032621_MoneyLab Berlin session_Community Call-in: Across the Timezones

Able to attend part of Ruth Catlow’s talk and DisCO talk on community cooperative financing at MoneyLab Berlin today! So excited to tune in to part of this amazing project initiated by the amazing Geert Lovink from xs4ll, nettime, etc.

Later, went to the Community-Call in…still arranging my teleconnection…was intrigued by the progressive economist, Akseli Vitalen, who got us thinking about NFTs and art history through the lens of Foucault on Velasquez’s Las Meninas, and work of Eve Sussman’s piece on Las Meninas where she made a film (actresses and actors play the parts and start to move out of the configuration they exist in as ordered by Velasquez). The economist began talking about Sussman’s piece at the end of heated debates around validity/potential of NFTs. Introduced Foucault’s book The Order of Things as one of his six most favorite books, and pointed out Foucault’s long analysis of Las Meninas as ‘constructed knowledge’of how spectatorship worked in 1656. Since the painting is a favorite, I have been delighted to revisit Foucault’s analysis and Sussman’s ’89 Seconds at Alcazar’ being transformed by NFTs.

Sussman’s video found a second life with NFTs. She worked with a firm called Snark.Art – a blockchain-savvy agency that works with artists, creating innovative formats – to carve the video into a 2,304-piece grid. Collectors could purchase one tiny fragment as an NFT. Each of these “atoms” is only 20 x 20 pixels, and can be viewed as a tiny movie. They called the new form “89 Seconds Atomized.”

‘Las Meninas’ is a very large ‘oil’ painting of an ‘infanta’ or child queen, the central figure, standing in a group of bridesmaids and joined by several children at distracted play along with a large dog lying comfortably in the foreground. Velasquez paints a painting about himself painting a portrait of the King and Queen, who appear reflected in a god’s eye mirror at the back of the space. Hence, we are looking at our audience: painter, children, dog – from the perspective of the King.

Askeli talked about the invisible viewer being invited to see from this perspective, Viewer is King’s POV, and Eve Sussman’s piece in which are reenacted moments before and after the “moment” captured by the painter. He described how Sussman applied the new economic logic or ‘the work of art in the age of financial redistribution’ (my phrase) by breaking the screen into “Atoms” and about his ownership of an “Atom.” It is Akseli’s argument that with NFTs we are not only engaged in some new form of potentially radical economy, but in a new form of ‘art history’.

I do not know what to make of this creative approach…but it does appear to be quite substantial and drawing much attention. I have jumped in almost 4 years after MoneyLab started and into even longer projects on this subject. Ruth Catlow has been working on money projects for at least this long.

Link to Foucault’s “take” on the painting.