STUDIO BONN. Listening to the Future

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Blockchain vs. the state: Hito Steyerl has occupied the Bundeskunsthalle and is producing a new work there with the audience.
An evening about the future of the public, culture and its institutions.

Here you can register to vote: 

Wednesday, 16 March 2022, 7 p.m.
Live in the Forum (admission till 6.55 p.m.) & livestreamed
Tickets: €10 / conc. €5 incl. VRS via Bonnticket for participation in the forum

On July 15, 2021, the artist Hito Steyerl declared the Bundeskunsthalle occupied at STUDIO BONN. She had registered the address of the Bundeskunsthalle on the Ethereum blockchain and thus controlled it via NFT. (See the conversation with Hito Steyerl, Joseph Vogl and Ville Haimala here). With this satirical action, Hito Steyerl demonstrated how arbitrary ownership claims are in the booming market for digital certificates of ownership (NFTs). By "minting" an entire institution as an NFT, Steyerl simultaneously got serious about the anarchist utopia of blockchain, which promises to distribute control of money and culture from the hands of gatekeepers into the hands of the masses.

But how democratic is the blockchain really? And is the Bundeskunsthalle really that undemocratic? On March 16, centralized institution and decentralized governance, representative democracy and anarchy will show what they are really capable of. Afterwards, Hito Steyerl and the Department of Decentralization will be in Bonn let the audience vote on the future of the Bundeskunsthalle, thanks to a specially developed software.

Three administrative models compete against each other: Managing Director Oliver Hölken explains how the Bundeskunsthalle works. The collective Department of Decentralization shows how blockchain could allow for increased co-design by the public and artists. And the collective Other Internet designs a model for more transparency regarding money and resources. The audience is invited to join in the discussion and ask questions.

A website that will be launched in the evening allows 100 guests in the room and on the stream to register (more are not possible for technical reasons). Each of them can distribute four votes among the three options. This method of "quadratic voting" is also a new form of voting that allows for more differentiated democratic participation.

What consequences the vote will have is still open. But one thing is certain: a new collective work of art. For the software will produce a live recut of Hito Steyerl's work "Strike" (2010), which has been in the Contemporary Art Collection of the Federal Republic of Germany since 2015, based on the distribution of votes. The result, "StrikeDAO," will be purchased by the Federal Collection and displayed in the exhibition of its new acquisitions at the Bundeskunsthalle from May 7, 2022. Hito Steyerl thus also decentralizes her own work.

Everything too complicated? Read our glossary. And come to STUDIO BONN, get involved and ask questions. If you've long wanted to understand the cryptic world of blockchain, which could fundamentally change the way we live together, here's your chance.

Hito Steyerl uses the latest technologies of control and surveillance as artistic tools. Her video installations and essays have made her one of the world's most influential artists.

Department of Decentralization (DoD) is a collective of individuals working on Decentralized Open Source and the intersection between such technologies and art.
From its inception, the DoD has focused on research around blockchain and arts, as well as trying to establish relations between the hacker and the creative communities and their cultures. DoD developed the voting tool for this evening with Tim Daubenschütz and Lea Filipowicz. María Paula Fernández, Stina Gustafsson, and Mary Elizabeth McCarthy are traveling from Berlin.

Toby Shorin, Sam Hart, and Laura Lotti represent Other Internet, an applied research organization. They study and build social technology and advise organizations on decentralized coordination. An overview of their projects can be found here.

Oliver Hölken has been the new Managing Director of the Bundeskunsthalle since August 2021. The graduate economist has held various management positions in the administration of Koelncongress GmbH since 2003.

Glossary: Blockchain, NFT & Co.

A decentralized collective account book that allows money transactions without banks or notaries. All transactions are publicly visible. Once entered, it can never be changed. Great hopes are pinned on this technology for a democratic and more effective financial system. But it is also under criticism: because of the high energy consumption, the large price fluctuations and the more difficult control by states. There are countless blockchains, the best known being the Bitcoin blockchain (since 2009) and the Ethereum blockchain (since 2015), which also allows software applications and NFTs.

The digital wallet on the blockchain that stores wealth in cryptocurrencies and NFTs.

NFT (Non Fungible Token)
A unique blockchain entry that can serve as a certificate of ownership for both digital and analog assets. Millions of euros are sometimes paid for digital art, memes, pieces of music or sports trading cards provided with NFTs. Even the Uffizi Gallery and the Vienna Belvedere have sold photographs of works in their collections as NFTs. See also STUDIO BONN: TAUSCHWERTE: Who owns the art? with a.o. Eike Schmidt, the director of the Uffizi. ENS addresses are also guaranteed by an NFT.

ENS (Ethereum Name Service)
A publicly visible address that can be linked to a website or wallet. For example, wallet addresses look like this: 0xFC25EF3F5B8A186398338A2ADA86715FBA2D695E. ENS addresses, on the other hand, look something like this: bundeskunsthalle.eth. ENS addresses are an important building block for Web 3.

Smart Contract
An algorithm running on the blockchain that automatically distributes certain profit shares on certain incoming payments. Blockchain-based software is built from smart contracts.

DAO (Dezentrale Autonome Organisation)
Associations of people who vote anonymously to jointly manage assets or organizations. The PleasrDao bought an NFT from Edward Snowden. The CityDAO is planning a city in the US state of Wyoming. Wyoming was the first legislature in 2021 to legally put DAOs on an equal footing with corporations and NGOs.

Web 3
When we create, share and comment on content in the so-called Web 2.0 as we know it today, it is usually via platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. They analyze and sell our data and can control our revenue sharing or block content or accounts as they wish. In Web 3, users network directly on the blockchain and build their own networks and platforms. On the one hand, this promises co-determination, greater innovation and artistic freedom. On the other hand, this is accompanied by an increased financialization of social relationships: the like is replaced by a transfer.