Blockchain Week: Art in the Spotlight

You can tell it’s Blockchain Week in New York when the Lamborghinis are parked outside events, but as Bloomberg reported, New York Blockchain Week began with “fewer Lamborghinis.” While Coindesk’s crypto conference Consensus (May 13-15), is seen as a conference “on steroids,” the Ethereal Summit serves to humanize the crypto universe. As Bloomberg described it, celebrations of wealth were instead replaced by “sound baths, meditation and lunch from food tracks” paid of course with cryptos.  

Ethereal Summit: For the Crypto Curious 

This year’s Blockchain Week started with a more restricted appetite and controlled abundance, as the Ethereal Summit in Brooklyn attracted a less showy crowd of crypto enthusiasts. Known as the “SXSW of blockchain,” Ethereal is targeting the Ethereum community and was organized by production studio ConsenSys. It took place last week (10-11 May) at Brooklyn’s Pioneer Works, an experimental artspace created by modern artist Dustin Yellen. The choice of an artspace and the general feel of the summit have definitely helped to move away from the extravagances of last year’s blockchain conference giving emphasis on gleaming cars and luxurious exteriors. 

Instead, there was almost a turn towards interiority and calmness, as opposed to aggression and fast money. The interior of the gallery with sound baths and indoor gardens, lend a different atmosphere of sophistication and culture, adding more gravity to the cryptocurrency community. ConsenSys CMO Amanda Gutterman, who designed the first events two years ago, explained that the event was aimed less towards business owners and developers and more to the “crypto curious”: “We’re able to shape a really adventurous and engaging kind of experience for our guests that’s really like nothing else in the blockchain space.” Ethereal is a “diverse blockchain conference” she added as it is a “festival of Ethereum-ness, and not just the business or the technology side of things. It takes a bird’s eye view of decentralization from geopolitical, sociological, and philosophical perspectives; there’s plenty of art, wellness, interactive installations, food, and music—culture. 

The Ethereal summit included a panel on blockchain and art, with artist Kevin Abosch—famous for selling a photo of a potato for $1.16 million and creating his own cryptocurrency. The studio which organizes Ethereal, has also launched, in 2018, ConsenSys Grants to support the Ethereum ecosystem, awarding grants relating to the following categories: core infrastructure, improved developer tooling and UX education and technical knowledge, social impact and security.  The Ethereal Arts Grant, has also offered more than $50,000 to contemporary artists whose work explores the intersection of art and blockchain technology. 

According to Forbes, three artists who contributed work that responded to the 2019 Ethereal Summit theme, “How will technology shape the cultures of the future; How might ethics be defined by decentralized systems?” were awarded $15,000. The artists were new media artist Shirley Shor, visual artist Trevor Coop and Jessica Angel. 

Indeed, as both Forbes and Decrypt Media noted, the connection of art to blockchain has given a more humane face to blockchain and cryptocurrencies, and has helped highlight other sides of blockchain that remain in the dark or unexplored. As Forbes pointed out, “in order to move such emerging tech offerings into mainstream adoption faster and bring the inquisitive yet trepidatious into the fold, such creative, hipper attempts may be just what the Satoshi doctor has ordered.” In this sense, Ethereal has not etherealized the concept of blockchain, but gave it a more tangible form for all of us to better understand. 

Sources: Bloomberg, Forbes, Decrypt Media 


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