This is in response to “There is no such thing as blockchain art”
which for the most part I agree with and encourage everyone to read. Since it is published as a paper on ipfs I can not reply as on a medium or other blog post so I will just write my response here. All quotes are taken from the paper itself.
One thing I like is the paper starts with some assumptions. So that you understand where the writers are coming from. This is a good format that other people should embrace. Out of all of the assumptions, two of them are very true and sum up some of the problems in the space in a very succinct way.
“ The art market lacks education about blockchain technologies. However, it capitalizes on what is being called “blockchain art” without understanding the risks and limitations the technology has.”
“ There is a general lack of understanding from inside the blockchain ecosystem of the art market. The assumption from the tech industry is that they need to help the art market solve their problems by inventing new technological solutions”
People from the legacy art market are either too willing to jump off the cliff and blockchain everything or too scared to even try. People from the blockchain world try to shove in solutions where there is no problem creating new problems, attack vectors, confusion, and misinformation often with a lot of enthusiasm. This is a mix that can end badly and why we need more discussions like the one we are having now.
“ we found the following issue: there is a fundamental problem with the introduction of Blockchain in art. Those artists that have integrated the technology, in one way or another, have positioned themselves as experts. By analyzing the conference calendar on the topics, a pattern arises: only a few artists are invited to talk about this intersection, the same ones, ad nauseam”
This is very true. The thing is that since blockchain art is so small, knowing almost anything about it automatically makes you seem like an expert to the majority of people. I think the only way to change this is to create our own art events, not repeating the gallery model, and recruiting new blood.
Artists Taking Control of the Secondary Sales Market
There is a section regarding control of the secondary market. This would be for example an artist getting a portion of each sale in the secondary market. What is not addressed are the following problems that I see with the entire concept of blockchain + any type of royalty system. If there is such a payment attached to the artwork it will inflate the price. The seller knows that x% is going to the artist so they will just raise the price. This could lead to fewer sales overall. Blockchain brings with it the concept of a bearer asset. That is that if I have it, I own it. If I give you a USB stick with the private key to the token and digital artwork that has a royalty system attached to it, and we make an OTC (Over The Counter) transaction then we have now gotten around any kind of automatic royalty payment and who can deny that the person that controls the keys is the rightful owner of the artwork now? This is why I think these systems are doomed without having tradeoffs of using third parties to regulate the royalty payments. I will now take the time to shill my article titled “Using blockchain tokens for royalty payments” .
„Blockchain as a technology is aimed to distribute power, control, information, data or others. „
Blockchain is a tool, it can be used for many things but in itself has no aim. I do not think it is accurate to say that technology itself aims to distribute power or control. It can help to do this but by no means does it automatically by its existence. Humans that use the tools have the aim.
There’s no Such Thing as Blockchain Art: Case Studies / Rough Consensus — Intro
„Full decentralization would mean decentralizing speech and voices, decision-making power and thought leaders. Crypto art platforms and the community that forms around NFTs (mentioned in section xxx) are working towards this goal. However, high profile institutions like Christie’s, still mostly feature the same people as “blockchain art referents”, which contradicts the basic premise of decentralization. „
I’m not sure anyone really wants „full decentralization“ or that it is needed. Institutions like Christie´s do not necessarily have an incentive to use blockchain at all, and if they do it would not be to threaten their own gatekeeper status or destroy their own business model but instead to capture the power they have and keep it by all means. This could include simply using blockchain as a buzzword, influencing a group of speakers to paint Christie´s as good or even implementation of blockchain in a dystopian way. Christie´s using blockchain something something is not going to neccarly change Christie´s itself.
Digital art marketplaces are not Blockchain art
„However, the asset exists without the Blockchain and does not need the technology to exist. The asset is as unique as the creator wants it to be, based on the decision to reproduce it. To call the combination of the digital asset + a platform automatized token attached to it — is equivalent to attach a piece of paper to sculpture. The sculpture is still the artwork. „
In some ways, I agree that the platform (one that generates a token for the artist), in this case, has too much of a role in the creation of the token. I think that the token should always be generated by the artist themself and is -part-of the art. It is not a separate thing, it is part of the entire concept, the Gesamtkunstwerk.
„Is Malware Conceptual Art?
During the discussion that preceded this paper, there were some proponents that malware and bugs could be classified as art. This was inspired by Banksy’s self-shredding art piece happening. This is an interesting viewpoint, however technological flaws are not art. For instance, a bug in an airplane navigation software can end in a tragedy. Software and hardware security cannot be classified as simple manifestations of art, in as much as they can destabilize entire systems and cause terrible issues „
It only matters what the intent was not if it is an error. If the intent was to make an „error“ is it really an error after all? In this way, Malware can be art.
History of NFT Standards
„Early NFT projects have been developed on the Bitcoin blockchain like Spell of Genesis or Rare Pepe. But as Tomaino puts it, “There is no interoperability in UX or standards for this first-generation of collectibles and there’s also not much programmability to enable gameplay or other dApp experiences on a blockchain.”
There are a few things going on here that are factually wrong and misleading. I’m not sure if Tomaino cares or wants to mislead people as interaction on Twitter has been, well, silent.
First of all the phrase, NFT is overused and here is an example. Neither Rarepepe nor Spells of Genesis are „NFT Projects“ as the vast majority of the artwork are not on an NFT basis, in fact, I am not sure there are any Spells of Genesis NFT at all. Of course, the legendary Homerpepe is an NFT but that was of course long before the term „NFT“ even existed.
„There is no interoperability in UX“
Is there interoperability in UX regarding any existing tokens on any blockchain in the universe. Let us all think about that and why it needed to be said that there is none regarding these two projects.
„also not much programmability to enable gameplay or other dApp experiences on blockchain.“
This is quite subjective. Have a look at how bitcorn crops created a dapp game or the massive creative interoperability of Sarutobi Island. It is simply not accurate to say that the gameplay, programmability and dapp experiences do not exist as claimed.
History of NFT Standards
“Larva Labs chose the Ethereum blockchain because it supports the generation of unique ERC20 tokens rather than a simple numeric balance. “Something like the Bitcoin blockchain doesn’t have enough expressiveness for this kind of project. Ethereum seemed like a natural choice, with its popularity and its very general Solidity contract language,” said Watkinson”.
This is simply factually wrong. There have been ways to create NFTs on bitcoin before NFT was a term and before ETH even existed. Expressiveness to create NFTs and trade them on DEX are there now.
The reasons to point out that some things are factually wrong is not to try and battle blockchain vs. blockchain or play „gotcha“ but to understand that it is important to get history right. Only then can we learn from the past, not by trying to greenwash and leave out Rarepepe because someone is afraid of frogs. If we want to be honest, then well, we have to be honest. Overall I really like the paper “There is no such thing as blockchain art” and agree with most of it. Again if you have not read it then you are losing.
Do you think I am wrong, factually wrong or just incorrect? Please let me know below or on twitter.