SuperRare <> Nolita Projects
<Exploring Art in the Blockchain>
<The Age of Crypto Collectibles>
“Painting is an organism which derives its initial program code from the artist’s creative activity, and then evolves its specific artistic identity and function in response to the environments which it encounters."
- Roy Ascott, British artist and cybernetics pioneer, 1966
Nolita Projects: Thanks for sitting down to talk with us. What exactly is SuperRare and what you are trying to do with it?
SuperRare: Thank you for having me. SuperRare is a platform to issue, collect, and trade rare digital art backed by non-fungible tokens on the Ethereum blockchain. We are also allies and advocates for artists, helping them leverage blockchain and cryptocurrency. Digital currency, or cryptocurrency, native to Ethereum is called ether, or ETH. All transactions on SuperRare use ETH and each SuperRare user has an Ethereum account, also known as a wallet. Your wallet is where your ETH and your art token are stored. When art is added to SuperRare, it is tokenized, meaning a new, unique token is generated and deposited in your wallet. The token is linked to the artwork, and represents a permanent record of provenance and ownership of the artwork. The token is what people buy when they purchase your art.
Nolita Projects: Can you describe the SuperRare community?
SuperRare: Some of our creators are curious and just experimenting with crypto-technology and others are well-developed practitioners in programmatic or code-based art. So it’s a spectrum, which we embrace. With the introduction of blockchain tokens, like ETH, there’s been an explosion in this space. People are experimenting with how it can be applied to their practices and the community reflects that phenomenon. We’ve had a really strong response from artists around the world. The community members are the biggest promoters of SuperRare and crypto art in general. We’re also engaging artists about commissions and residencies, providing resources for them to learn about this tool.
Nolita Projects: So there’s potential for SuperRare to be an education resource?
SuperRare: Definitely. Our site is a great place to learn and connect with resources about how to tokenize digital art. A strong focus for us right now is talking to newcomers and making the platform easy and welcoming.
Nolita Projects: There is a thin line between a cultural phenomenon and a fad. How do you plan to grow beyond the novelty of crypto-technologies?
SuperRare: We want to bring support and validation to artists as they begin to engage blockchain technology and create an authentic and curated platform. Some examples would be artists like Robbie Barrat or Gordon Berger, who create AI generated images and digital paintings respectively, and are using the platform to tokenize their art. Others like Hackatao are making blockchain art that confronts the technology explicitly.
Nolita Projects: What are some of the ways that artists are using blockchain technology as a new medium?
SuperRare: You can simply insert images, memes, or gifs directly into the blockchain, but there are more technically complex use cases pushing the medium forward. An artist can add programmable layers to create something that evolves and reacts to new input from outside data - like other smart contracts on the blockchain, public data streams, or other transactions. It’s really software talking to software. This kind of programmatic art might continually change over its lifetime, producing something entirely new. SuperRare eases the process for how these data-rich pieces are acquired and exhibited. Our platform sits at the intersection of art and code, giving emerging forms of digital art value and a traceable identity.
Nolita Projects: So the platform is more dynamic than just a display of digital collectibles?
SuperRare: Absolutely, what’s really exciting is that we’re giving a traceable blockchain identity to a piece of art, which then becomes open data that anyone can see and interact with. It’s a place in which digital creations can interact with each other. For instance, if you were making a digital sculpture using an Nvidia physics program to shape a large amount of data into a form, and it was meant to grow or change over time based on the data that is feeding it, SuperRare could handle the complexities of exhibiting this piece over time. Beginning with when it is tokenized (to guarantee provenance), then as it is acquired, and changes hands from the artist to galleries, collectors or institutions. We work with living code, which makes this interactive process possible
Nolita Projects: Can you describe the ways in which blockchain technology is being absorbed by the art market?
SuperRare: Most people are thinking about how to simply register and sell art using blockchain. Our vision for SuperRare is to create something entirely new -- a place for art creators and collectors to connect in a global, instant digital art market, and benefit from crowd curation based on crypto-economic incentives.
Nolita Projects: To clarify, do you see a platform like SuperRare acting as a gallery, an auction house or image registry? Or perhaps a crypto-artspace?
SuperRare: As a peer to peer technology, we fit somewhere in the middle. Blockchains allow buyers and sellers to directly interact with one another - artist with collector, or collector with collector, etc. It’s also a curated space for digital collectibles. While the community is small we’re directly involved in the curation process but we’ll be phasing ourselves out as it grows, allowing for increasingly community-driven and decentralized curation.
Nolita Projects: In some ways, this conversation should be about bringing pricing into public art, because the transaction history is transparent. Imagine if every graffiti tag had a visible price history alongside it, it wouldn’t be graffiti, but it also would be harder to actually see the graffiti. How are you approaching the problematic aspects of coupling price and sales history with exhibition?
SuperRare: It’s a very interesting question. For art native to the blockchain, all data and history are open and transparent by default, including pricing, origin, and ownership. So in a way, the data actually becomes part of the art itself. We think of this new model of open data as an opportunity to make buying and selling art accessible to more people across the world.
Nolita Projects: So crypto- provenance plays a much more visible role?
SuperRare: You may not know the identity of the ETH address that has collected the piece, but it’s central to the medium for the transaction to be open. In this new world, I think having additional curatorial context for this art and its full history, which includes market history, adds an interesting dimension to the work. Like the documentation of a performance, or site-specificity of an installation, when art moves on to the blockchain, price and transaction history become another element to be curated.
Nolita Projects: Thank you for guiding us through this new wilderness! We love projects like SuperRare that really go for it and embrace the challenges and opportunities of working in a new space. Disregard the haters, remain fly.
SuperRare: Thanks, we’re having fun.