PROOF OF WORK: a human approach to the convergence of art and technology

 

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How do digital technologies, while distinctly inhuman, exacerbate our humanness?

I’m co-curating a one-night-only exhibition with Jenny Sharaf of Gallery Daily at The Sub this Thursday!

UPDATE: This event is sold out! Thanks so much to everyone for the huge interest.

CONCEPT

In ‘proof-of-work’ systems, computers compete with each other to solve complex algorithms. The computer that correctly solves the problem the fastest is rewarded for its achievement, and for helping to keep the system secure. As more algorithms are solved, the chains of information become longer, and the system becomes more complex. In a human context, proof-of-work systems reveal a cynical view of art history through the lens of technology. What are we competing for?

An interesting discrepancy in the proof-of-work metaphor is that computers can’t collaborate, while humans most certainly must. As art and technology continue to converge, we need a new proof-of-work system that strengthens the network as a whole. While technologists work to creatively solve human problems, artists grapple with the tensions created by our dependence on technological systems. In a circular sense, we prove the value of each other’s work.

FEATURED ARTISTS

Labanna Babalon
Anthony Discenza
Alexandra Gorczynski
David Horvitz
David Kim
Laura Hyunjhee Kim & Chris Corrente
Hilary Pecis
Simon Pyle
Molly Soda
Lola Thompson
Doug Garth Williams

The evening will feature music by Blackbird Blackbird, who will give us a preview of his new album, Tangerine Sky.

COLLABORATORS

  •  Digital Art and Making Station by Depict 

Depict is a startup working to bring digital artwork into our homes by way of the screens we so often leave blank and unused. In a world where technology is used to speed up our lives – to make everything faster and more efficient - Depict wants to slow us down by bringing us into daily contact with more art.

  • Beautiful Life projection by three New Hive artists

NewHive is the blank canvas of the web, and is working to encourage creative expression online. I like to describe it as one of the few places where you’re confronted by a completely blank page, where the Internet turns back on you and confronts you with a request for an original idea, asking, “What do you have to show us?” For the Beautiful Life projection, artists Babalon, Gorczynski, and Soda will investigate the line drawn between men and women as a metaphor for the line drawn between digital and organic. 

IDEAS TO MUSE OVER

  • HUMANS LIMIT TECHNOLOGY’S POTENTIAL

Bitcoin is the most obvious example here. It’s a symbol of gold, which is the most rudimentary form of currency, yet its fundamental structure relies on the most developed and cutting-edge networked technologies. It is dense and complex and difficult to understand, yet we compare it to physical gold due to its rarity. How can we unpack its potential when it can only be compared to something so rudimentary? Could we ever create a new technology that wasn’t limited by what we already understand? We are making things that are smarter than us. Humans have become the limitation, keeping technology from being used to its full potential, because we can only understand what we can relate back to ourselves and our history, and we only come to understand our future as we’re creating it.

  • SYMBOLS THAT ILLUSTRATE OUR RELIANCE ON WHAT WE KNOW WHEN CREATING NEW TECHNOLOGY

Humans bring new objects, networks, and structures into the world by extrapolating on what already exists. Computer operating systems rely on skeuomorphic design structures that were the status quo before we relied on computers: files, folders, text processors made to look like blank paper pages, and the original “notes” app on the iPhone looked like a reporter’s notebook. As we become more comfortable in these digital environments (i.e. we acclimate to the new environment) we become able to move beyond what was originally necessary to make us comfortable.

  • CREATING SURPLUS INFORMATION // OUR INABILITY TO REFLECT ON WHAT WE’VE CREATED DUE TO CONTENT SATURATION

It’s poignant that the outcome to ICTs (information communications technologies) are social networks, which enable us to create mountains of information made available to each other, without actually communicating with each other. We’re storing infinite terabytes of images, text, etc, most of which will never be used for anything productive. By creating these highly technical, high-potential technologies, what do we hope to accomplish? What are we actually accomplishing?

MORE ON PROOF-OF-WORK SYSTEMS

*NOTE: you will be able to purchase works on view using Bitcoin!

In Bitcoin terms, a proof-of-work chain is the longest chain verifying a transaction, and is by default the most trusted chain based on the way the system self-verifies. This metaphor – when applied to art history, networked/Internet art (imagine a chain of “likes” as proof-of-[art]work on a Tumblr post), systems of art education, etc – brings an interesting dialog regarding the ways in which visual culture is critiqued, verified, and written. The lineage of (art)work comes to a head at the present, and work that’s made today exists as the longest proof-of-work chain, i.e. it’s the most timely, the most relevant, and the most difficult to verify; highly successful works are conscious of a specific place in space and time, recognizing the work that came before as well as what could come next. The proof-of-work chain is everything.

Also at play is  the idea of artwork as the physical manifestation of mind work, bringing us to the notion of value – how do we value art, and how do we value a made-up currency such as Bitcoin? It’s all related to the community of people who believe in it, who prove that it works. Digital artists and Bitcoin users share a similar need – we need a way to prove the value of our work in order to trust each other and push forward toward a more ideal realization of what being human is now, and what it could be tomorrow.

SELECT WORKS

*DOWNLOAD A PDF OF THE PRICE LIST HERE.

(See more works by artists in the show on my Tumblr and check out the event on Gallery Daily)

 POST-EVENT REPORT!

Big thanks to all 220+ people who came out to see Proof of Work on Thursday! We had a great time and are grateful for the amazing turnout.

PRESS:

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  • ANIMAL New York picked up NewHive’s Beautiful Life installation. Read the article here.
  • Dave Kim’s piece, Free Lunch (the name of the painting was changed during the event), got picked up by The Wall Street Journal’s MoneyBeat. Read the article here.
  • This isn’t really press, but Depict’s Twitter stream features all of the weird, glitchy, and wonderful scanner selfies that folks created during the event. Check them out here.

PHOTOS FROM THE OPENING:

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Photo by Alex Ember

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Photo by Alex Ember

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Photo of Laura Kim and Chris Corrente during their performance by Alex Ember

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Photo by Alex Ember in front of Jenny Sharaf’s abstract step and repeat.

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Photo of Daniel Morgan, Willa Koerner, and Johnny Hwin by Photo by Alex Ember

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Photo of work by Simon Pyle by Alex Ember

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Installation shot by Alex Ember featuring works by Lola Rose Thompson, Hilary Pecis, and Dave Kim.

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Photo by Alex Ember

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Photo by Alex Ember

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Photo of Blackbird Blackbird by Alex Ember

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Photo by Alex Ember

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Photo by Derek Luke Macario with Jenny Sharaf’s abstract selfie step and repeat.

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Photo by Derek Luke Macario with Jenny Sharaf’s abstract selfie step and repeat.

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Photo by Daniel Morgan

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Photo by Daniel Morgan

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Photo of Jenny Sharaf and Willa Koerner by Daniel Morgan

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Photo by Daniel Morgan

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Photo of Taylor Spitzer, Sarah Thibault, Sarah Hotchkiss and Kathryn Jaller by Willa Koerner

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Photo by Daniel Morgan

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Photo by Daniel Morgan

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Photo of Depict’s digital art and making station by Daniel Morgan

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Photo of Willa Koerner’s projection installation by Daniel Morgan.

The video (my own work) which was projected onto The Sub’s pre-existing white chandelier:

CONVERGENCE from Willa Koerner on Vimeo.

2 Comments

  1. […] to the arts community. The latest example of that was a one-night show on Thursday called “Proof of Work” at a The Sub gallery in the mission district of San Francisco, which called upon artists to […]

  2. […] to the arts community. The latest example of that was a one-night show on Thursday called “Proof of Work” at a The Sub gallery in the mission district of San Francisco, which called upon artists to […]

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