Blockchain Art Hackathon Founder On Blockchain Through Eyes Of Artists
Armed with the functionality of smart contracts, not only can blockchain technologies change the spheres of finance or business, but also have a significant influence on the world of arts. Online auctions, tokenization of masterpieces, electronic certificates are just several obvious examples of the blockchain use. Technologies create a new environment for artists and also become the subject of their activities.
On September 19, at the Blockchain and Bitcoin Conference in Kiev, numerous blockchain-related works by modern artists were exhibited in the main hall. Regular visitors of Kyiv conferences might have noticed that some paintings are often presented at the most notable crypto events.
Blockspoint met with Stanislav Podyachev, the founder of Blockchain Art Hackathon and a managing partner of Blockchain Lab, who told the story behind these mysterious artworks dedicated to blockchain and explained what innovative technology and art have in common.
The World's First Blockchain Art Hackathon
There are several ways of conceiving any object or phenomenon, including technology. Through the prism of business, we can evaluate the profitability of a project and determine its success. From a scientific point of view, we can assess technology by conducting experiments and studying its properties. But blockchain is not just another technology — it has its own ideological base. We would like to know how this ideology can be expressed through art, which has been a universal language since the birth of human civilization.
Artists have the ability to interpret significant changes in the world and find details that remain unnoticed by scientists. The idea of the Blockchain Art Hackathon project is to look at the world, standing at the dawn of the blockchain revolution, through the eyes of artists.
The first and so far the only hackathon of this kind was held in autumn 2017 in Ukraine’s first innovation park Unit.city. It consisted of three stages. We selected the 30 best Ukrainian artists who were not limited by age, status, or the ways of expression. Instead, they were limited in space and time. On the first day, experts from the cryptocurrency world and blockchain-enthusiasts gave an express course to artists explaining the most complete information about new technologies. After that, the participants had only 48 hours to express their vision of blockchain in art objects. During the final stage, all works were exhibited, and the jury selected the winner. In fact, there were two winners — Anna Bitaeva's painting “The Beginning” and Astian Rey's installation “The Harmony of Progress”. All works were included in a special catalog and remained in our property. This is how the first blockchain art collection appeared.
With the support of Ukrainian MP Aleksey Mushak, we managed to hold an exhibition of these paintings in the Verkhovna Rada. We are promoting our project outside the country. In spring 2018, we held exhibitions under the general name U2Europe in Paris, Strasbourg, Brussels, Prague, Amsterdam, and Berlin. Several artists from France responded to our proposal to “continue” the idea of the work they liked. This was another way to create a collaboration for artists from different countries — Blockchain Art Fork. As part of our project, we want to show that Ukraine can provide full-fledged, finished products, and not only serve as an outsourcer.
The Second Hackathon: Animation And Experiments
The main feature of the Blockchain Lab team is curiosity. We tend to experiment and create crazy projects. For example, we created a website named cryptowhiskey.io — it is an anti-ICO that allows everyone to buy a unique bottle of whiskey with ethers using a smart contract. A purchaser is guaranteed to receive it in 12 years, even if ETH value drops to zero.
Therefore, during the second art hackathon, we decided to expand the pool of means of artistic expression and added animation. Thus, this time not only will artists plunge into the world of blockchain and reflect upon the economy of the future, but also master the technology of creating animations in a short time. Sensorama Lab, a leading animation and VR studio, joined us as a partner. We want to tell artists about the future, to teach participants new skills, and give them new tools for creativity.
All artists were selected by the organizing committee that took into account their previously published works, their style, the depth of the problems they highlighted in their works. The worst part was that I had to turn down some applications. I'm so sorry for having to choose among all of them, but this was an inevitable part of the experiment. We received about 100 applications in total, and only 30 of candidates were selected. About 20 of them were Ukrainians, and the rest were from other countries. The final of the hackathon was held on October 18-19 as a part of the Kyiv International Economic Forum.
Our team has a mission — we want to use technology in such a way that there would be less injustice in the world. We are promoting the adoption of cryptocurrency and blockchain in various ways, at least in our country. While the global crypto community is experiencing a sort of hangover from the excessive amounts of money collected during ICOs, the Ukrainian community has faced two problems — the need for regulation and the imposition of regulation. Some people are trying to get benefits from this situation and lobby for bills that meet their interests.
Art And Blockchain Have No Borders
At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a high turbulence in politics, economics, and society. As a reaction, new views on art appeared. “Black Square” by Kazimir Malevich is the negation of the old world and the adoption of a new order. Instead of hierarchy in the world of art, the concept of peer-to-peer appeared. The spectator plays a significant role in the life of the art work, and this role is as important as the creator's. Blockchain technology is about the absence of hierarchy.
In “The Little Prince” by Exupéry, it was necessary to pull out baobab trees every day so that they would not tear the Planet apart. In the real world, the baobabs are the evils of our modern society that prefers consuming rather than creating. The second problem is the gap between the rich and the poor. While the first ones consume resources, the others have nothing to eat and drink. The third problem is that our world becomes senseless. Previously, we had a lot of ideas, we craved to explore new lands, to conquer outer space. And today people are mostly lost.
Blockchain is really capable of changing the world we are used to, but we also have to change our attitude to the world. There are a lot of hype around blockchain, because hype always appears where money is. There are no borders in art — and there are no borders in blockchain. These are systems where communities play a vital role. Both of these areas can be mastered by AI. This is an important issue of creativity and human capabilities. Blockchain is able to divert humanity from the cult of consumption and competition in favor of cooperation and mutual complementarity.
Many developments are coming from the pages of science fiction to the real world, and we need to understand how to design the future — not from the engineering perspective, since this is already a solution to specific problems. I am talking about the design of consciousness.
Some people are afraid that blockchain may affect the art market. For example, some of them wonder what's going to happen to curators who are in fact a kind of intermediaries. To answer this question, you need to get into the role of the curator. When it comes to an exhibition, a curator connects artists and spectators, unites the pieces of art into a single semantic and artistic “fabric”. I would compare it with a conductor in an orchestra. Of course, there are orchestras that perform without a conductor, but a conductor cannot work without an orchestra. I do not think that someone is suffering from such a “mediation”. If virtual museums are popular, there will most likely be people ready to invest time in viewing and analyzing a large number of art works and form collections in their virtual museum so that their visitors would like it. Then they will be called curators.
Photo: Sasha Che