Blockchain Week NYC 2019 (aka Consensus Conference 2019) is in full swing with various panel discussion, keynotes, endless presentations, pitches, parties, exclusive cocktail events and more. Much of the discussion echoes last year’s larger narratives expanded cautiously with the endless mantras of “slowly coming out of winter” followed by “slowly coming out of the bull market” as repeated by the crypto-block devotees. Nearly every speaker is more amped than the next and possessing some inside track and superhuman knowledge with the hindsight always being 20/20 in terms of past errors and crashes of the new industry. Thus what seems to be needed now to take the arena to a new and expanded level is a bit of an infusion of innovation, and we may be starting to see hints of that during a recent event.
Now in its third year The Ethereal Summit, produced by Joseph Lubin’s ConsenSys venture, certainly offers the standard panel on smart contracts, regulations and is heavy on stats and engineering jargon, however, a welcome addition is that of discussion around innovation and blockchain art. Naturally, early attempts at applying blockchain technology to the art world, whether it be the possibility of collective ownership of expensive fine art piece or crypto wallets that take on an art-like quality of design, have been brewing. But the Ethereal Summit has gone as far as to support such efforts in a couple of ways.
In 2018 ConsenSys launched ConsenSys Grants to support the rapidly accelerating Ethereum ecosystem. Grants are awarded based on five categories including core infrastructure, improved developer tooling and UX education and technical knowledge, social impact and security. Within this is the Ethereal Arts Grant. Over the last two years, the program has contributed to over $50,000 to contemporary artists around the world who are experimenting with blockchain technology and decentralization as inspirations for conceptual art and social expression.
This year the efforts awarded $15,000 to three artists who contributed to the 2019 Ethereal Summit theme, “How will technology shape the cultures of the future; How might ethics be defined by decentralized systems?” The artists who won included new media artist Shirley Shor who creates real-time computer-generated installations, visual artist Trevor Coop who paints with invisible glass that transforms when exposed to a smartphone flash and Jessica Angel an artist who works at the intersection of art, science and technology.
Such work was not only on display at the Summit’s venue but the event also included an auction where attendees could bid on the art, of course using blockchain technology to secure and facilitate trades and transactions. Proceeds benefitted The Foundation for Art & Blockchain, a non-profit that’s mission is to foster the culture of this technological movement and empower artists with renewed creative agency. The Ethereal Summit also included a lively panel discussion around the future intersection of art and blockchain technology.
Such activity is important because it brings a certain human quality and much-needed varied mindset to an industry that is often times too homogeneous in nature to be able to expand past its own insularity in many cases.
Artwork reflecting and playing upon the themes and benefits of blockchain helps to ground the concept of what the power of what this technology partly signifies by anchoring it to something that is very much tactile in an otherwise intangible and unseen conceptual realm. Indeed, in order to move such emerging tech offerings into mainstream adoption faster and bring the inquisitive yet trepidatious into the fold, such creative, hipper attempts may be just what the Satoshi doctor has ordered.