032721_MoneyLab Berlin art – Tokenize This!

art posted by geert lovink on nettime:

Tokenize This! by artist, Ben Grosser, who writes:

Tokenize This is a net art work that proposes one possible structure of resistance against the threats posed by NFTs. The site, available from [the link], produces upon each new visit a “unique digital object” that includes a custom color gradient and guaranteed exclusive identification code, all referenced by a matching URL. Yet different from the typical website whose URLs act as persistent indexes to a page and its contents, Tokenize This destroys each work right after its creation. While the unique digital object remains viewable by the original visitor for as long as they leave their browser tab open, any subsequent attempt to copy, share, or view that URL in another tab, browser, or system, leads to a 404 “not found” error.

In other words, Tokenize This generates countless digital artifacts that can only be viewed or accessed once. While this structure doesn’t block someone from selling an NFT that points to a Tokenize This page, it does ensure that the page it points to will never be seen by the purchaser of that NFT. Most broadly, the work acts in opposition to the capitalist ideologies embedded in NFTs and the ways in which cryptoart markets have already thrust an often anti-capitalist and anti-corporate art medium into a 21st century gold rush get-rich-quick kind of frenzy.

032721_MoneyLab Berlin session_Invisible Economy

Timezones being what they are, I went to one event today…Dada art women talking about making meaning in communities through collective ownership. Their site dada.art is a drawing platform, where communication is through drawing and being recognized and being part of a broader community of users. Platform replacing old idea of ‘community of users’ being an ‘online community’ as cloud computing and platform-tech has now made possible elaborate social community sites. Good place to while away an hour drawing.

The talk, Invisible Economy, was presented by 3 women. They hold no end time for any of their meetings. They are making an economy not based in assumptions of private ownership or typical hierarchies. Social anaarchy!

NFT License

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.

022521_The Inverse Uncanny Valley: What we see when AI sees us…

Benjamin Bratton has made me think in this talk he gave as a response to AI and cultural directions in the development of the tech, all in conjunction to the Claudia Schmuckli (curator) exhibit, The Uncanny Valley, at the de Young. Bratton begins with the really important query…why are we making AI a reflection of ourselves…(as if we really know what ‘human’ is). Why do we need to envision AI as something like ourselves? He points to the problematic formulation of this conundrum with a series of Sophia-like robot images, and bot-types, and likens the intentions to copy ‘human’ to an awful circus that transpired around computer scientist/theorist Alan Turing’s homosexuality. As soon as Turing was outted, his story was taken from him & stuffed violently back into the closet to such a degree (he was made to take medications to make him “normal”) that it drove Turing to his untimely death. Bratton’s precise comparison of the push to make AI in our own image, and the crushing suppression of Alan Turing, is a critique of the type of thought (philosophy of technology) which Bratton sees as a similar violent direction. He makes it clear that by taking this direction we are most importantly overlooking the fundamental difference of machine intelligence/AI which is that it is not something which is not ‘human’,but rather it is something inherently tied up and bound to human intelligence and that we are, essentially missing an opportunity to learn from what we cannot readily know — what we might “see” about ourselves –and what the intelligence of machines really as to offer. An example he develops is to talk about the violent pathologies inherent in the programming of facial recognition software as it profiles and categorizes its subjects. In this act of analysis, the problem is the transposing of the pathologies back into and inculcating them within the code and the powerful delivery of the software. This critique has been started on AI as well, in basic questions regarding the formulation of algorithmic logic. Bratton echoes Donna Haraway’s appeal in her1982 Cyborg and Simian manifesto to see the human/non-human aspect of techonology as inextricably linked together in the formulation of it all and through which she rejects the binary logic which would separate- human from not-human – when in fact, there is always an intertwined relevance of one to the other.

Bratton illustrates his powerful comparisons with great precision, and he argues that it is  simply a “wrong” direction to go in to try to “make AI human” and the bearer of bad logics.  He notes efforts to invent a palatable ‘Siri’ and ‘Alexa’ home-attendant to the variety of leanings; or the “philosopher in a petri dish” and the domesticating of AI and misunderstanding of its power altogether. Instead of modelling AI and its capacity to automate on ‘human’ as ‘human’ is constructed, he suggests a transdisciplinary approach to view AI, instead, as a distributed intelligence  about which we know very little, and through which we might learn something. He suggests too that we might not want to know what it sees about us. Examples & images explore  Japanese history, dolls, robotics and the cultural traditions from which AI emerged. It’s a clearly voiced and hopeful theoretical starter-kit  on key debates in the production/reproduction of AI.

Note: You may need to subscribe to this excellent youtube channel – Fine Art Museums of San Francisco – in order to see this, but here is the title & link: The Inverse Uncanny Valley: What We See When AI Sees Us.



020721_Finishing up an interview I did…

Finishing up the interview I did with a young woman, Selen O. who is a poet who lives in North Beach (where many poets have lived). I really enjoyed receiving this paper pamphlet from her in the mail and reading the off-beat, really intelligent and spare, thoughtful poems within. She asks questions. There are other poets on my horizon, too, so perhaps will be providing ore quizzical interviews here on bivoulab.org.

A quote that inspires:

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” – Angela Davis



From penned diary entry…hence the date:

January 19th – Eve of Joe Biden’s Inauguration and not better time to write than now…Apprehension, delight, fear, anger, intelligent remorse.

January 21st – Do not know Tony Longson’s work, but as a member of the several network lists, it is clear that due to Covid 19 and other ailments…computer scientists, theorists, computer artists, are getting on and dying out…a whole generation of Web 1.0 users, who made enormous contributions in the very early stages of computer art, are leaving us.

We Remember Tony Longson, R.I.P.

011721_Making Sense

“The Q Anon Shaman: The Return of the Mythic” on Rebelwisdom on YouTube, is a discussion about the gregarious man in the Viking hat who helped storm the capital. Speakers, including Erik Davis, discussed the Q Shaman primarily as a likely social phenomenon of conspiracy thinking, which apparently requires a visual culture to really grow in power, hence badges, flags, costumes, language, acronyms. This form of communication is similar to branding/advertising spin which gains momentum through “identification” with the brand. Wikipedia describes Q Anon (c.2017) as ‘a disproven and discredited far-right conspiracy theory alleging that a cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibalistic pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotting against U.S. president Donald Trump, who is fighting the cabal. U.S. prosecutors have called it “a group commonly referred to as a cult”. Cults develop through the ability to create feelings and sense of belonging. They have identifying markers, signs, clothing, agreement on their ideology, and members. Mobs also form out of immediate need for attention and the power of “unity” and “identification.”

The era of Trump’s lies and his and his Administration’s quest for power has been the dominant ideological position for 4 years, plenty of time to go from Pizzagate (2016) to QAnon (2021); for followings and “followers” to flock to their screens to see what else has been posted in a disturbingly accelerated pace of development. The sense-making apparatus of civil discourse is inherently progressive and productive because it reveres the exchange of differing ideas and opinion over individual authority. The disillusioned and disingenous empowered populus enerate new “forms” of sense not based in fact or reality and believe their own ideology because it is “right” cannot see their way out of the bottle. Trump has fueled the lean, illogical, ill-informed and ignorant formation of ideas. Social media accelerated the pace of his poisonous “reach” and helped the lies (and his entranced followers) to gain unusually threatening momentum.

The QShaman was a centrally-poised figure in media from the Capitol. Colorful, humorous, raving on and seemingly in control, he acted out a fantasy of control, for what spectator?


Production of something, outside of self, outside of mind, the mental picture…The physical item/object/”sense act” renders ‘visible’, not ‘magical’ , the thought or art. It is as if birth takes place…Today there is a blending of ‘magical’ with ‘visible’. ‘Visible’ includes all that is virtual; and that includes the ‘magical’ connotations of commodities and their auras in the seamless world of advertisements and the production of experience.

Listening to Stephen Shaviro over the last few days on ‘affective dissonance’ as explanation for current sweep of strange, precarious, often confusing tides washing over subjectivity, and in film aesthtics; the discontinuity or ‘post-continuity’ or maybe what was referred to at one time, as  ‘post-structuralism’ in terms of film form.

The idea of undoing predictable ordering of thoughts in the manner that images are put down, as a means to deconstruct? didactic narratives (this a strong trope in late 80s?) rather, the post-structuralist idea was to rupture expectations of narrative sequence, or open them up to possibilities of multiple “readings” (post-modern term). The ‘readings’ would be open to cultural, social, political, or alternative interpretation. Both Shaviro and Galloway’s exploration of the efficacy of terms, is an approach to theoretical work that is a happy one, especially since they include in the positioning of social science, critique, theory, the presence and effects of social media and new technologies and networks. Many art and cultural terms are out-moded at present and need this mindful reworking of meaning, and we need new words, to encapsulate present conditions of human subjectivity and thought since the introduction of Deleuze’s concept of the ‘dividual’ in the late 80s, a response to internet technologies and their effect upon the ‘subject.’ (the dividual can be found in famous essay ‘Post-script on Societies of Control’.  In the conversation on Cultural Technologies podcasts on cinema between Alex Galloway and Shaviro, Jane Bennett’s book, “Virtual Matter” is mentioned and then they go into the useful difference between ‘sentience’, ‘consciousness’, and ‘cognition’.

Note: Watching the PBS news last night, the term ‘long haulers’ came up as a way to name a portion of Covid 19 survivors who have long-term health problems now as a result of having contracted the virus. PBS did their best to find 3 individuals who before hand had no health issues at all and in fact were robust and athletic. While their stories were the main idea and very interesting, I was struck by the term (and the special moniker for it) ‘long haulers’ which sounded as though it could be applied to a super giant truck capable of carrying a huge load for a long time. I was struck by how ‘news’ makers or maybe just US news? or maybe just PBS news, or maybe its the way we need to breakdown and decipher large populations in this country – that we give sections names. New names that reflect their condition. I found myself wondering if this was done in other news in other countries with the same zeal as it is done here to bracket the subject matter.

Also struck by Galloway’s assertion that we used to consider ‘0’s and ‘1’s important and that we now need to consider that over and that it is ‘1s’ and ‘2s’ That all 1s’ are split into ‘2s’ I’m not sure exactly what he meant, but wondered where Luce Iriguay’s writing disappeared to, the essay/book ‘The Sex that is Not One’ where she writes about womens’ genitalia as being about two lips, not one object…so maybe Galloway is suggesting that we have accepted, even internalized this ‘difference’ into our understanding? He would be a child of feminism and have learned from a feminist mother of the importance of ‘2’. ?