On November 11, the fourth edition of Blockchain Forum Italia took place: the event is organized by Italia4blockchain and dedicated to blockchain technology hosted by Hangar 21 at Superstudio Più. A significant topic for sure but still unknown to many people.
First, let's clarify the highly-inflated term blockchain. "Blockchain" – literally a chain of blocks – refers to a technological paradigm that allows you to exchange value between two subjects without any intermediary. If we examine the most well-known case of use, that of cryptocurrency – bitcoin, for example – this technology permits bankless financial transactions. Born on the financial market, blockchain has quickly entered the art market.
On November 9, the video-sculpture Human One by the cryptoartist Beeple reached almost $ 29 million at a Christie's auction. In March 2021, the same auction house sold for 69 million dollars the digital work Everydays-The First 5000 Days, a collage composed of the images collected and saved up until that moment by the artist. An inflated price, no doubt. We are not referring to a new field – digital art has existed since the 60s – but to a paradigm, unknown to most, which is good to examine because it will shape the future of interpersonal and economic exchanges as well as artistic ones.
Digital art is based on NFTs, which stands for "non-fungible token", and indicates units of data or metadata. NFT was born as a financial, serializable object, whose status is instead modified when it is linked to the blockchain, which gives it a verified proof of ownership, therefore, making it purchasable by a limited number of collectors, if not by just one. Let's take the familiar example of the photo gallery on the mobile phone: everyone collects their own photographs, characterized by extreme volatility, in the sense that they can be exchanged with a potentially infinite number of contacts and reproduced in the web-space until they lose any kind of link with the author of the shot. In this sort of mechanism, proper to the digital sphere in general, authorship vanishes. The question, then, is: how to maintain authorship in the realm of web reproducibility? Thanks to blockchain technology. Indeed, the author exercises the right to participate in the fortune that their work encounters once in the market because the NFT links to a blockchain that behaves just as if it was a certificate of ownership of the work. When the asset is scarce on the market, its property then acquires an exceptional value.
Despite being a "pop" topic, the NFT issue needs to be questioned because it prompts a rethink of some artistic practices, such as collecting, also involving the status of the artwork itself. In recent years, digital art has also entered museums. Among the guests participating in the Forum there was Serena Tabacchi, director of the world's first digital museum, MOCDA (Museum of Contemporary Digital Art). Born in 2019 as an augmented museum reality, MOCDA aims to create the first permanent collection of digital art. "Digital art has been around for many years, but the NFTs arrival has been like an explosion that has generated a huge mediatic response." The narrative surrounding this type of technology is, however, double as Marina Markezic, co-founder of the European Crypto Initiative, explains: on the one hand, it outlines the utopia of a technology with a processing speed never reached before; on the other hand, however, it is described as a highly-polluting dystopia, as reported by Nature. NFTs, in fact, have an "energy-intensive nature", that is, they require a very high mass of computational energy in order to function. Among the latest solutions to this problem is MUSA – Music and Art. Presented during the event, MUSA is an NFT buying and selling platform based on the new Algorand algorithm – created by the Turing Prize winner Silvio Micali – an absolutely green protocol that exploits a sustainable and carbon-negative blockchain. From Milan, therefore, a new space for art is coming or rather a meta-space.