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September 12, 2022

Is Blockchain a Medium?

A group of all-star artists shares its answers with Anika Meier, Micol Ap, and Jesse Damiani
Credit: Kevin Abosch, Yellow Lambo, 2018. Courtesy of the artist
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Is Blockchain a Medium?

“When Crypto Meets Conceptual Art, Things Get Weird” was the headline of a 2018 article in The New York Times about Irish artist Kevin Abosch. Four years on, and things are even weirder. NFTs have disturbed the conversation about art on the blockchain, with hype driving a new market for digital assets.

The crypto crash of 2022 offers a chance to reflect on how digital art might be valued beyond a mere vehicle for speculation. At RCS we believe that, wherever possible, artists should be the ones to shape the terms by which their work is critically evaluated. To this end, Anika Meier, Micol Ap, and Jesse Damiani invited eight leading artists from the NFT movement to reflect on the history of art on the blockchain, which they have been so instrumental in writing.

Sarah Friend, Clickmine — Physical Non-fungible Token Edition, 2017. Photography by Sarah Friend. Courtesy of the artist

Anika Meier: How and when did you get into crypto and crypto art?

Kevin Abosch: I began using blockchain as a method in my work in late 2012. I cut my teeth by mining Dogecoin to help better understand the mechanics of it all. As an artist, I try to stay up to date on emerging technologies. I ask myself, “How can I leverage technology in my practice as an artist?” Immediately I recognized the potential to use the blockchain as a medium. 

I had already been working with cryptography for years. These magical alphanumerics that had this potential to serve as stores of value dovetailed nicely with my generative work, which more often than not deals with distilling emotional value from a given subject using both natural and synthetic proxies. For me, these alphanumerics worked perfectly as proxies. The blockchain for me is like a playground, a forest, or even like the inside of my head. When AI and deep learning are added to the equation, truths can emerge from all of this encrypted data. Things that were never meant to be seen may perhaps be seen. By 2018, when things really kicked off, I tokenized myself on the blockchain as a reaction to feeling commodified as an artist due to some successes I’d had in the past.

Attention was moving from the intrinsic value of my work to the financial value, which is not ideal. Ironically, with this project dubbed “I AM A COIN,” I ended up being commodified yet again, but that’s the way it goes.
Kevin Abosch, Personal Effects, 2018. Courtesy of the artist

AM: I am glad to hear that you keep finding new ways to use blockchain as a medium. Rhea, how did you get started?

Rhea Myers: I published a blog post in 2011 offering to draw a Bitcoin for anyone who sent me a Bitcoin. One person said, “Okay, how do we do this?” and I panicked because I was worried that a Bitcoin wouldn’t be worth enough to mail the results anywhere in the world, so I kind of let that drop.

In 2013, I moved to Canada. I wasn’t able to work at the time. I was walking around a rapidly gentrifying Vancouver and going to blockchain events. I recognized the fire in people’s eyes from my encounter with the early web space during the dot-com boom in London. I became fascinated with the technology [and] with the culture and the way I learned about things in order to make art with them. I created some token works with Dogeparty, a fork of Counterparty, [which is] a token system that runs on Bitcoin and, I believe, predates Ethereum. I made some raw transactions and then Ethereum came out and I was just ready for it. 

I worked through understanding the technology, the ideology, and the aesthetics of cryptography. Here was something that made the blockchain a much more plastic medium to work in. Through a series of blog posts, I said, “Hey, maybe we can use this crypto stuff to structure relations and artworks in the art world in interesting new ways.” 

I received almost deafening silence for several years afterwards, apart from a couple of people who contacted me and said, “Oh, yeah, we’ve already done this” or “Yes, that’s really interesting.” And then nothing happened until the NFT boom.
Rhea Myers, Certificate of Inauthenticity (Pipe 4/11), 2020. Courtesy of the artist

AM: Your soul has been on the blockchain since 2014. It’s not available for sale though, because your wife says it belongs to her. A lot of the early crypto art discusses value and prices and is influenced by concept art. What were your references?

RM: I had two reference points for how blockchain art could succeed and how it would be recuperated by the mainstream. First, there was the net art of the 1990s, when artists looked at the emerging World Wide Web and the Internet and engaged with it in critical, ironic, and aesthetic ways; and that obviously related to the technological content of the blockchain.

Second, there was 1960s conceptual art, which also used technology in some places, but which started as a resistance to the existing forms of art and the existing structure of the art world and how art was sold and distributed. There was a project by some Russian expat artists, Komar and Melamid, in the 1980s. I like a lot of their work because it ironizes the idea of public opinion or commonly held value. They would go around the New York art world offering to buy artists’ souls off them. I think they got Andy Warhol’s soul and those of a few other people. 

I liked this because the idea of soul is utterly opposed to the idea of mere financial value and commodification, so I kind of copied this and tokenized my soul on Dogeparty. I split it up into 100 units so that the market can efficiently find the value of my soul. But then when my wife saw I was doing this, she objected that my soul belongs to her, which I feel is an entirely valid point, so unfortunately, we cannot do market discovery on the value of my soul. It’s a shame because I can imagine DAOs for different major and new religions all putting offers on people’s souls. This combines Pascal’s wager with the efficient-market hypothesis and brings about the singularity and heaven on earth at the same time. [...] With blockchain as a medium, for me, the question is [...] not so much: Can you store it on chain, because you can store anything on chain, but can you validate it on chain? 

Harm van den Dorpel, Mutant Garden — Autobreeder (single screen), 2019. Courtesy of the artist

AM: Harm, when and how did you get started using blockchain as a medium?

Harm van den Dorpel: My first encounter with blockchain was in 2015 when I became aware of the start-up Ascribe. They were storing the provenance of digital artworks on the Bitcoin blockchain. At that time, the use of blockchain was not so much about blockchain as a medium, but rather as a means of distributing work, defining artificial scarcity, and [...] also improving the valorization of digital art. In early 2018, I deployed my first smart contract on Ethereum. It was a continuous struggle to see which part of the generative artwork should be stored on chain. 

The bandwidth you have on a blockchain is very limited and expensive. This also provokes new creativity — you have to squeeze your concept and aesthetics to make it fit on chain. 

The Mutant Garden Seeder (2021) was my first generative artwork that I would consider to be a truly blockchain-native artwork. [...] But a lot of the magic is happening off chain.

Mitchell F. Chan, Digital Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility, 2017. Courtesy of the artist

Mitchell F. Chan: I got into crypto art because, as an artist, I’m always looking for new media to represent the world around me. Financial systems and the way that we assign ownership to previously unownable things were interesting concepts to me. 

I learned that there was this programmable money that all of the cool kids were talking about. I figured that if money was now something that you could program, then you could probably make art with it. As I was in the process of doing so, I decided to research some art historical precedents that would help me frame concepts underpinning crypto.

Sarah Friend: I was aware of crypto for quite a while, but I began participating around 2015. I was an artist before that, and also a software developer. My first Ethereum project was an attempt to integrate Ethereum with the game engine Unity, which was in some ways a very early and unsuccessful metaverse project back when developing anything at all with the blockchain was really hard. 

I first used blockchain in my work in 2017. [...] Before NFTs were around in their current ERC-721 form, I made a satirical game using fungible tokens called Clickmine (2017). In 2018, I introduced the Clickmine Physical Non-fungible Token Edition, which consists of physical coins that come with the buyer’s permission to mint an NFT of the image to which each corresponds. 

As a software developer, it felt very easy for me to start asking questions about what the technology really is, as well as borrowing from a history of net art and its way of thinking critically about what technology affords and pulling it into blockchain work.

Anna Ridler: I started working with [crypto] a bit later than most people. I came to working with it as a concept first, when I was researching and making work around tulips and speculation — hype and value. I then started using it more as a medium rather than simply as a concept. I built my own dapp [decentralized app] in 2019 to understand how things work and to untangle the back end for myself. [...] I’m very interested in the topic of value and making things disappear or appear according to different configurations. Now I am increasingly interested in time and timekeeping and how they can be incorporated into projects.

Anna Ridler, Bloemenveiling, 2019. Courtesy of the artist

AM: Simon, you are both an artist and a curator.

Simon Denny: I am an artist who has been making work about narratives that technologists talk about [...] for a long time. I’ve mostly made installations and sculptures for many years. I became aware of Bitcoin around 2011 when my friends started buying drugs with it. But I wasn’t that interested in it at that point. For some reason, I got really interested when I heard about Ethereum in 2015. I started making installations that were addressing some of the stories being told about crypto, the biggest one being at the Berlin Biennale of 2016, curated by DIS Magazine. I then got very interested in what other artists were doing with the material as the medium. 

I didn’t curate “Proof of Work” entirely — an exhibition that a lot of the artists here were in. I just initiated a conversation with other artists and curators who I thought were doing really cool things. It was a decentralized attempt at curating, where people like Sam Hart and other artists and curators would then pick other projects to feature. I suggested the overall installation design and coordinated the conversation, etc., but the decentralized agency was special.

More recently, I’ve done things with NFTs because I find it a fascinating evolution of the way that blockchain art is packaged and talked about, but also as a medium. 

Most recently, I did a project with called Dotcom Séance (2021). It was a collaboration with [...] Guile Twardowski, who did the drawings for CryptoKitties — one of the very early successful NFT projects. Dotcom Séance is about trying to revive companies that died in the first dot-com crash as groups of NFT logos that have Ethereum (ENS) domains and subdomains associated with them.

Installation view of Simon Denny (with Guile Twardowski and Cosmographia) Dotcom Seance (1999-2001, reimagined 2021) at MAXXI, 2022. Photography by M3Studio. Courtesy Fondazione MAXXI

AM: Sarah Meyohas, you were even ahead of the Ethereum blockchain with your project, Bitchcoin (2015).

Sarah Meyohas: Artists are sometimes the very first people to touch a technology. To artists, technology doesn’t have to be economical, nor a business, and that inspires exploration. I made Bitchcoin while still in grad school. It’s pre-Ethereum, which is a plus, because I was extra early and am regarded as such. But it’s also a downside because of the focus on Ethereum-based NFTs. I backed it at a fixed rate with my photography. 

[Bitchcoin] was meant to be a satirical piece. It was meant to take the trends I was seeing: the growth of social media, the financialization of art generally, and the power of decentralization to their logical extreme to then reflect them back at us just as a conceptual performance.

I did this giant performance piece, titled Cloud of Petals (2017) where I had sixteen men photograph 100,000 rose petals at the site of the former Bell Labs. Human hands must individually open the flower, pick the petal, place it under the lens, press the shutter, and upload the image to a cloud database. The workers set aside one petal per rose that they consider the most beautiful and put it in a press — preserving it as a physical artifact. From this trove of images, an artificial intelligence algorithm emerges, allowing for the creation of new, unique petals forever.

I then did some other crypto projects, such as The Non-Existent Token (2021), which is also a satire. It’s a smart contract — an auction goes on for as long as Ethereum runs. Everybody makes money except for the greatest fool who is holding the token last. Everybody else gets a receipt for their participation. It looks like the most honest Ponzi scheme, yet it also looks very similar to how current marketplaces and royalty functions empower speculation.

Sarah Meyohas, The Non-Existent Token, 2021. Courtesy of the artist

Micol Ap: At what point in your creative process does the blockchain come in? Is it the first thought? Is it the medium? Is it an afterthought?

SM: For me, it’s about the marketplace itself. In the traditional art world, the marketplace functions behind closed doors. When you sell something it’s about making sure it doesn’t sell again for as long as possible. Today, galleries will have collectors sign contracts that don’t allow resale of a piece within a certain period of time.

For artists thinking about the world holistically, in which commerce plays a central role, it is more difficult to engage with the art market as an idea or concept. Blockchain allows me to engage directly with this. It’s public and intrinsic to the artwork. At the same time, I don’t even need to come face-to-face with my audience, which can clarify my relationship with the market. So to me, it’s about the network of addresses and my relationship to these people I don’t necessarily know.

SF: My practice and the use of technology in my work is driven primarily by what the work is about. What is ownership? What is an asset? What kind of relationship with the market does the work have? And if the work is about any of those questions, it seems natural to me to use a blockchain to make it. But I don’t only approach technology in this way when it comes to blockchain. I also do this with technology in general. So, for example, I make work about Instagram and put it on Instagram. 

There’s a feedback loop between the idea and the use of technology, but it’s mostly driven by the idea.

Sarah Friend, Lifeforms, 2021. Photography by Ben Van den Berghe. Courtesy of the artist

KA: In as much as it is a repository of value, I like to think that I also inhabit the blockchain. In some sense, it’s like a studio. I’ll make something and I’ll put it away somewhere. And sometimes it’s accessible again, and sometimes I’ll throw away a key so that I can’t access it.

I use the blockchain as a filing system of sorts. And then, of course, playing with conventional notions of value and expectations of how we interact with physical or virtual stores of value. And so, frequently, it’s a reaction to something I’ll hear or a reaction to some way a collector interacts with me.

HVDD: One of the possibilities of generative art is that everything remains up for change. Random numbers are taken as inputs, which define the work. 

Blockchain offers a new material of immutability: certain properties or traits of your artwork are suddenly not changeable anymore. This is basically the opposite of what software historically has been — always updatable, always changeable. And that is in a very concrete way what the blockchain fundamentally offers me.

KA: I always say that my metric for success as an artist is how quickly people engage with the work and then move into some sort of meaningful discourse. More often than not, it’s about questioning the rationality of their own value systems, which frequently, upon examination, reveal themselves to be perverse with respect to how quickly people will ascribe value to things. And yet, when it comes to issues pertaining to human rights or the value of life, their value systems become highly illogical. I’m leveraging this societal conflict between the immaterial and the material. It’s causing people to ask a lot of questions about things that they thought were immutable and things that they took for granted. 

Rhea Myers, Tokens Equal Text #8, 2019. Courtesy of the artist

SM: There’s still a big division between the traditional art world and the kind of art world or market that we’re participating in right now. If I were to boil blockchain down to a couple of words, the thing that I’m really trying to make more obvious through my work is truth and beauty. A lot of our projects try to get there. There’s poetry, I find, in our blockchain-based work. For example, Rhea Myers putting a representation of her soul on a blockchain. 

When I’m comparing this to the traditional art world, where figuration is still the word of the day, it becomes clear that conceptual art is not embraced by the art world at this moment. [...] All of us are highly conceptual artists, and blockchains afford that space to explore, as mechanisms to utilize and critique. 

How many things can you do with distributed ledgers and computationally-enforced contracts? It’s an expansive medium, and it’s growing. The capabilities of a smart contract are limited only by your imagination. This relationship, as Kevin was talking about, between material and immaterial, is a sandbox for conceptual artists today.

Anna Ridler: One of the things that I am interested in as an artist is the process. I find it exciting when the idea and the medium come together. A lot of my work is actually very slow. I don’t make that many pieces a year. But each time I do, I try to do everything myself and try to understand what I’m working with to the best of my ability. It’s not just an artifact that you can look at or purchase, but it’s the process of making it that is sold, and then the conversations that are engendered afterwards all become part of the art, so that it’s not just a jpeg.

​​Anna Ridler, Bloemenveiling, 2019. Courtesy of the artist

HVDD: The crypto space is often accused by people from the art world of being commodified and hyper-flipped. People buy and immediately put the work up for auction. On the one hand, this is not the best thing for art. But on the other hand, blockchain has made transparent what has always already been at play.

Art has always been a commodity. There has always been some behind-the-scenes flipping. And now, on a public ledger, everyone can follow it. 

SD: I spoke with someone who said [that] speculation is the medium, or rather, part of the medium. The flows of speculation that run through art’s distribution and the way art touches networks is a part of understanding commercial exchange, which mediates many of our lives in a really direct way — as a medium.

HVDD: There is an entanglement between genuine aesthetic appreciation and monetary valuation. The art is both aesthetically experienced and, at the same time, a flippable commodity. I am a little bit overwhelmed by the intensity and frequency of this new circulation.

SM: Before 1980, no painting sold for over a million dollars. This happened because you could store paintings more easily and so the art market accelerated. Now, with blockchains, the rate of exchange has increased. I titled my photographs, Speculations (2015-ongoing), and linked them to the currency, Bitchcoin. NFTs are mostly jpegs and videos, but the present moment has been catalyzed by many more rigorous conceptual works. I believe we will see a broader variety of assets stored and transacted this way in the future.

It’s not a coincidence that paintings sell for a premium over other objects in the traditional art market. They are unique; they can be stored, and can transact with nominal friction. They are like trading cards in their own way.
Harm ven den Dorpel, Mutant Garden Seeder, 2021. Courtesy of the artist

HVDD: For my Mutant Garden Seeder drop, I made a custom interface where people could watch the mutants being born, judge them, and think about whether they would like to adopt a particular one, or let it fade forever. I imagined this to be a process where people would engage with the work in such a way that they would curate from all the possibilities, all the ones that were born, and then carefully, maybe at some point, decide that they would want to adopt one. I spent a lot of time making this interface. But people didn’t actually use the interface. They just made sure to mint and bypassed the curatorial mechanism that I had built in. Because of that, quite a few were minted which were not necessarily the most interesting ones in my opinion. I was naive, and I didn’t expect that the NFTs would sell so quickly. Maybe I should have built in a mechanism of friction through which this curatorial process would have been enforced.

MA: Sarah, people have to adopt your Lifeforms (2021) and give them to somebody else after 90 days. Do collectors do that? Do they forget about it? What is the intrinsic value of the artwork?

SF: By making them behave in a way that NFTs don’t normally behave, it complicates their relationship in a speculative context. I had a similar experience to Harm with my second NFT drop. 

People were doing everything they could to bypass the mechanisms I had built in to slow down the sale. When a drop is doing well, it can also feel like putting your bare face on the market and letting it slap you.

HVDD: For me this is a devil’s dilemma — this intensified attention, gas wars, minting frenzy. It is not the best thing for the generative and aesthetic aspects of the artwork, but it does generate a certain contagious energy. I benefit from secondary sales, which is, I think, truly a specific characteristic of blockchain as a medium — we benefit from royalties.

Simon Denny, Document Relief 34 (GoPro camera patent, logo reimagined by Guile Twardowski), 2022. Photography by Nick Ash. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Buchholz Berlin

MA: Kevin, some of your work is a comment on how collectors react to it.

KA: I’m excited about redefining the relationship between the collector and the art — the hierarchy. We assume a collector is in a superior position because they buy the piece of art. They can dispose of it or burn it, or do what they want with it. Usually, a collector puts a painting on the wall, goes to bed, wakes up in the morning, and there are no surprises. While it’s still going to be there, their relationship with the work may evolve over time. Now we have so many ways to apply subtle or not-so-subtle psychological levers to collectors [that] change that power dynamic. [...]

AM: Mitchell, your Digital Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility (2017) has a built-in burn mechanism. That’s an important part of that work. The Digital Zones are based on a piece by Yves Klein, but, so far, only one collector has thrown their ETH into the “river.” 

MFC: We just found him. For a long time, his identity was unknown. And, of course, he did this long before these tokens were worth anything. [...]

Sarah Meyohas pointed out that the boom in the art market came with the professionalization of storage. And she pointed out that the reason why paintings are most valuable is because, essentially, they pack flat and are easy to store. With the professionalization of storage, your artwork is an asset. It could be something that was on a ledger as well. Of course, conceptual art has no physical object that you can hold in your hand to transact with.

It’s an exciting time for artists who are focused on ideas because the NFT standardizes the commodity form — that thing that is transacted across all artworks. It flattens the playing field for artists who are working in any kind of intellectual medium.
Sarah Meyohas, Bitchcoin, 2015. Courtesy of the artist

AM: Do you have the exhibition space in mind when you work on a new piece?

SD: For me, it’s just about which interface you’re dealing with. When I was thinking about how best to put together “Proof of Work” in dialogue with other artists and curators, I knew I wanted to make a show that people can experience. But not all crypto art would work in that context. 

Often the best experience of NFTs is on your phone.

HVDD: I have always believed in the potential of the browser to be a fully valid and satisfying context for watching art. The NFT standard is fluid, and it can be displayed in multiple spaces — a browser on your laptop or on your phone.

I enjoy watching art online. It’s not only digital native art that I watch on my computer. [...] The Contemporary Art Daily website was so formative for me. It showed all these exhibitions in beautiful installation views. That really shaped my perception of art to the point where I had no desire to actually go see these exhibitions. But they existed only in documentation that was the primary form of perception and enjoyment of art. That really shaped my relationship to art — art as documentation, art as something that circulates as a high resolution jpeg.

MFC: I agree with everything that Harm said about the potential of the browser as a proper exhibition space.

We started this conversation by discussing the benefits of working native to the technology. But being native to blockchain, crypto, and digital art also means embracing that browser experience.

I’ve struggled to imagine a physical NFT exhibition because, for most of my career, I’ve worked with public art, making large-scale sculptures. When I think about NFTs, I’m freed from those responsibilities. So it feels like NFTs don’t belong in a physical space. I know that’s not true. I know that’s an extremist position, but right now, I’m very happy to remain present in the online format that is native to the artwork.

Mitchel F. Chan, (Still from) Beggars Belief Demo — Opening Scene, 2022. Courtesy of the artist

Jesse Damiani: When we are thinking about the blockchain as a medium, part of that medium is allowing us to engage and collaborate with each other and with technologies in new ways. Will we be moving past exclusively market discussions in the near future, or is that something inescapable?

KA: With blockchain, you have this added potential for modulating the interaction over time, whether it’s with one collector or an entire community. So in that sense, I’m not sure if collaboration is the right word, but the artist and the collector can share more wholly in an experience. 

SF: I spoke earlier about the participants’ involvement in the work and their choices. At least with my projects, I think about the relationship as collaborative between me and the participants. 

It’s not so much that I am a collaborator with technology, but technology is a vehicle through which collectors collaborate with one another.

HVDD: I was called a net artist, then a media artist, and then a Post-Internet artist. Now, with NFTs, it feels like the art world that connects to the art market and also art history has finally allowed digital art to enter.

MFC: Whenever we talk about NFTs and opening up possibilities for interaction and collaboration, we must be aware that all of our interactions are happening through a commodified or financialized medium. We were all pretty sure that blockchain, and particularly DAOs, were going to change the way organizations are structured, and even the way we interact with one another. 

It’s not a neutral playing field where this is happening. We’re restructuring our relations with each other based on a financial technology that is designed for the buying and trading of assets. 

It’s very interesting when I see these art projects that create social networks through ownership. More and more of our interpersonal relations are expressed through our property relations, whether you’re buying someone a present for their birthday or sending them your Lifeform.

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Kevin Abosch is an Irish conceptual artist who works across traditional mediums and generative methods, including machine learning and blockchain technology. His work addresses the nature of identity and value by posing ontological questions and responding to sociological dilemmas. Abosch has exhibited around the world, often in civic spaces, including The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; National Museum of China, Beijing; Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina, Novi Sad; Bogotá Museum of Modern Art; ZKM Karlsruhe; Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris; National Gallery of Ireland and Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; and Dublin Airport.

Micol Ap is founder and CEO of VerticalCrypto Art, a Web3 studio for art NFTs. She is interested in how blockchain technology and culture can create new paradigms and systems. VerticalCrypto Art is focused on elevating the discourse around the metaverse through curated content, exhibitions, auctions, and special projects as part of a mission to bridge the fine art, contemporary art, and Web3 artist economies. 

Mitchell F. Chan is an artist, critic, and essayist who is best-known for creating one of the earliest non-fungible token artworks, Digital Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility (2017). His diverse body of work is performed in both physical and digital public spaces, and includes code-based works such as his Art Blocks project, LeWitt Generator Generator (2021) and large-scale public projects such as Monument to United Nations Peacekeeping Veterans (2022).

Jesse Damiani is a curator, writer, and advisor in new media art and emerging technologies. He is the founder of Postreality Labs, a strategy and sensemaking studio based in Los Angeles, CA. He is also Curator & Director of Simulation Literacies at Nxt Museum, an Affiliate of the metaLAB at Harvard University, and a Research Affiliate at Institute for the Future. Recent curated exhibitions include PROOF OF ART at Francisco Carolinum Linz, the first museum retrospective on the history of NFTs; Synthetic Wilderness at Honor Fraser Gallery; and Brief Histories of Simulated Lifeforms at Vellum LA. He writes about art, media, and emerging technology for Forbes, Billboard, Entrepreneur, Quartz, The Verge, and WIRED. 

Simon Denny makes visual art and exhibitions that unpack the social and political implications of the technology industry. His work considers the rise of social media, startup culture, blockchains, and cryptocurrencies using installation, sculpture, print, and video. Denny has staged important exhibitions about blockchain and art such as “Proof of Stake” at Kunstverein, Hamburg, and “Proof of Work” at Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin. 

Harm van den Dorpel is a Dutch artist based in Berlin who is dedicated to discovering emergent aesthetics by composing software and language, often borrowing from the disparate fields of genetics and blockchain. He has exhibited internationally at ZKM Karlsruhe; MoMa PS1, New York; The New Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul. In 2015, he co-founded left gallery with Paloma Rodríguez Carrington.

Sarah Friend is an artist and software developer who specializes in blockchain, games, and the p2p web. Her work critically examines technology and interfaces, in both content and form, considering system-building as a narrative impulse. She is a participant in the Berlin Program for Artists; a co-curator of Ender Gallery, an artist residency taking place inside the game Minecraft; an alumni of Recurse Centre, a retreat for programmers; and an organizer of Our Networks, a conference on all aspects of the distributed web. She has exhibited globally, including at Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin and Cologne; Illingworth Kerr Gallery, Calgary; Kunstverein, Hamburg; Oökultur, Linz;, Zurich; and Floating University, Berlin.

Anika Meier is a writer and curator specializing in digital art. She writes a column for the German art magazine Kunstforum titled, STATUS UPDATE, about the developments around the topic of NFTs in the field of art. She developed König Digital for König Galerie, collaborated with CIRCA on the first NFT drop by Marina Abramović, and with Quantum for Herbert W. Franke’s NFT drop, Math Art. Her curated exhibitions include: “In Touch. Art in the Age of Post-NFTism” (with Micol Ap), ART NFT Linz; “Tribute to Herbert W. Franke”; “The Artist Is Online,” König Galerie and at König in Decentraland (with Johann König); “Exercise in Hopeless Nostalgia. The World Wide Webb” by Thomas Webb at König Digital; “Surprisingly This Rather Works” by Manuel Rossner at König Digital; “Link in Bio. Art After Social Media” Museum of Fine Arts, Leipzig; and “Virtual Normality. Women Net Artists 2.0,” Museum of Fine Arts, Leipzig. She also sits on the curation board of Art Blocks.

Sarah Meyohas is a conceptual artist and pioneer in the field of crypto art, whose practice considers the nature and capabilities of emerging technologies in contemporary society. In 2015, Meyohas created Bitchcoin, a cryptocurrency backed by her physical artwork. Predating the launch of Ethereum, Bitchcoin is the first tokenization of physical art on a blockchain, effectively a “proto-NFT.” Meyohas has exhibited globally at Red Bull Arts, 303 Gallery, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Barbican Centre, London; Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai; and Ming Contemporary Art Museum, Shanghai. 

‍Rhea Myers is an artist, hacker, and writer originally from the UK, who is now based in British Columbia, Canada. Her work places technology and culture in mutual interrogation to produce new ways of seeing the world as it unfolds around us. She has exhibited globally, including at “Proof of Work” at Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin; “Natively Digital” at Sothebys, New York; and “Ex-Machina” at Phillips, London. She contributed to Artists Re:Thinking the Blockchain (2017) and her collected writings, Proof of Work: Blockchain Provocations 2011-2021 (2022), are due for publication later this year.

Anna Ridler is an artist and researcher who works with systems of knowledge and how technologies are created in order to better understand the world. She is especially interested in measurement and quantification and how they relate to the natural world. Her process often involves working with collections of information or data, particularly data sets, to create new and unusual narratives. She has exhibited globally at Centre Pompidou, Paris; HeK Basel, ZKM Karlsruhe, Ars Electronica, Linz; the Barbican Centre, The Photographers’ Gallery, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

This conversation was hosted by Anika Meier, Micol Ap, and Jesse Damiani on 1 February, 2022 as part of the series, “Discussing Art NFTs.”