For us to reclaim our full humanity, we have to understand that this will come from creating new systems of being with each other. So that in the new system, the value of a human being is the full human value, their value as a poet, a thinker, a lover, a carrier of the culture. That’s what the value of a human being is, that’s what we deserve and need.” – Ed Whitfield, Fund for Democratic Communities (F4DC)
“Expansionist thinking is rooted in abstract economic models and monetary analyses that are devoid of biophysical data and ignore fundamental physical laws. – William E. Rees, School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia
Isaac Asimov’s short story The Last Question (1956) is a canonical sci-fi parable about technological innovation, that infers humanity is both the creator and created. 221A’s Research Initiative Blockchain & Cultural Padlocks (2019-22) aligns with The Last Question’s paradoxical message by looking at the ways that a relatively new and widely speculated technology, the blockchain, has the potential to develop new systems that will allow us to “re-common” land, data and objects. Through these investigations, Blockchains & Cultural Padlocks seeks ways to escape the limiting discourses surrounding technology in both techno-fetishist (solutionist) and techno-pessimist guises, instead grappling with technology as a co-evolutionary byproduct which influences and is influenced by social life at large. (Reed, Patricia. The Valuation of Necessity. Vancouver: 221A, 2020) Please join 221A, along with our partner Emily Carr University of Art & Design (Vancouver/Unceded Territories) for a panel discussion that will explore these challenges by asking the questions: How we can better design social, cultural and ecological value on the blockchain in ways that incentivize us to seek out new collective ideals? Are there ways to perform our work, and live our lives in ways that put humanity and the planet on a survival path amid the collapsing climate?
At Emily Carr University of Art & Design on Wednesday, January 22 (workshop 3–5 pm; public talk, 7–8:30 pm) please join Goethe-Institut Guest Matthias Einhoff, Artist, Designer and Director of Z/KU, Berlin (Centre for Art and Urbanistics) for a workshop (3-5 PM RSVP) will share his learning from the development of The Beecoin Project, which assembles human and non-human actors in a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), with the ultimate goal of caring for bees by incentivizing us to encourage qualities of our ecosystem which keep the most important pollinators healthy. Data becomes the foundation for a crypto-economic system that redistributes resources with the aim of creating ecological integrity. Einhoff will be joined by Lee White of ChinookX and Artist Julian Hou. ChinookX, a partner of 221A on the Blockchains & Cultural Padlocks Research Initiative, is an Indigenous-led nonprofit organization that is seeking ways for the blockchain to be designed with Indigenous consensus protocols in order to enable responsive resource management for traditional territories and data-sovereignty for First Nations communities. Julian Hou is an Artist Researcher working with 221A and is leading the development of a feasibility study for an artist-led community that draws from the notion of anoesis, a state of mind consisting of pure sensation or emotion without cognitive content. In Hou’s view, if this anoetic resonance can be used as an organizing principle for communities developing the blockchain, it has the advantage of leading us to places that are less about individual choices or cognitive judgments because of its undeniable quality of communication and perception that can encourage more harmonious coexistence. In Hou’s words: “ethical questions around blockchain should be tempered by an equal consideration of natural life – our coextensive relationship with nature should be built into the ethics of blockchain.” The workshop is intended for students, designers, artists, planners, urbanists, and developers engaged with the blockchain. The workshop will be followed in the evening by a public roundtable (7–8:30 pm, Room B2160) introduced and moderated by Jesse McKee, 221A Head of Strategy, with the workshop leaders and Maral Sotoudehnia, a Geographer working with the Province of B.C.’s Climate Action Secretariat on a carbon trading system designed on the blockchain.
- Julian Hou is an artist working in textiles, sound, performance, text, and drawing. He adopts empathic and fluid methodologies in addition to hypnagogic practice to produce works that speak about cultural motives, animism and figuration in objects and interiors. He recently held the solo exhibitions Dreamweed, Unit 17, Vancouver (2018); Cloudcuckooville, Soon.tw, Montreal (2018); Milman Parry’s Waiting Room Rhapsody, Artspeak, Vancouver (2017); Stupid sun, 8eleven, Toronto (2017); Help me remember, L’escalier, Montreal (2015); Window Bended Harmony, CSA space, Vancouver (2014). He has participated in group exhibitions and performances at the Vancouver Art Gallery (2016-2017); Things that can happen, Hong Kong (2017); Damien and the Love Guru, Brussels (2017); Spareroom, Vancouver (2017); 221A @ Occidental Temporary, Paris (2016); Audain Gallery, Vancouver (2015); the Apartment Gallery (2015). He has participated in residencies at 221A (2017), Western Front (2018), and Triangle, Marseille (2019). Hou holds a BA in Art and Culture Studies from Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, and a Masters in Architecture from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
- Matthias Einhoff, is co-founder and director of the Center for Arts and Urbanistics www.zku-berlin.org, an interdisciplinary hub for urban research and artistic practice located in Berlin. Next to his managing and curatorial responsibilities he is heading the development of research-based projects at the interface of urban discourses and local practices with outcomes such as www.citytoolbox.net – learning platform for urban practitioners, www.wasteland-twinning.net – urban wasteland survey, www.hackingurbanfurniture.net – urban infrastructure revisited. As a founding member of the artist collectives www.kunstrepublik.de, and Superschool he has been working in the public sphere exploring the potentials of art to (re)activate the social and spatial relationships of individuals and groups. E.g. www.skulpturenpark.org and for collective knowledge production. (Congress-of-halfknowledge). As co-initiator and board member of www.hausderstatistik.org , an inclusive 60,000sqm development project, he co-moderated the process and co-directed the and for public arts section www.allesandersplatz.berlin/en/ He has been teaching at UdK-Berlin, DigitalArtsLab-Tel Aviv and as a visiting professor at Kunsthochschule Kassel.
- ChinookX The question, “Can Indigenous consensus protocols be programmed on a Blockchain?” was asked by the University of British Columbia’s School of Library and Information Sciences and the Human Data Commons Foundation (Vancouver/Unceded Territories), through the year-long research project, Data Sovereignty for Indigenous Sovereignty (2018). The project considered the question both culturally and technically. Kristen Kozar, a graduate of UBC’s School of Library and Information Sciences provided a cultural lens for research into the perennial characteristics of Coast Salish cultural protocols and traditional economies of mutual reciprocity within a social system focused on collective wellbeing. Out of this ChinookX developed as an Indigenous-led organization that culturally incentives these protocols as a viable future through gaming and youth leadership, while working most closely with the Tŝilhqot'in National Government, and the intention to work with all 198 First Nations occupied by British Columbia, to use data analytics to identify cultural bias, augment reconciliation and drive public policy through deep democracy.
- Lee White is the CEO and Firekeeper of ChinookX Technologies Ltd. which develops transformative technologies for sustainable coexistence. Indigenous land and resource management tools, low carbon economy infrastructure, alternative local currency, basic living wage frameworks and sovereign data management are active projects for ChinookX. Lee also has an extensive background in adventure therapy and backcountry guiding which remains a core personal pursuit. He continues to contract adventure therapy programming for the youth custody centre in Burnaby, as well as developing community health initiatives for First Nations. Lee is the author of Rapt in Awe and a forthcoming novel called And Then We Dance. When not creating, Lee is found outdoors with his family.
- Maral Sotoudehnia is a Ph.D. Candidate in the University of Victoria’s Department of Geography. Her research investigates the cultural politics and commodification of digital and urban spaces shaped by global policies, peer-to-peer systems, and smart technologies. Equally influencing her scholarship are contemporary approaches to critical data studies, feminist political economy, and new materialist scholars that foreground questions surrounding access, citizenship, embodiment, financial exclusion, social justice, and subject/ivities in relation to multi-scalar decision-making processes. Her doctoral research project, supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, traces an ethnography of contemporary life under distributed but rambunctious instances of capitalism generated by blockchains and cryptocurrency markets.
- Jesse McKee is the Head of Strategy where he leads the Organization’s advancement, communications, and programming. Previously, he was the Curator of Walter Phillips Gallery, The Banff Centre and the Exhibitions Curator, Western Front, Vancouver. In 2015, he was the co-curator, with Daina Augaitis, of Vancouver Special: Ambivalent Pleasures, the inaugural edition of a civic triennial exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2017. As a curatorial resident he has worked with Things that can happen, Hong Kong and Tranzit.org, Romania. McKee served as a juror for the Sobey Art Award and was a member of the Canada Council for the Art’s Asia Pacific Delegation. He has written essays and reviews for Canadian Art, C Magazine, Fillip, Border Crossings, Kaleidoscope, and Cura. His recent catalogue essay, Surreal Ghosts and Neuroplastic Ancestors, focuses on Julia Feyrer and Tamara Henderson’s filmmaking, and the neuroplastic effects of Vancouver’s economic enclosure over the past decade, published by the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia and Institute for Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania.
Supported by the Goethe Institut, Matthias Einhoff also participates in a series of public events in Montreal / Tiohtià:ke tsi ionhwéntsare earlier in the month, with a seminar on the commons organized by the Observatoire des médiations culturelles at l’Institut national de la recherche scientifique, and a workshop convened by les Entrepreneurs du commun at the Phi Centre.
Blockchains & Cultural Padlocks is supported by The Canada Council for the Art’s Digital Strategy Fund
221A acknowledges that the area called Vancouver is within the unceded Indigenous territories belonging to the Musqueam, Skxwú7mesh-ulh Úxwumixw (Squamish) and Tsleil-Watututh peoples. 221A recognizes that the colony of British Columbia was created through organized dispossession and colonial violence. 221A seeks to shift its organizational practices to work together with Indigenous people to end ongoing violence, disposession and displacement.