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Home » Identity and globalisation in the space of crypto-art

Identity and globalisation in the space of crypto-art

Curatorial text by Chr5 included in the Catalog NFT CANARIAS 2022.

In recent years we have seen the birth of crypto-art as a new and challenging global art movement born in the non-spaces. While the traditional art system preserves artists and their works through the established structure of galleries, fairs, collectors and specialised auction houses, crypto-art is born as an underground expression of pseudo-art that seeks nothing more than to manifest its own nature: the nature of the social through the digital. Artists and non-artists, we express ourselves digitally in the blockchain world, outside the traditional rules of art. The underground crypto-economy movement and new digital communication devices have created the context for what could herald the global birth of interconnected crypto-art communities. We are at an early and fascinating moment in the construction of this new creative community that crosses barriers and coexists sustained by the foretelling of a new paradigm characterized by blockchain, the cryptoeconomy and decentralisation.

In this effervescence of new ideas, a small group of Canarian artists have taken the initiative to place the Canary Islands on this new map of relationships as a point of interest in the development of this new creative community, and we have done so in the only way we know how: with humility. We have created a small exhibition accompanied by some talks on crypto-art and the tradition of contemporary art in the Canary Islands. In this adventure, we are accompanied by Celestino Celso Hernández and David Cruz as curators; and Aída Piñango, César Marrero, Bénelo García, Miguel Prieto and the narrator (Charlie Five aka Chr5) as artists. With this first step we hope to plant the seed of the future of art in our small local community, making it possible for other creators, critics and gallery owners to develop in this new context of art in the era of decentralisation: that is, a new era where we creators take the baton and the responsibility of leading our own creative adventure.

Identity in the cryptoglobalised era

In contrast to classical creators, where identity (identitas) was equated with the unchangeable or permanent nature of a person, today we know and understand identity as a moving construct, not a fixed one. Identity varies, and we improve our identities by living experiences and facing challenges and problems. Each challenge overcome transforms us, and each transformation creates a new identity, a new vision of oneself coupled with a new self-image. At the same time, transformation involves wounds and scars, wrinkles and expressions. It transforms our bodies and shows us how a new, different self is born inside and outside each of us. From a contemporary perspective, I would argue that this capacity for mutability and transformation of identity is rewarded.

The concept of identity has been linked to crypto-art and cryptography since their origin, which, in turn, has made anonymity, and therefore the denial of identity, their banner. The crypto-art movement was born with the hacker culture of the 1980s, which had a magical moment with the birth of the Gnu/Linux system and later with the first Bitcoin blockchain in 2010. Since its origins, identity, or its concealment, has been a key concept in crypto-art.

From a technological point of view, crypto-art and crypto-economics allow us to identify ourselves in all blockchains through an alphanumeric identity (hash): a combination of numbers and letters. A system was designed that, while being totally transparent in the public dimension of the movements made on the blockchain, would allow absolute anonymity through the concealment of the people who manage these exchanges. This would be the negation of identity as a visual and nominal form on a symbolic level. The technological conception of identity understood as a hash initially subverts the form we use to identify people, where a person’s “name” becomes their first record of the person.

On the other hand, contrary to what happens in today’s social networks, which are dominated by the hypervisibility of the person, the concealment of identity has been a fundamental part of Internet communication. The old chat rooms, predecessors of social networks, were authentic identity simulators where everyone assumed a role in relation to their own desires and imagination. People have always felt the need to create and recreate their own identity through play and simulation as a form of experimentation and personal growth.

From an aesthetic point of view, crypto-art was born with the CryptoPunks and popularly exploded with the Bored Apes Yacht Club collection: collectible pieces of drawings with anthropomorphised faces and figures that endow the people who use them with humanity, and therefore a new digital identity in a new era of social representation in the metaverse. It is only possible to understand the $84,000 sale value of a single image from the Bored Ape collection from the conception of a new paradigm of digital identity. In the digital age, our identity is constructed through the sum of the various digital traces we weave on the internet. In this context, the image of the profile on social networks can become even more important than the “real” image. Our identity is everything on the web: it is an asset that is associated with our work, our story, our personality and our virtual projection as a brand; it is business and it is positioning.

If we take a look at the recent production of crypto-art on the social network, Twitter, we can easily identify the role played by the definition of identity in the works of crypto-artists on the current scene. A great many cryptographic works deal with the concept of identity as a matter of experimentation, identity transformed, alibied, animalised, demonised and, in short, simulated in all its possible dimensions. This constant preoccupation with redefining new digital identities makes me think that we live in a moment of crisis regarding the identity of the contemporary subject.

Thanks to crypto-art, we are witnessing the birth of an international community of creators who organise themselves in small local communities interconnected through social networks. Will crypto-art be the scenario that will give rise to the first global community of creators? Will all of us crypto-artists be constructing the identity of the collective subject of our era?

We cannot ignore the fact that the blockchain has brought us two novel and fundamental premises in the art world up to this point: on the one hand, a mechanism that enables us to insert ourselves into a global art market by converting our works into digital tokens and, therefore, into units of exchange of value,and on the other, blockchain as an economic model, which brings us an even more radical and more important idea: decentralisation. Will this new cryptographic art system be able to become the decisive new economic engine so that we artists can finance our artistic careers for the first time in history and make a decent living from art? Will it be possible to achieve a kind of “basic artistic income” through the blockchain for creators on a global level?

This, which today seems like a desirable utopia of unprecendented proportions, is an idea that floats in the air of the incipient crypto-art scene. There is a lot of hope that this utopian future could soon have real tangibility in the art world. We have the tools, and what happens in the coming years will depend, in part, on what we as artists manage to transmit to society.

The exhibition

The First Canary Islands Crypto-Art Exhibition has been created with the intention of bringing together the first crypto-artists, promoting their work and consolidating the local artistic community. In this exhibition, we have five artists of different kinds who manifest themselves in this area with the intention of planting the first seed and expanding the exhibition in future editions.

In this sense, the artist Aída Piñango (Caracas) brings a clear and concise work where the representation of sexuality plays a fundamental role. Through the representation of the vagina, Aída turns this part of a woman’s body into a symbol and totem of adoration. This “sacred” reference is evidenced by the Sanskrit word “Ioni” associated with the title of her collection. Despite the pedagogical sense that the artist makes explicit in her work, it proposes a way of looking at the world and invites us to redefine the current subject through the observation of the details inscribed in the territory of the female anatomy.

On the other hand, César Marrero Expósito (Tenerife, 1981), alias DeejaySaero, proposes a set of diverse characters and identities that mix fiction with reality through characters ranging from the human (Punky character) to the filmic (Halloween character) in a naïf painting or digital illustration style. We thought it was appropriate to exhibit this artist in accordance with the concept of freedom of crypto-art, where everyone has a place according to their origins.

Miguel Prieto (Caracas), alias Collectiminer, is an artist who comes from the world of development and programming code. In this exhibition, this generative and algorithmic artist presents a series of pieces ranging from generative art to pieces combined with digital photo-creation or photomontage. The Shapeschain collection suggests a pedagogy of its own blockchain technology through art. This collection of 4,096 total pieces includes solid conceptual works where a hash (combination of letters and numbers) is represented through a particular series of geometric figures. In this elementary way, each piece in this collection symbolises a block of the blockchain. With a simple representation, the artist achieves a profound conceptual work with a pedagogical character of technological representation through art. In addition to these pieces, his work, Bitcoin Cat, is exhibited as a representation of self-referential crypto-art; that is, that which proposes an optimistic vision of the crypto future as a metaphor and dream of a fairer society.

Bénelo is an artist and graphic designer with a long career in the world of character design. Once again, the design of identities takes on importance here through his collection of Kawaii Unicorns: four pieces belonging to his future collection of 111 unicorns are on display. The kawaii characters are part of a wider world aimed at children, that is populated by an innocent, affable and good-natured aspect; an example of the collection design system that comprises crypto-art and that functions somewhere between art and the workings of a DAO.

Finally, my work revolves around three themes: logical play through generative art, technification, and cybernetic identity. The piece, Robot #1 Broken Engine, raises questions about the kind of life and society we have built, and what kind of subject we should become to coexist with the current rationalised and “dehumanised” environment. It is a piece of technological innovation that challenges the blockchain, in that it uses native SVG code for the vector animation. On the other hand, my generative work becomes a logical game that aims to make aspects of our real world visible through data. Finally, I have allowed myself to exhibit and share with you three works related to the Canary Islands: Tribe I and Tribe II, which show my interest in investigating the common root that connects the Canary Islands with old African traditions. Tomates en la Huerta, on the other hand, is an invitation to introduce rural culture into the contemporary narratives of video games and gamer culture.

I hope you enjoy this first experiment in creative innovation which, as I say, aims to sow the seed of the tree of art so that we can all enjoy its fruits in the future. We are waiting for you there, on the blockchain.


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