While archaeology has often understood cultures through excavations of hoards and coins, what will today’s digital currencies tell future archaeologists about the way we live and trade?
This co-commission with NEoN Digital Arts Festival forms part of Furtherfield’s ongoing investigations into the politics of the blockchain, smart contracts, and cryptocurrency systems like Ethereum. It invites artists to imagine themselves as future media archaeologists, as recorders of our current information-based society, and as time-travelers highlighting the continued relevance of our long past. Will you dig for the digital, brush the dirt off the non-material, or excavate the internet?
In an era that threatens to be a digital dark age for future historians1, blockchains may prove to be rare digital artefacts valuable enough to preserve into the future. There are already dozens of dead chains from abandoned cryptocurrencies2, but with billions of dollars of value tied up in Bitcoin, Ethereum and other leading coins, the incentives to maintain their public ledgers are strong. Culture and knowledge have already been hidden in the blockchain – from images of Nelson Mandela to WikiLeaks cables3 – but it is the blockchain as a record of our economic activity that concerns us here. This already has its history; on these public digital ledgers we can find everything from the ten thousand Bitcoins that were used to buy two pizzas4 to the fifty million dollars of Ether that were stolen5 in a hack on code running on the Ethereum blockchain. We just don’t have the best tools to visualise them yet.
We invite proposals for a new artistic online commission that takes the blockchain as the site of its manifestation. For example, artworks that are:
Whatever it is, it should work as a future media archeological artefact of blockchain finance and it has to be exhibitable online.
Hailed as both emancipatory opportunity for creative autonomy, and a driver of inequality and corporate opacity, the blockchain10 is widely described as the Internet of Money. The blockchain is overtaking the WWW as the next big network technology for speculation and disruption. Investors recognise its potential in numerous ways: for high level authentication of identity11 and matter12; for more efficient and secure financial transactions and distribution of digital assets; for communications so secure as to facilitate voting; and as a coordinating technology for the billions of devices connected to the Internet13.
50 years ago this year, the world’s first ATM was designed, built and shipped from Dundee and installed in Enfield, less than 10 miles from Furtherfield. With this commission Furtherfield and NEoN recognise the role that the city of Dundee has played in the history of the development of smart technologies for financial transactions, through it being home to the R&D wing of The National Cash Register Corporation – NCR14.
NEoN Digital Arts Festival 2017 will expand on it being Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, and seek to use its arts programme to unveil hidden histories through the practice of ‘media archaeology’. Media archaeologists uncover and reconsider the obsolete, persistent, and hidden material cultures of the technological age – from big data software algorithms to tiny silicon chips. With support from the National Lottery through Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund, and Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, NEoN and Furtherfield invite artists to consider how the blockchain is the new ATM of the future.
The commission will be launched online and at NEoN Digital Arts Festival, and presented at the Digital Futures programme at V&A Museum and MoneyLab both in London in Spring 2018 as part of the European collaboration, State Machines which investigates the new relationships between states, citizens and the stateless made possible by emerging technologies.
Open Call announced 11th August
Deadline 4th September
6-9 September – follow up conversations where necessary (by email/phone)
13th September – decision made, artists informed and announced
19th September – public debate about cryptocurrencies in Dundee (organised by Scotcoin https://www.meetup.com/scotland-and-digital-currency/events/242087813/)
9th October – selected artist give progress report
9th November – Work installed for opening of NEoN Festival, Dundee. Artist presents work
Spring 2018 – Work re-presented with MoneyLab and V&A Digital Futures
(Note an additional £500 is available for accommodation and expenses for attendance at events in Dundee and London)
Submissions must include a proposal:
Documents should be submitted as PDFs or as links to a Google Doc, a GitHub Repo, or another easily read and easily accessed format.
If you have questions or enquiries about this commission please email alison.furtherfield[AT]Gmail.com
Notice of submissions via the Bitcoin blockchain should be sent via an OP_RETURN message starting with the word FField followed by a single space and the url of the proposal. E.g.:
OP_RETURN messages can be created using the Crypto Grafitti service:
Notice of submissions via Keybase messaging, or submissions of documents via KeybaseFS should be sent to:
(Note: Keybase does require registration but is free to join.)
Notice of submissions, or submissions of documents via email can be sent to ruth.catlow[AT]furtherfield.org
Please use the subject line “Furtherfield NEoN Proposal”.
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 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 arts, research, business and public sectors.
NEoN (North East of North) based in Dundee, Scotland aims to advance the understanding and accessibility of digital and technology driven art forms and to encourage high quality within the production of this medium. NEoN has organised 7 annual festivals to date including exhibitions, workshops, talks, conferences, live performances and public discussions. It is a platform to showcase national and international digital art forms. By bringing together emerging talent and well-established artists, NEoN aims to influence and reshape the genre. We are committed to helping our fabulous city of Dundee, well known for its digital culture and innovation, to become better connected through experiencing great art, networking and celebrating what our wee corner of Scotland has to offer in the field of digital arts.
State Machines: Art, Work and Identity in an Age of Planetary-Scale Computation
Focusing on how such technologies impact identity and citizenship, digital labour and finance, the project joins five experienced partners Aksioma (SI), Drugo More (HR), Furtherfield (UK),Institute of Network Cultures (NL) and NeMe (CY) together with a range of artists, curators, theorists and audiences. State Machines insists on the need for new forms of expression and new artistic practices to address the most urgent questions of our time, and seeks to educate and empower the digital subjects of today to become active, engaged, and effective digital citizens of tomorrow.
V&A Digital Futures: Digital Futures
V&A Digital Futures: Digital Futures is a monthly meetup and open platform for displaying and discussing of work by professionals working with art, technology, design, science and beyond. It is also a networking event, bringing together people from different backgrounds and disciplines with a view to generating future collaborations.
Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here. It enables people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life. It distributes funding from the Scottish Government and The National Lottery.