tbyfield on Thu, 18 Mar 2021 18:23:57 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> what does monetary value indicate?

Felix, what you're talking about looks theoretical, but at root these are really just questions of provenance, which the art world knows about only too well. I have several artworks that, in theory, could be pretty valuable but in practice are probably worthless because I can't (or, really, can't be bothered to) document or prove their provenance. As art prices have soared and arty milieus have mushroomed over the last decades, standards for authenticating works have gone completely mad. Their ostensible purpose is to reduce the risk of forgeries, but mostly it just creates bullshit jobs in the culture sector. "What did you do today?" "I verified that petrified mass of shrimp carcasses and noodles in a garbage bag as an authentic artifact of Rirkrit Tiravanija's seminal 1992 performance at the 303 Gallery rather than, as most thought, a contemporary forgery or, as some believed, an artifact of the performance he did three months later at Andrea Rosen. And how was *your* day?" It's just plain-old manual proof-of-work.

This growing focus on provenance is just one tiny facet of the rising culture of authentication. The same kind of thing has also happened with people's work résumés and academic records, process and product certifications like ISO 9000/1 standards, heightened security techniques from currency design to 2FA techniques, commodity-sourcing certifications (everything from Fair Trade agricultural products to isotopic analyses of nuclear materials), ART STOLEN BY THE NAZIS – the list goes on and on and on and on.

Taken together, this all makes it clear that we live in the Age of the Fake. That's not to say everything *is* fake or anything is real — it just means that, as a civilization, we're more and more consumed by the endless busywork of trying to establish not-fake. When you log in to some account you aren't proving who you are in any meaningful sense, you're merely giving the receiving end evidence (i.e., reasonable grounds for limiting their liability) that you aren't who you aren't. And, of course, when you prove you "aren't a robot" by doing some re/captcha, you're helping to train ML systems to do image-recognition, or at least a few years ago you were. By now there are probably dozens if not hundreds of abstract meta-derivative auction systems built on top of that that, so you kill time clicking on pictures of fire hydrants instead of taking up more valuable CPU cycles bothering someone else with whatever you're on about. If that hasn't happened yet, it will soon enough: for example, a service that targets neo-nazis and wastes their time so they don't waste everyone else's would be a really good thing, wouldn't it? But, then, an entire task force at McKinsey could waste time preparing a report surveying which political beliefs are most easily 'triggered' into clicking on cows rather than getting something done. Oh, wait, Facebook, never mind.

Also, it's worth noting that pretty much zero disinterested third parties ever have actually gone to the trouble authenticating some NFT-ish art thing. In practical terms, doing so might be difficult to the point of impossibility. I could claim "I have *the* ur-NFT" but for you to validate my claim, you'd need to spend $BIGNUM effort learning masses of hypertechnical bullshit involving some ridiculous hodgepodge of protocols, services, providers, actors, reputations, etc. Who can be bothered? $SMALLNUM time passes and hey, presto, my claim has gone unchallenged — and, as with most things, all that was aerial condenses into some good-enough approximation of solid, and in itself it comes to serve as de facto evidence of authenticity. Because, really, no one can be fucking bothered.

To anyone who's spent some time thinking about the modern sense of information, this should sound 'eerily' familiar. In Shannon's model, information isn't the thing itself, it's better understood as a measure of the reduction of uncertainty that it might be something else. When we think someone has transmitted the letter "A" to us, we didn't really get an A, we just got [letter] are and able to establish a high level of confidence that it isn't B through Z. But as you read this mail, you aren't concerned with "Wait, is that apparent instance of the letter A *really* an A? And what would it mean if my confidence level were lowered by N%?" You just read. It's the same with NFTs, except the people who make them are getting paid better than I am for typing this. But I'm reasonably confident that this email is somehow more important than whatever pot-induced NFT stunt Elon Musk is doing today.

Rachel, on one level your summary is obviously right — and, at the same time, it's not so simple.

The last ~artwork I made sold to a guy who showed his collection in the Deichtorhallen: what he bought was a stack of photos, schematics for an installation, and the right to print and build it. As it happens, on the way back to NYC from Hamburg I stopped in Amsterdam and met Geert, who — no doubt to his lasting regret 😹 — insisted I come back for the Next 5 Minutes 2 a month or so later. N5M2 is more or less where nettime began, and it was certainly when I decided Euro critical networks were much more interesting than the tangle of atavistic relations called 'the art world.' So we've been here before. 😹 But, more generally, for the last ~fifty years when various kinds of lowercase-a abstract artworks have sold, what's actually changes hands was pretty immaterial: instructions to re/produce a piece, a grant of the rights to do so, a certificate of authenticity, or something to that effect. By the same token, despite a lot of leftover techno-utopian reductionism and mummery, the sale of NFT-ish things is still — as Felix says — material, which is why (or at least how) someone else owns the 'original' Nyancat but you or I don't.

One takeaway is that we can read recent events not just in an economistic frame but, instead, in a more properly historical or even anthropological frame. What we're gaining: the economic and technical modes of 'art' are reaching new, mass scales. What we're losing: everyone seems to have forgotten that '80s/'90s critical thinking about art and aesthetics was dominated by questions of originality, appropriation, seriality, performativity, transience, institutionally, relationality, etc. A lot of the chatter about NFT-ish things endlessly criss-crosses this old terrain, but I'm not holding my holding my breath waiting for someone to mention Rosalind Krauss, Benjamin, Buchloh, Hillel Schwartz, or even Nicolas Bourriaud. (I apologize in advance for the bias of that list: it mainly reveals when I lost interest in Art as Such.)

It seems obvious that NFTs have little to do with art but everything to do with how to bootstrap economies, basically, in space. Like, if you don't have a handy asteroid made of platinum or whatever to sell but you need to jump-start an economy, you just find some meta-way to 'create' arbitrary value within an isolated, self-referential system, and before you know it you have the prerequisite differentials and dynamism to get things moving. In other words, art is once again enacting its age-old function as a domain for experimenting with speculation in every sense — conceptual, visual, economic. One it's done that, the techniques will become an app that's used elsewhere, everywhere, and in a century or so Space Krauss will be debating with Space Buchloh about the originality of the NFT and other terrestrialist myths.


On 18 Mar 2021, at 6:16, Rachel O' Dwyer wrote:

The best smart contract code is the cryptokitty code! Information on
cattributes and cloning etc.
But yes. With a few exceptions where people actually encode images into the
hash (see https://cryptograffiti.info) the only thing you own with
cryptoart is the act of ownership itself. People sometimes draw
comparisons between owning cryptoart and owning a collectible like a
baseball card (you own 'this' card but you don't have any rights to the image etc) but in this case, you don't even own the card. To me this is emblematic of a shift from the artwork as commodity to the artwork as a
financial asset or increasingly as a financial derivative.

On Thu, Mar 18, 2021 at 10:10 AM Felix Stalder <felix@openflows.com> wrote:

Last post in this subject, I promise.

The NFT in the blockchain, recorded for eternity, does not contain
artwork itself, but metadata pointing to the art work. It basically
says, the file over there is the 'originalcopy' and I own it. Of course, everyone can still copy the art work over there (assuming it's a public location), but only that file on that location is the "original" one. Of course, if that server disappears, then the meta data point to nowhere,
and becomes impossible to distinguish between the copies that might
float around somewhere.

One way to sidestep this is not to point to a location, but to a hash,
which can stored anywhere in a decentralized file system.

In Beeble's case, the token contains metadata that points to such a hash (a IPFS file). This has the advantage that it's not depended on a server
which may or may not be around for very long, so it removes the
dependency of the particular entity which host the server mentioned in
the token.

So, so this is the file that the token points to:


{"title": "EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS", "name": "EVERYDAYS: THE
FIRST 5000 DAYS", "type": "object", "imageUrl":
"description": "I made a picture from start to finish every single day from May 1st, 2007 - January 7th, 2021. This is every motherfucking one of those pictures.", "attributes": [{"trait_type": "Creator", "value":
"beeple"}], "properties": {"name": {"type": "string", "description":
"EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS"}, "description": {"type": "string",
"description": "I made a picture from start to finish every single day from May 1st, 2007 - January 7th, 2021. This is every motherfucking one
of those pictures."}, "preview_media_file": {"type": "string",
"preview_media_file_type": {"type": "string", "description": "jpg"},
"created_at": {"type": "datetime", "description":
"2021-02-16T00:07:31.674688+00:00"}, "total_supply": {"type": "int",
"description": 1}, "digital_media_signature_type": {"type": "string",
"description": "SHA-256"}, "digital_media_signature": {"type": "string",
"raw_media_file": {"type": "string", "description":

Which, again, is just metadata pointing to, well, a webserver
(makersplace.com). In other words, the seller, in order to have any
object at all, is dependent on makersplace.com to remain online. In this case, it doesn't really matter, because buyer and seller is, in effect, the same person. But in other cases, the buyer becomes dependent on the seller for as long as s/he hold be token. Of course, the "originalcopy" could also be stored in decentralized file system, but apparently, this
is not done very often. Some people have called this structure
"long-game extortion."

See, https://twitter.com/jonty/status/1372163423446917122

On 16.03.21 10:41, Florian Cramer wrote:
On Thu, Mar 11, 2021 at 5:49 PM Felix Stalder <felix@openflows.com>

I'm sure many have followed the NFT art saga over the last couple of months and seen today's headline that somebody just paid $ 69,346,250
for a NFT on a blockchain, meta-data to claim ownership of the
"originalcopy" of a digital art work.

Thanks to Amy Castor's article (which you also mentioned/linked to,

we now know that the buyer didn't actually pay $69,346,250, but "$60
million in ETH and $9 million in fees, also in ETH" - a significant
difference IMHO. The whole Christie's sale thus boils down to a
of one type of ETH token into another type of ETH token within the
portfolio of a crypto currency investment firm, and using the art market
transaction as means of pumping the value of the latter.
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