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Сrypto mining for the political emancipation of art institutions

, Art & Design

Artists Pedro Moraes and Luiza Crosman suggest an alternative strategy for art institutions by connecting solar panels to an Ethereum miner as an installation for the 33rd São Paulo Biennial.

Photo by Pedro Ivo Trasferetti / Fundação Bienal de São Paulo

Multimedia artist and The New Normal alumnus Pedro Moraes and his colleague Luiza Crosman introduce the collaborative project “Come Greet the Dawn” as a part of the the 33rd edition of the São Paulo Biennial “Affective Affinities.”

Crosman and Moraes investigate the material conditions of art institutions through a chain of software and hardware installations. They use the exhibition space of the iconic Biennial Pavilion, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, to set up an off-grid solar system connected to an Ethereum miner (a cryptocurrency running on a blockchain). “Connecting a miner to any electric grid which you are not paying the bill for, this action can be thought of as the encoding of infrastructural resources into financial resources, using crypto mining as a mediator,” Moraes told Strelka Mag.

The project aims to offer an alternative way of thinking about the sustenance of an institution, not only through public or private funding but through its own technical means. Moraes and Crosman argue that using the physical attributes of the site to generate financial resources could leverage the political emancipation of art institutions. “Unfortunately art institutions are completely tied up to neoliberal biases. With that I mean not only that the art market is regulated by economical premises, but also the relationships, the discourses, and the overall labor structure,” Crosman said.

Photo by Pedro Moraes

The artists believe that liberating art institutions from their investment biases would allow for the securing of physical spaces within cities and to maintain a cultural program despite the whims of the private or public sector. “This kind of economical autonomy could certainly yield new forms of art production and circulation because it would affect the whole network of conditions which currently define a site like an art institution. It could even reverse the stratification of the field and its current scarcity and patriarchal ideology. Maybe that’s too of a high call, but it is the kind of desire that pushes my work,” Crosman explained.

It is “important to think of space, and of art space for that matter, as a multi-layered resource. Not only as a space for exhibitions or culture in general, but a space that could create change in infrastructural levels of the city, networks, systems, and stacks, as well as its temporal conditions,” Crosman added.

Moraes and Crosman propose to negotiate the solar panels and the blockchain system as a permanent intervention in the São Paulo Biennial Foundation building, thus giving the project a more practical and replicable form.

The installation is a part of the bigger project TRAMA, initiated by Crosman. The authors describe TRAMA as “an artistic intervention set up as a distributed narrative.” The project spans from audio, diagrams, and texts to spatial installations. Its aim is to spark changes in protocols within institutions. Besides the blockchain installation, TRAMA consists of two more parts: an online publishing experiment called “The Collection Trama” and a sound piece.

TRAMA – "Come meet the dawn" solar panels installation / Footage by Daniel Piccolo

The sound piece “The prophecy of Furnarius Rufus,” made together with musician Negalê Jones, imagines the future of Ibirapuera Park (where the Biennial building is located) in a time when bioengineered and mutant birds build large-scale infrastructure together with humans.

“The Collection Trama” investigates how institutional and planetary infrastructural forces act and can be manipulated. Together with digital publisher Zazie Edições, the artists translated into Portuguese and made available five contemporary texts online for free. This intervention sees the potential of redistributing an art institution’s resources as a way to engage a larger audience with current critical writing and global discussions. Among the texts published online were “Medium Design” (Strelka Press, 2018) by Keller Easterling, “Xenophily and computational denaturalization” (e-flux, 2017) by Patricia Reed, “Cutting yourself off” (2018) by Sara Ahmed, “On the ineffable allure of achieving systemic agency” ( Fall Semester, 2016) by Victoria Ivanova, and “Redistribution via Appropriation: White (washing) Marbles” (e-flux, 2018) by iLiana Fokianaki.

Situating their speculative proposal between design, policy, art, and management, TRAMA stretches the boundaries of what it means to actually intervene.

The 33rd edition of the São Paulo Biennial “Affective Affinities” will run until December 9, 2018.

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