On the Conceptual Affordances of Blockchain Art
What is the critical potential of ‘financial technologies’ as an artistic medium? Sketching a critical crypto art that is of the blockchain (rather than merely on it), this talk considers some of the radical conceptual affordances of ‘fintech’ beyond the financialization and hypercommodification of creative practice.
What is the critical potential of financial technologies as an artistic medium? Against the backdrop of unending speculative hype around ‘the blockchain’ and its promises of ‘radical disruption,’ absolute ‘trustlessness,’ and incorruptible cryptographic security (not to mention immeasurable wealth!), this talk explores critical stances of artistic experiments that push beyond blockchain-as-financial-technology. Reaching back towards some of the failures of dematerialized, contract-based Conceptual Art, and forwards to the realm of blockchain-based smart contracts and the ongoing NFT (non-fungible token) craze, the aim here is to sketch a crypto art that is of the blockchain (rather than merely on it), and which interfaces critically with ‘fintech’ tendencies to financialize and hypercommodify creative practice. How, where, and to what ends can such a crypto art manifest? What are its conceptual affordances when it engages the blockchain beyond the creation of artificially scarce digital assets, to align it instead with emerging social technologies that espouse new, radical politics of inclusivity, diversity, and power distribution?
Martin is an Austrian researcher and curator currently based in Dundee, Scotland, where he works as Senior Lecturer in Computational Arts and Technology at Abertay University. His work focuses on artistic and activist experimentation with emerging technologies (primarily blockchain and AI), intellectual property issues in contemporary art, political economies of new media, and aspects of experimental videogame culture. The most recent outcome of this work is an Open Access monograph on AI art, creative agency, and the limits of intellectual property (meson press 2021). He has co-curated Vector Festival since 2014, and organised the 2019 MoneyLab symposium (London). His research has been published in books including Artists Re:Thinking the Blockchain and the MoneyLab Reader 2, and in journals such as Philosophy & Technology, Culture Machine, and Media Theory.