The Crux Tide 5: Facing the Crowd Facing Itself

by Julian Brangold

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DALL.E Prompt: “a classical painting of a landscape with mountains, trees and some people in the style of Panini, italian artist”

1. LIGHTS — (-‿◦☀)

I was recently part of a panel discussion at a crypto conference about crypto art’s impact on small independent communities of artists. This was in the context of DevCon in Bogotá and the lights blinded me… hard. My wristband read nothing, no letters. Was I wearing a wristband at all? These contexts tend to feel quite strange, I’m still learning to swim these waters. These random forests, mechanic erratic wetlands, a very specific fauna: technical individuals in dialogue about technical subjects, people with crypto wallets populated with fuck-you-money discussing the future of certain societal dynamics as if they were tiny little problems to be solved from within tiny little bubbles, all dressed in protocol language and visaulized in streamlined slideshows. Vitalik deambulating the hallways, exuding rockstar energy… Towards the end of the talk, the moderator asked the panel what we would like to see happen for crypto art in the future of the web3 environment.

The lights… I blanked.

Void canvas as the other panelists unveiled their incredibly tidy, put-together replies. When the mic reached my hands I spewed words unconsciously as if I were being controlled by a separate force, like wind blowing between two mountains. I was a golem, governed by some elaborate, unsung energy:

“I think I’d like to see art be more cared after, because art has a role of informing culture, and culture is the place from which we create everything else.”

I had never formulated that thought in that specific manner, it just came together as I spoke it, an inverse jenga uncollapsing itself to summarize why I think art is so vital, especially in the context of technological development, where the decisions being made are so impactful and gradually determine the path our societies will amble along.

Art does need caring after, and as a whole is quite the fragile entity. The assembly of techno-economic landscapes should be terraformed by the strangeness of niche cultures, weird bubbles of eccentric, rule-bending communities and ideologies, folk mythologies and peripheral world-boundary-conceptions. In this corner is where culture and the online collide so graciously.

2. CURRENT ( ͡° ل͜ ͡°)

Art institutions are partly responsible for occupying this role, but as we know (and I’ve said here often) they are failing beyond repair.

As world-scale art institutions become increasingly inaccessible, the public feels increasingly alienated by contemporary art. Attendance at museum exhibitions has become a gnarled popularity contest where only the super-mainstream exhibitions get real numbers and media attention.

Earlier this year in Buenos Aires, an event called The Van Gogh Immersive Experience (something that belongs more in a town funfair than a museum) had more media and public attention than all museum exhibitions combined at that time.

On top of institutions having a responsibility of care and furtherance towards art, the art market gargantua has shaped itself in such a way that artists’ careers are built and valued according to certain nodes of validation, vocational lily pads. Solo gallery shows, big sales, acquisition from certain collections, residencies, awards, auction house sales, and one of the most coveted: museum shows. Certain institutions can make an artists’ career just by giving them the proper advertisement of a space to show their work. That is true, unadulterated cultural power. As it stands today, decision-making in these institutions is inescapably top-down.

Expert curators and historians decide downright what the museum will do, show or highlight. I’m not saying this is ill intentioned — I’m sure most sane institutions out there make their best efforts to keep a diverse, plural and pedagogic program running — but individuals at the top can only look so far down the horizon.

Art as we know it today evolved thanks to one ineludible factor: art patronage. The Medicis, Ruskins, Durand-Ruels of their time were the ones who made art possible by funneling resources towards those artists who they believed had potential. It has even been argued that art itself wouldn’t exist as a human cultural practice without the whim of certain powerful individuals who commissioned certain magical beings in their tribes to create pieces of unique, corporeal expression. These influential benefactors were not only interested in furthering a certain practice, but also shaping culture in the way they considered culture should journey. This was also a very powerful position to have. Those with equivalent power and social influence today (the Zucks, Bezos, Musks) seem less interested in supporting or encouraging art practices through patronage if it means giving up even a small sliver of their monumental fortunes. They are also evidently clueless or indifferent as to what is going on in relationship with bottom-up organizational tools.

It is up to us, the art cognate: the enthusiasts, artists, curators, critics, historians, archivists, museologists, collectors to self organize, create communities of like minded people, and secure the resources to make art happen, while taking advantage of the tools we are lucky to have in our reach.

🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️🖼️ 🖼️🖼️🖼️ 🖼️

3. NEXT — ( ͡♥ ͜ʖ ͡♥)

At MOCA, as a web3-native cultural institution, we have the exhilarating and arduous challenge of protecting, promoting and empowering art production and experience, especially because we were born into a technological ecosystem that almost requires us to experiment far beyond what traditional institutions have been able to do in the past.

Renouncing the world of old cultural contextualization doesn’t mean completely renouncing traditional tools and expertise. They can be fruitfully combined with the machinery we have today, one that proposes a more decentralized, social, autonomous approach to decision-making and culture formation. In my first ever Crux Tide article, I suggested that it was within the spastic dance between traditional art structures and web3 art organizations that art would find an emergence. At that time, I had no idea what that would look like, I was posing more of an open question than any form of certain response. Now it’s time to begin moving towards an answer.

( ^​_^)o自自o(^_​^ )

Given the tools we as a cultural institution have developed over the past years, and the expertise we have amassed in web3 technology’s application in the arts, we have an opportunity to begin experimentation with decentralization from a very unique position.

This is why, beginning next year, we will open the museum’s program (our cultural output) for our community to have a say on, in the hopes of making a more open, more social, decentralized cultural experience.

Our goal is to begin a path that will eventually arrive at a completely decentralized cultural program where the community self-organizes and decides, and we provide the resources to execute on a collectively-constructed cultural curriculum.

◟(๑・ิټ・ิ๑)◞◟(๑・ิټ・ิ๑)◞◟(๑・ิټ・ิ๑)◞◟(๑・ิټ・ิ๑)◞◟(๑・ิټ・ิ๑)◞◟(๑・ิټ・ิ๑)◞◟(๑・ิټ・ิ๑)◞◟(๑・ิټ・ิ๑)◞◟(๑・ิټ・ิ๑)◞◟(๑・ิټ・ิ๑)◞◟(๑・ิټ・ิ๑)◞◟(๑・ิټ・ิ๑)◞◟(๑・ิټ・ิ๑)◞◟(๑・ิټ・ิ๑)◞

Our approach will be unhurried and gradual, but no less forward-looking and experimental. The road towards this most ambitious goal will be of constant trial and error, work in progress, observe-adjust-reassess; there will be hiccups and hurdles, things that work and things that don’t, but no matter what, we will be moving in what we believe is the right direction. When thinking of what a successful destination in potential looks like, I believe (for now) these are the things we should be aspiring for:

  • Minimizing cultural and political bias
  • Promoting diversity of ideology, points of view and ideas, no censorship
  • Maximizing accessibility
  • Helping give lesser known communities and artists a voice
  • Being independent from centralized powers in big tech, business and government
  • Making the art experience more fun and inclusive

4. COME COME — (☞ ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)☞

Working with web3 tools is still a challenge. The tokens within DAOs can be bought, manipulated and rigged. As it stands now, this technology has the power to either open utopia-alloyed-portals to revolutionary new worlds, or replicate hypercentralized capitalist models where human beings are the coal which fuels monetization machinery. This may sound cheesy, but it is indeed in all our hands to be bold enough to experiment with these tools, and to build towards the art world we want to see.

Hidden in-between the shadows of these serpentine musings is a call-to-action: We want to build the future of our institution together with anyone willing, anyone who loves art and wants to build it with us. This process is only possible collectively, with engagement, love and mutual support. If you want to experiment alongside us, come join.

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