I wrote and illustrated an article on my current relationship with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) for Sequencing, a publication by Fulcrum Arts.
In particular, I tried to unravel the concept of "value" in the NFT conversation, starting from the code in the ERC-721 standard and ending in the usual capitalist realism.
0is not nothing, value is not meaning, and an NFT is not an artwork.
0is worse than nothing.
0is a value that signifies worthlessness, unlike nothing, which signifies nothing. I would rather be nothing than a worthless something.
Unfortunately, the premise of an NFT is that there is never not something. Its intention is to seal the existence of the something that has a value. As a result, there is no longer nothing. Where there was nothing, there is now obsessing over what one’s art is worth. The absence of nothing is why the token evangelists cannot see the objection to all this added value. They believe in something.
The calculator, in case it needs to be said, displays the flattening of artistic gestures into a sum. This is performed equally by the NFT implementation and by its surrounding discourse.
Read the article.
Talks on Montez Press Radio
I recorded a program called Talks for Montez Press Radio. It was broadcast on July 26, 2021.
Ryan upcycles his notes from a year's worth of online talks and panels into a digressive monologue about becoming a defective model, a file, and a hateful little thing with a year's worth of complaints about gridlines, knowledge production, LinkedIn, transactional hellscapes, and not being a programmer. Bots critique his monologue.
Queue the talk on the station or listen to the archive.
The Forum w/ DeForrest Brown, Jr.
I joined techno hero DeForrest Brown, Jr. and a very poorly behaved Faith in a sprawling conversation hosted by The Lab. Thanks to DeForrest for the invitation!
Artist Ryan Kuo and theorist DeForrest Brown, Jr. join together in a discussion that dismantles the design, functionality and technical failures of consumer technology and racial capitalism in the massively multiplayer game of American culture. Ryan Kuo’s “easily triggered” AI voice assistant Faith (Left Gallery, 2019) will moderate as a looming archive and ledger of a speculative conversation that considers the history, logistics and sonic fiction of Detroit techno and the American industrialized labor systems that form the basis of Brown, Jr.’s forthcoming book Assembling a Black Counter Culture (Primary Information, 2021).
Here’s the recording:
I joined Harm van den Dorpel, Katherine Frazer, Auriea Harvey, Sara Ludy, and Ezra Miller on the NFT Aesthetics panel moderated by Michael Connor.
Here’s the recording. As for my participation, I spoke twice during the event, once to demo a new File branch and once to complain about how NFTs simply uphold our reverence for the database transaction. Someone in the audience tried to correct me about the ERC-721 implementation not being built on a lie, but he was wrong.
Although the panel was aimed at artistic practices that meaningfully engage the NFT, I think the NFT itself is aesthetically interesting in the way that it programmatically expresses Western desire by erecting a scaffold around an absent grail: the token itself, which doesn’t exist. More on this in the video.
Pieces of Me
Transfer Gallery x left gallery
Apr 1, 2021 - ∞
I am showing work online in Pieces of Me, “an exhibition of offerings to the aggregate hype of the emerging global NFT marketplace.”
The work is File, a tokenized work that Nora N. Khan commissioned for left gallery in 2016. At that time the concept of tethering art to a blockchain wasn't known by its acronym and so the questions prompted by the technology were better able to surface. Rather than questions about the acronym and what the acronym purported to signify, they were basic questions about ownership and value, which haven’t changed except for how they manifest on the back end.
In the File I cautiously circle around and poke at the idea that a person would want to own something of mine, in a manner that is permanent, which imparts a finality to our relation. File begins to spell out a lexicon to address this finality, and lands on a notion of a "contingency reserve" that essentially says: my work is me, and you can buy a piece of my work, but my work is tethered to me.
I continue to update this work, sometimes by making new works, and each update is an act of deferral of “ownership”. The File continues to be available on left gallery as a tokenized artwork, but I’m also giving it away in Pieces of Me, knowing that no one will fully own it.
Installed in the show is an interactive preview of the File that redirects the user elsewhere.
Update on 5/29/2021: Wade Wallerstein and I recorded this File demo for an episode of NFTV!
Apart from this, Transfer Gallery and left gallery seem to have developed a genuinely equitable infrastructure for tokenizing artworks, with an emphasis on artist rights and ownership (over desperation and excess). Read Harm’s take on NFTs and sustainability.