Guest written by artist Patrick Gerard from r0se.art
In the 1970’s, TV held out the promise of possibility for media artists as a new, networked, broadcasting technology that could allow them to bypass the limitations of gallery exhibition and geographical boundaries, and distribute their art to the many and not the few. The internet did the same. Except part of the problem was that these mediums eventually became centrally mediated and finding ways to finance the process was challenging. The blockchain is now emerging and it proposes a way for artists to solve this.
I make art using different mediums. Mostly drawing, video, poetry, books and multimedia art for the browser. About a year ago, I decided I wanted to bring it all together and put it on the web as an improvised collage. I wasn’t sure what the outcome of that would be really. Mostly I was interested to see what would happen when the different fictional and literary elements of my work started to impact upon and interact with one another.
A project like this would normally require funding. But I wanted to avoid that and try something that wasn’t supported by a gallery or funding body, to see if that would allow me a different kind of freedom to explore more experimental ways of working that weren’t bound by time or place.
I also didn’t have a way to personally fund it, so I started to look at new, open source and open web technologies like Ethereum, IPFS and Unlock-Protocol to see if I could understand and use them.
As things took shape, it became natural for me to think about how it should relate to an audience. Making art freely accessible can diminish its integrity. But the project was also never about selling the work only. So the question became, could I find an alternative way to allow people to engage with my work online that was more democratic and inclusive and that also protected its integrity?
Using a crypto token seemed like a way to do this. Except tokenizing usually takes place at the beginning of a project, as a way to crowdfund a proof of concept. By developing the work independently and taking it to a certain maturity myself, the token came instead to represent something more like a proof of work, or a proof of my artistic work. This, I think, is where its value now lies.
I was drawn to Unlock, not as a membership protocol necessarily, but because it offered a way to freely and very generously explore different ways of developing a token using a new, open web technology in which I saw potential to solve what is a difficult problem for artists. That is, how to distribute art openly and to as many people as possible, in a way that protects its integrity as artwork of value, and that is financially sustainable.
The result is the r0se platform, which is now live. It has become a safe place where I can make and add new work, change it freely, add my books or videos or poems or other writing, publish new ideas, try new things, and bring it all together as a broad, improvised composition. And I can make this available to others using Unlock tokens.
Unlock makes it possible to mint tokens on the more sustainable, energy efficient and ecologically-friendly blockchain XDAI. XDAI is a side-chain of the Ethereum network that uses proof-of-stake which incurs almost zero gas fees. For now, I’ve minted three tokens. They each represent different ways to come and see my work for a certain period of time. A one month, one year and unlimited token. This also opens up different ways to support the progress of the work and how it evolves over the long term.
Although it is early days, I feel that as more tools like Unlock become available to artists, it may give rise to something like a new avant garde, which will be characterized by a resistance to the spectacle of museum exhibition, and that will instead make use of the decentralized web as an undercurrent that flows beneath the mainstream. In this, it will be possible to distribute art in new and disruptive ways. With recent media hype about NFTs focusing on collectibility, high sales figures and on art as a medium of ownership, I think artists may miss the potential the NFT has for other, more democratic and inclusive ways to distribute their work. Unlock is providing a way to do this. They’re doing something alternative with NFTs that can also be ecologically sustainable. And that’s interesting to me.