New World Order
11 January–9 February 2018
Aksioma | Project Space, Ljubljana
Ruth Catlow & Marc Garrett (Furtherfield)
In the framework of State Machines
A mysterious and controversial technology is among us. The blockchain underpins digital currencies and makes possible dramatic new conceptions of global governance and economy that could permanently enrich or demote the role of humans – depending on who you talk to.
Featuring experimental artworks by artists Jaya Klara Brekke, Elias Haase, Pete Gomes, Rob Myers, O’Khaos, Paul Seidler, Paul Kolling, Max Hampshire, Lina Theodorou, Corina Angheloiu, Max Dovey, James Stewart and xfx (a.k.a. Ami Clarke), New World Order is a group exhibition curated by Furtherfield and presented at Aksioma Project Space as part of the European project State Machines. It imagines a world in which responsibility for many aspects of life (reproduction, decision-making, organisation, nurture, stewardship) have been mechanised and automated, deferred to the blockchain, transferred, once and for all, from natural and social systems into a secure, networked, digital ledger of transactions and computer-executed contracts.
Artworks featured in New World Order include a self-owning, self-exploiting forest with ideas of expansion (Terra0 by P. Seidler, P. Kolling and M. Hampshire); a self-replicating android flower in the form of a metal sculpture that, in return for Bitcoins, commissions an artist to create a new artwork (Plantoid by O’Khaos); an illustrated sci-fi novella dealing with the implications of a new wave of fully financialised planetary-scale automation (Bad Shibe by R. Myers and L. Theodorou); and a film collecting different takes on blockchain technologies by leading thinkers, computer scientists, entrepreneurs, artists and activists (The Blockchain – Change Everything Forever by P. Gomes), among other things.
Simply put, the blockchain is a network communication protocol based on a distributed database that stores records on different connected computers simultaneously. These are collected in blocks and cryptographically secured. Functionally, a blockchain serves as an open, distributed ledger that can permanently record and verify transactions between two parties.
First conceptualized in 2008 and implemented as a core component of the digital currency Bitcoin, blockchains are now being applied to many different fields, including finance, insurance, communications and healthcare. For promoters its promise lies in the removal of third party mediators, from internet providers to banks. It’s no surprise therefore that, like the Web in the Nineties, the blockchain elicits a passionate debate and new utopian visions for the future of communication technologies.The exhibition is part of a large-scale programme of publications, workshops and talks that brings together leading international artists and writers from across the globe. Launched at Furtherfield Gallery in London’s Finsbury Park in May 2017, it is now touring to Aksioma Project Space in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and in February 2018, to the Filodrammatica gallery in Rijeka, Croatia.
Plantoid by O’Khaos is an autonomous blockchain based artwork that reproduces itself, harnessing the forces of aesthetic beauty and automated governance. When the metal sculpture of a flowering plant receives a certain number of bitcoins, it commissions an artist to create a new artwork. All those who contributed to funding the Plantoid can set the rules surrounding the genetic traits (the DNA) and the soul (the governance) of the new “child” Plantoid. Exhibition visitors will be able to buy bitcoins to tip the sculpture and determine how the Plantoid will evolve.
Terra0 is an artwork and prototype for a self-owning, self-exploiting forest by Paul Seidler, Paul Kolling and Max Hampshire. Initiated by humans, over time the forest creates capital by selling licenses for the logging of its trees and utilization of its assets through automated processes, smart contracts and blockchain technology. It sells its raw materials, accumulates capital, buys itself and eventually expands into new territories.
Satoshi means clear thinking, quick witted and wise. It is also the name of the anonymous founder(s) of bitcoin and the blockchain. The Satoshi Oath by Jaya Klara Brekke and Elias Haase is a method for developers to think clearly about what kind of relations get chained together in the coding of new blockchain applications, and their possible effects on people and the environment. Using three main properties of blockchain technology – immutability, neutrality and decentralisation – the Satoshi Oath presents a set of blocks from which to build an ethics for new blockchain projects: Power, Change, Delegation, Disclosure, Dissensus and Exodus.
Bad Shibe is a sci-fi novella written by Rob Myers and illustrated by Lina Theodorou that invites us to imagine what kind of society emerges when a system designed to verify the transfer of digital assets is combined with a world where reputation is based on “followers” and “likes.” The story deals with the implications of a new wave of fully financialised planetary-scale automation and the struggle to discern right from wrong when human and machine agency merges. It also invites us to think of humans and societies as much as the effects of technology.
The website x-fx.org shows the video: untitled, data collection from domestic ether mining rig by Ami Clarke – a video as data capture, showing glimpses of the material parts of an ether mining rig, which conveys the energy used and sweat equity of a DIY cryptocurrency prospector with finely tuned financial calculations, of a not so free, money mining system. The data is a component of a larger puzzle across different events and sites initiated at A Throw Of The Dice, an exhibition and workshop series at Banner Repeater in 2016 that considered some of the contradictory claims made for blockchain technology. Recorded audio from the workshops: Thinking through the block at Banner Repeater is held on the website, from participants: Tom Clark, Paul Purgas, Alessandro Ludovico, Karen Di Franco, Ruth Catlow, Ben Vickers, Tom Pearson, Malavika Rajnarayan, Prayas Abhinav and Satya Gummuluri of surfatial, and Ami Clarke.
The Blockchain – Change Everything Forever, a Furtherfield film directed by Pete Gomes, was created to diversify the people involved in thinking about blockchain technologies by bringing together leading thinkers, computer scientists, entrepreneurs, artists and activists to answer some of the key questions: What can a blockchain do? Who builds this new reality? How will we rule ourselves? How will the future be different because of the blockchain?
Handfastr – making commitments wherever you are by Corina Angheloiu, Max Dovey and James Stewart is a five minute marriage contract, generated by a program using blockchain to reconfigure social pledges. Handfastr whittles marriage down to a financial agreement between two different parties, adapting the practical and functional aspects into a platform that enables impromptu financial commitments between people in public space via temporary agreement using smart phones.
CURATOR’S TALK / BOOK PRESENTATION
Ruth Catlow & Marc Garrett
The New Collaborators
Reinventing Critical Art Practice
This lecture reflects on new practices, processes, collaborations and partners developed by Furtherfield with the curation of the exhibition New World Order and the publication of the book Artists Re:Thinking the Blockchain.
Classed by funders as a high-risk arts organisation because of the political topics and engagement with newly emerging techno-social conditions, Furtherfield constantly adopts new contexts and styles of dialogue across different practices and cultures: new media arts, fine art, permaculture, migration topics, critical engineering, start-up culture & hactivism, etc.
Driven by issues of survival and artistic compulsion Furtherfield explores world contexts in relationship to local and international communities cannon breaking & category shifting.
Ruth Catlow and Marc Garrett are artists, writers and curators. They are co-directors of Furtherfield, which they founded together in 1996. They have worked with emancipatory network cultures, practices and poetics in arts, technology and social change, to inform artistic research and organisational experiments to engender shared visions, collaborations and infrastructures. They have exhibited their own artistic projects and co-curated new media art exhibitions and projects nationally and internationally.
Furtherfield is a not-for-profit organisation. Through artworks, labs and debate around arts and technology, people from all walks of life explore today’s important questions. The urban green space of London’s Finsbury Park, where Furtherfield’s Gallery and Lab are located, is now a platform for fieldwork in human and machine imagination – addressing the value of the public realm in our fast-changing, globally connected and uniquely superdiverse context. An international network of associates use artistic methods to interrogate emerging technologies to extend access and grasp their wider potential. In this way new cultural, social and economic value is developed in partnership with the art, research, business and public sectors.
Artists Re:thinking the Blockchain
Edited by Ruth Catlow, Marc Garrett, Nathan Jones, and Sam Skinner
The blockchain is widely heralded as the new internet – another dimension in an ever-faster, ever-more-powerful interlocking of ideas, actions and values. Principally the blockchain is a ledger distributed across a large array of machines that enables digital ownership and exchange without a central administering body. Within the arts it has profound implications as both a means of organising and distributing material, and as a new subject and medium for artistic exploration. This landmark publication brings together a diverse array of artists and researchers engaged with the blockchain, unpacking, critiquing and marking the arrival of it on the cultural landscape for a broad readership across the arts and humanities.
Corina Angheloiu is a design strategist in pursuit of ways to foster systemic change for social and climate justice. She works at Forum for the Future, where she focuses on issues such as marine plastics and the future of civil society. In parallel, she is a PhD student in the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, where she is researching the role of design futures methods for urban transitions to sustainability.
Jaya Klara Brekke works across theory, technology and design and is currently pursuing a PhD at Durham University on the political geographies of blockchain infrastructures. The Distributing Chains research project examines the concepts of authority, sovereignty, trust and consensus and traces these as they are assumed, encoded and executed through blockchain technologies. She is based between London, Athens and Durham.
Ami Clarke is an artist whose work considers models of mass behavioural procedures, such as the financial markets, in anticipation of new behaviours emerging from news produced/distributed primarily through social media, as people seemingly act in groups at a level of pre-verbal emotional intensity, arriving at what has been described as a post-truth politics. She is founder of Banner Repeater: a reading room with a public Archive of Artists’ Publishing and project space, an experimental space for others on a working train station platform at Hackney Downs station, London. She has recently exhibited and curated works at the ICA, Dundee; Wysing Arts Centre; Museo del Chopo, Mexico City; and Hayward Gallery. She commissions new artists’/writers’ works through Banner Repeater and several publishing imprints, inc UnPublish.
Max Dovey can be described as 28.3% man, 14.1% artist and 8.4% successful. He is also an artist, researcher and lecturer specialising in the politics of data and algorithmic governance. His works explore the political narratives that emerge from technology and digital culture and manifest themselves in situated projects – bars, game-shows, banks and other participatory scenarios. He holds a BA (Hons) in Fine Art: Time-Based Media and a MA in Media Design from Piet Zwart Institute. He is an affiliated researcher at the Institute of Network Cultures and regularly writes for Open Democracy, Imperica & Furtherfield. His work has been performed at Ars Electronica Festival, Art Rotterdam & many UK-based music festivals.
Pete Gomes is a filmmaker and artist working across all forms of moving images. His works have been shown across Europe, India, Russia, Tasmania, Iceland, South America and the USA in the Institute of Contemporary Art, Whitechapel Gallery, Architecture Foundation, Royal Opera House, Southbank Centre, Gimpel Fils, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Barcelona Centre for Contemporary Culture, Stedelijk Museum, Vienna Museum of Contemporary Art, Leeds International Film Festival, Sonar and others. In 2013 he received an award from architect Bernard Tschumi for his film Path 1 at the Cinecity Architectural Film Project in Melbourne. He has collaborated extensively. Among those he has worked with include Shobana Jeyasingh, Scanner, Michael Nyman, Errollyn Wallen, Jocelyn Pook, Donnacha Dennehy and Throbbing Gristle. He is currently working on his PhD in improvisation, developing new working methods for improvising cinema across both production and performance.
Elias Haase is interested in alternative pathways for technological futures and how they intersect with life. He is a critic of the homogenising impact of tech-savvy elites and tries to help crash the gates so that as many different people as possible can take part in shaping the future of technology. Elias is one of the founders of B9lab, conducting training and research around blockchain and decentralised applications.
Paul Kolling is a media artist and designer living in Berlin, Germany. After some time spent working as a carpenter, he moved to Berlin to study visual communication at the University of the Arts. Since 2014 he has been a student in the new media class of Prof. Joachim Sauter and Jussi Ängeslevä. He works at the intersection of media art, design research and industrial design, and strives to explore the interaction between (new) materials, objects and new technologies. Terra0 was originally developed in the Digitale Klasse at the University of Arts, Berlin by Paul and Paul Seidler.
Rob Myers is an artist, hacker and writer. For more than two decades his work has probed and clarified the significance to society of practices in expressive and engineering cultures, from the apparently mundane and bureaucratic to the deeply mysterious. Through his artworks, many of which take the form of software, he plays with the concepts of art, value, authorship and creation in the age of digital networks.
O’Khaos Creations is a collective of artists who are eager to explore creativity through interactive installations, kinetic sculptures and mechanical contraptions constructed from recycled materials, all licensed under Creative Commons licenses. The collective was co-founded by Primavera de Filippi in 2010. As a legal researcher, artist and coder, Primavera De Filippi explores the intersection between law, technology and art. Primavera produced the genesis Plantoid and has since been working on creating an ecosystem to ensure the evolution of other Plantoids.
Paul Seidler is an artist/interaction designer living and working in Berlin. Since 2013 he has been a student at the University of the Arts in the digital media class by Prof. Joachim Sauter. During his studies he has worked in a range of research facilities, including the Design Research Lab and the Hybrid Plattform. His projects and papers have been presented at Leap Berlin, CTM, Dutch Design Week and ecocore. Terra0 was originally developed in the Digitale Klasse at the University of Arts, Berlin by Paul and Paul Kolling.
James Stewart is a teacher, researcher and academic entrepreneur with 25 years of research on the shaping and appropriation of emerging information technologies. He is currently exploring the rise of ‘data’ and ‘algorithms’ as focus of analysis and invention, and how different disciplinary and professional groupings are attempting to incorporate these into their activities. This includes exploration of new Evidence processes, the Data Poor and algorithmically mediated work. He has a PhD in Science and Technology Studies, and works on trying to stimulate new thinking and practice using data design, and social insights.
Lina Theodorou lives and works in Berlin and Athens. Her work primarily involves video and installations. She has participated in shows at Bozar, Center for Fine Arts, Brussels; Museumsquartier, Vienna; National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens; EMAF, European Media Art Festival, Osnabruck; Deste Foundation, Athens; Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz; Museum Fridericianum, Kassel; Macedonian Museum Of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki; 8th International Istanbul Biennial; 6th ev+a Limerick Biennial; 53rd International Short Film Festival Oberhausen; 11th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennial; Impakt festival, Utrecht; State Museum Of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki; Benaki Museum, Athens; Alexander S. Onassis Foundation Cultural Center; Museum of Rome in Travestere, Rome; and Biennial of the moving image, Buenos Aires.
Authors: Jaya Klara Brekke, Elias Haase, Pete Gomes, Rob Myers, O’Khaos, Paul Seidler, Paul Kolling, Max Hampshire, Lina Theodorou, Corina Angheloiu, Max Dovey, James Stewart and xfx (a.k.a. Ami Clarke)
Production of the exhibition in Ljubljana:
Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, 2018
Drugo more (HR), Furtherfield (UK)
The New World Order exhibitions in Ljubljana and Rijeka are realised in the framework of State Machines, a joint project by Aksioma (SI), Drugo more (HR), Furtherfield (UK), Institute of Network Cultures (NL) and NeMe (CY).
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the Municipality of Ljubljana.