Making the Speculative Case for Music on the Blockchain

Conceived by Lars Holdhus and commissioned by Rhizome, Futures Along the Blockchain is a web project gathering artists, musicians, and writers to annotate a case study which explores the history of Bitcoin while speculating on the utility of its underlying blockchain technology for both art and music distribution. 

The site presents this centralized text, which Nora authored, only to distribute its value among a select group of annotators, who communicate around the case in an extended, online group discussion. Designed and produced by The Actual School, the site is an evolving document that will, hopefully, increase in value over time as a resource, and prove a comfortable, accessible entryway into an opaque field, often filled with alienating technical jargon.  

Our annotator group features visual and sound artists, including Claire Tolan (who has made notes within her signature ASMR-style), Yuri Pattison, Brian Rogers, Gregory Chatonsky, and J.G. Biberkopf. On the technical side, annotators include Anil Bawa-Cavia, a computer scientist and founder of STDIO, Masha McConaghy, co-Founder of Ascribe, Ryan John King of FOAM, a decentralized architecture office (ĐAO), and Alec Liu of Ripple. Matthew Dryhurst of SAGA, Lars Holdhus, Morgan Sutherland, and DeForrest Brown, Jr. round out the group, their notes bridging the art-, tech-, and theory-worlds. 

These annotators discursively critique the aesthetic, technical, and assumed values of Bitcoin and blockchain technology. (Click on "All" to see all annotations at once, or on individual names for a more selective experience as you read.) Their additions should frame and re-frame the conversation around the blockchain's usefulness: as a tool for supporting artistic practice and digital artists, and as a re-engineering of our understanding of property, both real and virtual.  

The site also features a film, the ideal, by London-based Irish artist Yuri Pattison. Pattison also provided us with raw source footage excerpts of a Bitcoin mine in Tibet. These films and clips are part of an artwork made in collaboration with Eric Mu, the Chief Marketing Officer of HaoBTC, a Bitcoin startup. (The footage is of HaoBTC’s new mine.) (Video elements from the ideal were commissioned for British Art Show 8 as part of a larger networked sculptural installation; subsequent versions are being developed with Kunstverein Nürnberg & Bielefelder Kunstverein for the exhibitions Transparencies.)