratises art and technology through exhibitions,
> labs & debate, for deep exploration, open tools & free thinking.
> furtherfield.org <http://www.furtherfield.org/>
> *DECAL* Decentralised Arts Lab is an arts, blockchain & web 3.0
> technologies research hub
> for fairer, more dynamic & connected cultural ecologies & economies now.
> decal.is <http://www.decal.is>
> Furtherfield is a Not-for-Profit Company Limited by Guarantee
> Registered in England and Wales under the Company No.7005205.
> Registered business address: Carbon Accountancy, 80-83 Long Lane, London,
> EC1A 9ET.
> NetBehaviour mailing listNetBehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.orghttps://lists.netbehaviour.org/mailman/listinfo/netbehaviour
> NetBehaviour mailing list
> NetBehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org
Co-founder & Artistic director of Furtherfield & DECAL Decentralised Arts
+44 (0) 77370 02879
*I will only agree to speak at events that are racially and gender
*Furtherfield *disrupts and democratises art and technology through
labs & debate, for deep exploration, open tools & free thinking.
*DECAL* Decentralised Arts Lab is an arts, blockchain & web 3.0 technologies
for fairer, more dynamic & connected cultural ecologies & economies now.
Furtherfield is a Not-for-Profit Company Limited by Guarantee
Registered in England and Wales under the Company No.7005205.
Registered business address: Carbon Accountancy, 80-83 Long Lane, London,
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