Crypto art awks: Is real sustainability a creative life of openly correcting your cock-ups?

 

Artistic gestures help us feel nice, but transforming the world will take inventive agility as a way of life, whoever we are. That and getting over your eco shames fast to share your workings out.

 

Images: Motif 999, Pointcloud (Venice), Pointcloud (Trang): recent CryptoArt releases by Joanie Lemercier.

It is, this week, 31 years since Tim Berners Lee proposed a little idea. One with a few creative possibilities. In a memo entitled: Information Management: A Proposal, he pictured The Grid – a data highway of light cycles and…

Wait. That was Tron.

>rummages<

..he pictured The Mesh – an information system linking individual creators and thinkers like never before.

As David Mattin puts it in New World, Same Humans #55: “This was internet of individual creators, blogs, and email: a space outside existing structures of power, in which we would be free to forge new ways of seeing, and new modes of life.”

The dream of the Open Web.

Yeah. That’s not quite how it worked out, is it.

As Mattin goes on: “Today, the topography of the web is nothing as Berners-Lee imagined. Instead of a boundless array of individual creators, a handful of advertising-funded megaplatforms dominate our experience of the internet. The megaplatforms don’t prioritise noble ideas about the free exchange of information. Rather, they build walled gardens intended to capture, retain, and monetise as much attention as possible.”

Many of the tech explorers of the early web sounded like they were thinking more like artists than engineers when they were starting out. Utopian, inclusive, playful. Obviously mostly white and male. Although the first PC virus by Pakistani brothers Amjad Farooq Alvi and Basit Farooq Alvi in 1986 did cause a global stir when it was discovered, and while it was purely a business venture to try to disrupt illegal copying of their software on floppies, it still has the ring of art stunt about it in the retelling today.

But in the badlands of the more 1980s Neuromancer-type view of the future, the one we’re all living in, thinking like an artist can still get you outside the box, looking for ways to punk systemic destruction.

Right up until you’re immediately back in the box making the problem worse. As artist Joanie Lemercier excruciatingly discovered.

From progressive creativity back to hidden costs.

 

The easy story to tell generally in sustainability is of faceless, evil robot entities eating all the good in the world. The harder story to tell is how vulnerable to unforeseen consequences are even our best intentions as individuals, everywhere within that system. Including disruptive artists.

Because no sooner had Crypto Art become a thing, it had become an almost instantly terrible thing.

As Joanie Lemercier explains with exacting dismay, her hopes to be part of a whole new way of navigating the art world – a much more sustainable and egalitarian one – ran aground fast.

“The CryptoArt market is a new way for artists to distribute digital works to collectors: often digital images and video files. The blockchain technology provides secure ownership, traceability, artist commission on second market sales and a thriving market place, with platforms emerging quickly: Nifty Gateway, SuperRare, MakersPlace.” she says.

“It’s a vibrant and welcoming community, a place to discuss the works with collectors, and it brings a lot of benefits that the Art market fails to provide.”

Lovely. I’m in. So are you, obviously. But.

“With no travel involved, and a mostly digital distribution, this new model looks like it has the potential to become a sustainable practice for artists. That’s until you understand the magnitude of the environmental impacts of the current blockchain: It is a DISASTER.”

She decided to cancel her latest expo drop because of the sheer amount of energy that crypto uses.

You may well have heard of crypto mining – a process of hunting for new cryptocurrency tokens like Bitcoins through blocks of transaction ledgers that prove their authenticity. Using the blessed internet of truth that is the Blockchain. Built on a process that involves a lot more computer work checking all those blocks in the first place, cryptomining is a task so gamified and so complex, Bitcoin mining in particular: ‘“can now only be done with large scale processing ‘farms’ – multiple specialised GPUs working in tandem on a 24-hour basis” as IT Pro puts it.

The crypto art market hunts not for normal currencies but for Non Fungible Tokens. Which isn’t something you can find at the chemist but rather is unique or limited-run items – works in a gallery, if you like. But NFTs too have people using the same blockchain-hunting principles as any other mining. Built on an algorithm called Proof Of Work.

“Ingeniously idiotic, by design, the PoW algorithm is very compute intensive” says Memo Atken in an excellent deep dive into the whole issue. “The original cryptocurrency Bitcoin , is estimated to have annual energy consumption in the range 80–120 TWh which is about ~0.45% of the world’s entire electricity production”

O…kay.

Which left Joanie Lemercier with a stark realisation, after having moved so much of her practice into crypto art to try to save the planet.

“It turns out my release of six CryptoArt works consumed in ten seconds more electricity than the entire studio over the past two years.”

That, ah… yeah.

From glitzy exhibition back to honest sketchbook.

 

The problem is, as Joanie explains in her testimony to being part of this, the energy we use is still mostly created by fossil fuels. And this is badder than bad, because dumb ol’ you and I don’t think about that process.

“The energy production infrastructure is out of our sight, and we often have the feeling that electricity is abundant, limitless and we disregard its impact. This concept is best described by Rob Nixon as “Slow Violence“” she says.

As Robert Linthicum’s excellent animation put out through Fully Charged explains clearly, still powering everything fossil is fantastically wasteful, dirty, inefficient and destructive. But we’re all part of this in the real world, outside our better intentions.

Online, the blockchain may well be one practical way back to the more open web. But the techbro fanperson outlook that fawns over it may be much more uncomfortably akin than many creative thinkers would like to the perspective that engineered the whole modern world in crisis today – in packets of isolated concerns. Because no virtual endeavour exists without connection to soil, minerals, markets, cultures and energy. Duh.

Joanie thinks there are both automated and conscious ways for crypto art to reduce the problem – much better transparency and best human practice from its platforms, NFT scaling software introduced to take all the bits of transactions you don’t need ledgering out of the blockchain, and more deliberate choices to do the same at human speed.

She has, in short, refused to settle. For online success or for green shame. With such conviction, she sacrificed a heap of work put into an expo launch – an undoubtedly gutting decision. Instead, she has continued exploring – with passion, conviction and discomfort. Thinking rather like an artist. Boldly turning her cock-ups into new material, and a different story.

As with everything tech, the issue isn’t tech. The issue isn’t currently-esoteric concepts like crypto art. It’s us. Still thinking disconnectedly in separate moments, living in our own little worlds a little too much of our time.

Perhaps the more sustainable human value chain is mined much more richly by seeing everything as an ongoing creative exploration, not a series of sales or acquisitions.

After all, every artist knows – those glitzy expos or valuable NFTs certainly are significant nodes of achievement, reputation and revenue, as well as nice feeling bits of theatre. But they’re really just emergences from a never-ending sketchbook of working out your thinking, your feelings, your life – and trying to make honest sense of the world you find yourself in.

What other way is there to transform the world for the better?

 

Read Joanie Lemercier’s excellent testimony: The problem with crypto art >

Read Memo Atken’s thorough explaination of crypto and energy: The unreasonable ecological cost of crypto art >

And don’t be ashamed to do your basics homework:

Watch: The dirty truth about combustion engine vehicles on Fully Charged >

——

Disaster and Commander – should you be leading change like a maker, not a show-off?

 

All design may be theatre really, but does much good get done from noisily filling time in front of others? I’m exploring how thinking like an artist is the way to make sense, impact and a difference in an era of crisis – but one aspect of this caught me off guard this week.

Photo by Amauri Mejía on Unsplash

 

That the UN Security Council is treating the Climate Crisis as a global security threat is significant seeming news.

It’s also not exactly normal that a famously populist Conservative leader like the UK’s Prime Minister should chair the meeting and address his delegates with the words: “I know there are people around the world who will say this is all kind of “green stuff” from a bunch of tree-hugging tofu munchers and not suited to international diplomacy and international politics. I couldn’t disagree more profoundly.”

Global leaders deploying some theatre to make their points isn’t news. Theatre is vital to making anything land with fellow emotional humans and leaders like Mr Johnson like to bet everything on it. But if we are to make our businesses, our communities, our lives, much more resilient to this century’s transformations, is it time we thought a lot less like show-offs and a lot more like actual artists?

And have even I, Mr Creative Trousers, missed something fundamental about this?

I look like an extrovert. I think out loud, much of the value I add to things is up the front, articulating ideas, and I get a buzz of having “done something” when I’ve connected with another person in a meeting, imagining I’ve left them inspired and uplifted. Not exhausted.

But I’m also an artist. True, the core sound of my own work as a music artist with Momo:tempo may be thoughtfully nuts and demand your attention, like a true bit of theatre. But as a maker, not just a performer, I have to process things and make sense of things and pull things out of my ear that didn’t exist before. Artists are really just creative exaggerations of all of us humans in this; I just know I have to love those things intently enough to wrestle them into life properly. I’ve never been very self conscious of how much I listen to my own music; l shamelessly love it, because I have to.

But maybe I’ve been valuing my creative days all wrong.

 

WHAT ARE WE MAKING TIME FOR?

 

I tend to try to manage my days to be productive. Schedules and To Do lists fill my studio like some forthcoming exhibition on mental health made in pencil on layout paper and covering 18 square miles. I break my day into sections like lego bricks and give myself a sense of timetable to get things done. This is only exaggerated by the great magical nirvana of influential content success that is the relentless demand for:

*REGULARITY!*

Something I’m rubbish at on my own.

Who knew then that I have, according to one way of looking at it, been thinking like a type of leader. Without a PA.

“I worry that there are people who are put in positions of authority because they’re good talkers, but they don’t have good ideas,” Susan Cain recalls one successful venture capitalist telling her, in her influential book, Quiet. “It’s so easy to confuse schmoozing ability with talent. we put too much of a premium on presenting and not enough on substance and critical thinking.”

Public speaking is such a pressure on us today. It’s an essential role in changemaking, telling a story well, ensuring it makes emotional impact – and this keeps lots of us up at night. I may happen to be comfortable up the front – it’s a core part of who I am, not just what I do – but I’ve always said, about three days into my World President premiership, my world-shaking inauguration speech would be forgotten as everyone tried to work out who should clean the loos in utopia after all, or come to a practical ethical decision about the global arms trade.

I’m not a political leader. In truly military terms, the movie of my life would be Disaster And Commander. I’m just a bit of a practiced extrovert. Using it to be a visible encourager. I’m also an artist. My brain needs to make stuff. Not just say stuff.

So, have I been killing my creativity with the wrong schedule?

Have I been trying to live by the “manager’s schedule” when I should have been operating more on the “maker’s schedule”?

As Bruce Daisley asserts, pulling together Cain’s thoughts and others in an arresting blog post, it was Paul Allen who identified these ideas.

“The manager’s schedule is for bosses… with each day cut into one hour intervals… It’s the schedule of command.”

“But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers” Bruce quotes Paul: “They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least… When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in.”

Holy cow. I lose whole days of effective productivity to knowing there’s one meeting in the middle of it, while I faff and primp about waiting to go on and do my thing. My more extrovert thing – talking with people.

But talk is never enough, is it. Even when it’s finger-pistol-wink knockout.

If we’re trying to remake the world, something at some point has to get made.

 

SHOULD WE WASTE TIME WANTING TO FEEL NEEDED?

 

If the climate emergency is showing us anything, it’s showing us that how we’ve been doing things isn’t working. It has its own destruction baked in. The world of robot thinking that’s driven our economics covers itself in a veneer of showbiz – entertainment and distraction, for consumption. Sheer noisy numbers, calculated in nano seconds.

Theatre is like almost anything human – it can liberate or be weaponised.

But we are now truly moving into a historic period beyond old certainties. A time of change. Of everyone trying to hold their heads together as all the old scenery flats around us appear to be falling down, piece by piece. Psychologically a world between worlds – a liminal space for the whole human planet, affecting all its cultures. And central to it is the question: “What do we value? And how?”

As philosopher Zak Stein suggests, poetically, in a crisis of very bad habits: “Saving the soul of the world requires large numbers of people “popping up” into a new kind of personhood.”

And a big part of this new practice might be to stop demanding extrovert performances of ourselves. Reduce how much we value showing off for its own sake. As he also says, in a richly thoughtful read: “To be with the reality of each other, means taking the time to step out of the simulations of reality presented on our many screens.”

It is often said that the experience of the healthier human future will have to be quieter, and slower.

This is where thinking like an artist can help. Allowing the rhythms of your brain to flow more consciously with nature’s timescales of contemplation, even though the Doomsday clock is ticking. Living with uncertainty, allowing ideas to percolate as you iterate. I know that if you are an extrovert in manager mode, a day of meetings doesn’t half feel productive and meaningful, even as you might complain out loud that you “haven’t gotten anything done!” But you might feel needed. And this can be a trap.

Especially if those meetings are climate disaster related, community justice related, sustainability innovation related, activistic and pushing for possibilities… what a sense of using your time purposefully that must feel like.

But how does this encourage human time to process things? And so make better things?

Our making is still on the manager’s clock.

How might a UN Security Council summit look if we practically valued time to make change not simply manage it?

I suspect I must listen to the voice in me that yearns to block out a whole day to just fiddle with synth knobs again – not try to turn out stuff to an audience on a deadline, but live inside the process for a little longer. Loving it. Like an artist does.

I bet I would start to make better work again. Make better progress. And maybe even get a bit practically closer to making a difference.

 


Read Paul Daisley’s full article: Did extroverts ruin remote work for the rest of us?

Read Zak Stein’s thoughtful piece: Covid 19, A war broke out in heaven.

Read Momo:zo’s Expo: Ways into making an impact.

Ways into making an impact.

 

Why could a business do with an injection of effective theatre? In a Covid-transformed world, change is on everyone’s agenda, but there may be any number of reasons why you could do with a creative critical friend and great storyteller right now. Triggers for your business or clients to take a fresh look at how they are doing things, that could be a starting point for us to help:

 

ENVIRONMENTAL SOCIAL GOVERNANCE
Wellbeing in the workplace and the place of business in society and planet – we can help encourage your people with a refreshed sense of context.

SUSTAINABILITY METRICS
Resource understanding and energy transition – we can help you get your head around the global challenges at local level.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
Automation and innovation – we can help you understand what you really need beyond the tech jargon.

NEW ECONOMIES
Circular planning and social enterprise – we can help you redefine what success as part of the human planet even is.

DESIGN THINKING
Human-centred problem solving and first principles courage – we can help you get a bit of this and see your next challenges with new eyes.

BRAND ENGAGEMENT
Storytelling and creative development – we can help you articulate your more truthfully compelling tomorrow, to build more than an audience – a community.

EVENT MANAGEMENT
Campaign and experience enhancement – we can step in lightly, to help boost an upcoming kick-off or take the whole event strategy off your hands.

 

 

 

Brand encouragement in crisis.

We bring theatre and knowledge to hosting your planned event.  Start the impact simply, but having the voice of Unsee The Future and co-host of The Global Goals Music Roadshow inject life, passion and informed playfulness to your corporate gathering around transformation and ESG. Thread together the story properly, in the planning and the live experience.

We offer creative critical strategy, to help you be readier, sooner. From thought starting about climate, politics, automation and how to turn your work to something with a new chapter of purpose, to breaking down the process with some design thinking. We help you make better contextual sense of global challenges, right where you are locally, understanding frameworks, like the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, to encourage human values and culture change.

We can help you develop new frameworks of response. If you’re currently wondering where to even start finding the language for it, or what your new goals could look like. But we do it with a distinct sense of creativity and theatre. Helping you understand the story you feel you are in – and encouraging you with the tools and outlooks to write a whole new chapter.

We can bring a wider perspective to your table. For us, it’s about casting a new light upon mindsets, behaviours, habits – the stuff brands are built on. As well as life systems. And a key influence in reshaping culture is one particular first principle – asking a better mix of people to see it. We can help you get different voices into your usual room, to diffuse the echo chamber.

 

 

 

Words, pictures, platforms, experiences – they are all just creative tools to amplify your voice, where it needs to be heard more clearly. Working with a network of like-minded talents, across digital, film, events, spaces, talks and workshops, we can help articulate the next level of your story, exploring and enabling the next level of your strategy. Joining you for a stretch of your own journey as a critical friend, a consulting eye, a creative fixer, a connecting partner. Trying to work with people whose outlook we want to champion.

“We want to help business leaders that are ready to make a first leap find help and inspiration, to make clearer sense of why they still want to be in business in an age of radical shifts. And what kind of business. We want to encourage how they can help build a richer, more hopeful, human-planet tomorrow. Helping to shape truer and more sustainable human life; not just aesthetic work, but zoetic.

 

What is the thing you most wish you could tell people about? Pop the kettle on and tell us.

 

Say hello directly by email >
or by calling the studio 01202 433811 >

How is climate change putting pressure on business?

 

There’s no getting away from it. All economic, social and health challenges are ultimately framed within our relationship with the planet’s resources and there are many effects that increasing environmental crisis is having on human activity.

 

Some are more immediate, short term problems demanding attention from CFOs and Sustainability Managers, and some are longer term that also need preparing for. While social impact champions have to bring a very connected outlook to their role, for many people they are interacting with it’s still hard to see the realities and opportunities of the climate crisis and economic transition. But first contact is already happening across business, showing up as pressures from outside an organisation and within, including:

• emissions reduction regulation.
• cap and trade tariffs.
• energy transition costs.
• divestments and market valuation shifts.
• digital transformation, especially increased home working.
• automation.
• changing property assets and relocations.
• higher costs for goods and services.
• whole supply chain resilience.
• changing weather pattern demands, dangers and damage.
• changing customer behaviours.
• changing society pressures and brand perceptions.
• workforce health, engagement and adaptability.
• new, younger workforce attraction.
• innovation and scoping.
• longer term resilience strategies.

There is a lot to do. The changes in society are profound, and all of us are being increasingly affected, but it can be hard to help others see it clearly around us, or what might be coming ahead.

Momo believes that all of these challenges are ultimately cultural – behaviours driven by ways of seeing the world. And that to truly have impact, we need to create experiences to trigger emotional impact. So seeing these issues in a more connected way, brought alive with inspiring theatre, can help us unlock new ways of seeing everything.

 

Not just the environment nerd’s job.

Tackling these impacts isn’t simply the role of the resident Sustainability Manager. Or even something an ESG consultancy can bring in on their own – it’s a complete company thing. An every worker job, that ultimately feeds a total brand story – the immediate impression of a body when you think of it. But this doesn’t have to mean some impossible conformity drive facing managers – it’s more helpful to imagine that anyone can live it where they are. Anyone can embody social impact honestly and spark new relationships across departments and resources in little daily ways. And such practice tends to spark an essential ingredient in any organisation: Passion.

“I could talk about this all day, honestly” said Hexagon MI’s President of Design and Engineering Software, Roger Assaker, when I asked him about the impact of sustainability issues on his teams; “it gets me passionate.”

A way for anyone in an organisation to consider where to start telling a bigger story relevant to planet crisis times is to simply consider the key business competencies, values and priorities. As Social Impacter at Lob.com Christine Louie Dyer puts it: “What problems are your leadership team trying to solve? What are your products or people uniquely positioned to do?” Starting from the truth of who your team, your customers, your audience are is always the way into managing change.

And it’s also a central principle of good storytelling – something people are in clear need of in times of crisis.

A generation being called to wake up – but to what?

 

As Timo Peach is selected to support TEDx Southampton 2020, in a first little introduction to his talk he asks: How will the pandemic generation interpret – and be remembered for – it’s human to human contact?

 

A crisis will sort the grown-ups from the kids. It’s a generalism always intimated when you’re learning about yourself – you don’t know who you are until adversity finds you.

Will you turn out to be the sort who panics, or keeps a cool head in the crucial moment? Will you be someone to speak up or keep your head down? In the ledgers of history, will you show up?

Well, in an era of converging crises, only highlighted by the COVID19 pandemic, every day is a back to school day and we all have a lot of homework to wake up to at once. A continuous bad Monday, for which there isn’t enough coffee in the world.

 

LISTEN TO THE UNABRIDGED POCKET PODCAST OF THIS POST,
in an Unsee The Future 15m Think Blink >

 

At the moment, that world is looking less and less like it knows how to make human connections. Whatever motivating sense of history we choose to steer a course by, everyone of us is living at a busy intersection of car crashes. But in crisis, I’m not sure there is a “sort”. I think it’s terrifying dumb luck whether your wits are about you in a split second moment of decision or not. The difference, where one can make it, is likely found in something as boring as preparation. Knowing yourself, knowing your context, and doing a little personal prep work. Heroes have simply already packed their lunchbox.

In November, there is an event that’s going to try to help you with that a little bit.

 

 

Label everything!

As TEDx Southampton put out its call for speakers to represent the city’s place at the heart of South Central, I found myself thinking about that word Generations. The historic figures that loom largest in our imaginations tend to be those that had a very conscious sense of story about themselves and built around it intentionally. Collective ages that had a knack for theatre as much as engineering, and for the British the generation to loom largest over them may be the Victorians. We are still living with their plumbing and transport infrastructure, after all. To say nothing of many other structurally determined legacies. And fancy latin labels.

Two generations after both world wars, my own generation’s enlightened reaction to a dawning realisation about the failings of modernist promises, as well as imperial ones, was to ever so bravely adopt a wan enui about it all and quietly get on the property market hoping something more meaningful would just turn up for us. Except it didn’t. Our kids did. And they’re pissed off.

But are any of us alive now so different from each other?

The label my class seem happy to have adopted is Generation X. Named after Douglas Coupland’s 1991 book, I think people my age imagined we were being cute, supposing we were embracing reality by not so much consciously dropping out of the system as letting our eyes slip out of focus behind the MacJobs counter.

Who built the world we’re all dining out in? And who is building the one beyond us? I think, in a sense, we are all Generation X – Y Millenials, Zedders and Alphas alike, all continuing the indefinition of homogenous robot life in neo-liberal consumerism. Searching for the true definition of ourselves.Because re-reading my copy of the book, thirty years later, chilled me: It felt like so little has changed that I barely noticed it was a story written just before the internet existed.

But. Times are a-changing now. Can you not feel it? Something is in the wind. A storm is whipping up. Climates are shifting everywhere. We’re searching for genuinely new stories of us. Perhaps ones rooted in more ancient scales of futures. Wondering what we can build that will last half as long as some generations before us.

Which has prompted the centrepiece of my talk. A question that has me staring at the long scale of history from a sudden new perspective.

Is Generation X about to discover what its name stands for?

 

 

“While I myself am selected as an alternative speaker to the twelve scheduled for the day, I’m happy to walk through the process with them and let the theme challenge my own sense of purpose in making human connections.”

 

Fight everything!

The maginficent Mayflower theatre TEDx Southampton 2020 is being carefully Covidly staged in couldn’t be a more inspiring setting of precenium oppulence for the arts, back when funding such things seemed vital, and they weren’t being lit red in an emergency of potential loss. While I myself am selected as an alternative speaker to the twelve scheduled for the day, I’m happy to walk through the process with them and let the theme challenge my own sense of purpose in making human connections. For it is stories that help us notice the details and make those connections across the generations, as my dear friend Michele O’Brien, storyteller and actor, put it to me.

As I look at the convergence of crises on us all today, I think we will all need to be practicing so many of the personal resiliences and character homework being explored across our speakers on November 11, if we are to respond to the complexity of our unique times with health and purpose. In the swirl of our lives in events, we will have to demonstrate our own constancy. And courage.

It can be done. I think we live in oddly possible, formative times… if we don’t panic, but prepare. And there are always certainties in our histories and never in our futures – that’s how it works. That’s what every generation is called to face. But we will need firm human connections to make lasting choices.

Generation X is being called to wake up. But what call will we each answer?

Answering the call and having a go and plunging into the woods is the only way to write any new stories of us. But it may also help us make much more deliberate marks on the world. Ones we’d rather be remembered for.

DISCOVER THE WHOLE LINE-UP OF SPEAKERS AT TEDx SOUTHAMPTON 2020 >