5 + 3 Interview Series | First Edition
The monoco.io 5+3 interview series got its start with the aim of getting monoco.io collaborator artists’ opinions on blockchain technology, the significance and utility of NFT in their artistic practice, and shedding light on this rather new digital realm through their lenses. In this interview series, which is broadcasted every six weeks, Melike Bayık poses five questions to three artists on topics such as the contemporary art scene and market in Turkey, blockchain technology, digital certification, and gallery collaborations with monoco.io. The 5+3 interview series aims to serve as an open source available to the readers of monoco.io Journal.
And the very first guests of the 5+3 interview are Hakan Sorar, SABO, and Berat Işık!
monoco.io // 5+3 Interview Series | First Edition
Melike Bayık: You produce interdisciplinary artworks in your current artistic practice. How did the addition of your works listed on monoco.io and their certificate to the blockchain, and the addition of the certificates of your physical works to the blockchain have shaped your production strategies and methods regarding your conceptual inclinations?
Hakan Sorar: Sometimes we reach the content through headlines in the media. Grand headlines can provide misinformation and cause misunderstandings. Therefore the thing we call NFT, which converts documents, deeds, videos, patterns, audio, etc. into “tokens” and secures these in the blockchain system, occupied headlines in the news mostly with the mediacy of art. When we look at the news where the sales figures were the buzz, we see the fictionalization of a different world with a different aesthetic concern. Afterward, artists using NFT systems in their works continued to create their own communities and search for their own paths. I had these concerns when I first tried to understand the concept of NFT, but I am aware of the change. For instance, even though I produce high-resolution videos, there is a limit regarding the size of the NFT on any NFT platform. But I know that a solution will be worked out for this problem in the future. Otherwise, we couldn’t have switched from floppy disks, CDs, and USBs to the cloud storage system. For this reason, at the moment, I focus on both NFT and physical copies with a hybrid production system and follow the changes in blockchain technology closely. All in all, I started to think thoroughly and concurrently on issues such as conserving my artistic production, putting my artworks up for sale, and also the ways of sharing these works on social media. As an artist who currently produces works with digital tools, I do not think that I have set sail to a whole new world.
SABO: To be honest, this is what I wanted to try through three works of mine on monoco.io. I started by choosing a few of my physical works (oil paintings), extending their being into the digital dimension, and then including the result of this differentiated practice in the blockchain and finally presenting it to the audience through a digital platform. I think it opened a different door for me in terms of my production discipline and my conceptual orientation.
Berat Işık: At the end of the day, we have reached a breaking point where the artwork is not trapped in a hard disk and/or a drawer. We are in a place where this innovation opens up new dimensions. Even though I have an interdisciplinary approach, I primarily define myself as a video artist. In this context, the produced video must be certified and included in the blockchain concomitantly. I think it may take some time for all of these to be integrated into the production method.
M.B.: One of the most important aspects of using blockchain technology is that it is a unique certification method and as the artwork changes hand on the blockchain, although the commission rates vary, artists receive royalties from every resale of their artwork. When any of your works in a conventional collection is transferred to another collection, you are not notified of the change nor able to follow the transfer of the artwork. Furthermore, you are not paid any royalties within the scope of the artist’s personal rights/benefits. While there are various risks regarding the reproducibility of the printed versions of the certificates on A4 papers in your conventional productions, the “NFTized” certificate of authentication turns into a very long and unique data password in blockchain technology, and there can be no more of the same.
From all these perspectives, can you talk about the positive and negative aspects of using conventional production as well as blockchain technology today? In the space age, what formal and conceptual aspects have been added, altered, and supported your production in positive or negative ways eventually?
H.S.: Throughout history, art has been one of the driving forces of social change. While art has shaped culture, it has also become a voice for injustice and inequality. On the other hand, the popularity of NFT mostly provided a new ground for the creative industry and stimulated a rise in the visibility of valuable creatives. Moreover, it provided a new ground for the emergence of many independent artists and creatives who have productions in different disciplines. The most adverse aspect of NFT and blockchain technology is its impact on environmental issues. The “Arts Help’s Conscious Crypto Creator” community, which I follow with a keen interest, is a creative community that campaigns and shares informative content to endorse sustainable and transformable solutions regarding blockchain technology through direct action. There is an immense difference between the use of crypto assets in 2010 and their use today. The existence of initiatives such as the “Crypto Climate Accord”, which aims to decarbonize the global crypto industry by 2040, is a worthwhile step. The fact that the executives of the major cryptocurrencies have been initiating philanthropic and environmentally conscious missions lately is proof of how large a carbon footprint they are struggling with.
Art can sometimes be a vehicle for change, but unless the actors of the cryptocurrency industry initiate sustainable solutions regarding the environmental impact of the industry, ethical dilemmas await the artists. It’s important to ask ourselves questions such as: “Does the ownership of art contributes to global warming?” Here I would like to reiterate the importance of transformation. Of course, switching to vehicles that run on green energy sources from diesel-fueled ones will be the topic of the NFT world as well. In short, questioning the carbon footprint of the artworks that have been produced in the recent past was not one of the primary concerns that came to artists’ minds instantaneously. With the discussions brought about by NFT, it may be fruitful to focus on these situations that we should consider in our conventional productions.
SABO: Actually, we should consider blockchain technology broadly under current circumstances.Considering that NFT has found a place for itself even in the banking system, it’s quite expected to see its use in arts and also certification methods as well. It could be suggested that, since blockchain technology has a step-by-step follow-up protocol and a bookkeeping system that leaves no place for any change on the ledger, it has become a useful tool in terms of securing the copyright of the artists. I meticulously try to follow up on my works that are already in a collection or that have been transferred to different collections and keep all my records up-to-date as much as possible. The inclusion of this technology in the system opens up a space where it is easy to follow the transactions for both the artist and the collector.
B.I.: From the perspective of artists’ rights, the possibility of tracing the place of the artwork is extremely righteous. When I said we actually need time regarding my first answer, I meant this: The artists of my generation, including me, and the majority of the artists that came before my generation note these unique data passwords on an A4 paper and carry these in their wallets. That’s why we need a bit more time. Throughout the nineties, there was much hype around the millennial age that we thought we were going to fly into space on the first day of the year 2000. I now associate this situation regarding this new technology with that period. Yes, this technology is indeed “wonderful”, “amazing”, “unbelievable”; but once more children are still dying due to famine, meaningless wars still break relentlessly. I am doubtful about how these things will bring us closer to a “beautiful world”.
M.B.: How do you methodologically approach the production of a conventional artwork and the production of a digital artwork that can be tracked on the blockchain? How are the possibilities and conditions of production in these two fields being shaped?
H.S.: Before the era of social media, the publicizing of our conventional productions was limited to printed media, catalogs, and exhibitions. Now, we can come together with creators from all over the world, receive exhibition offers, and deliver our works to a larger number of audiences through the screens, especially through social media. At this point, hundreds of creatives who have not found their place in the art market go on with telling their stories, gain visibility and share their works on social media platforms. I do not think that I have a specific distinction between production and concept. I believe that the digital certification system is valuable both as an archive and as a means of protecting the rights of the consumer and the seller as well. As you highlighted in the previous question above, the importance of digital certification and its benefits for both the collector and the artist will change many systems.
SABO: I do not think that these two spheres are unrelated. Being a spectator has become quite easy nowadays. Whether it’s physical or digital artwork, a notable piece always has an audience.
I am indeed one of these spectators and after all the bombardment of content that I am “exposed” to daily, I try to open up a space for myself as well. As time progresses, we will definitely see more diverse results. Our production will be shaped at the same rate as our lives are shaped by technological developments.
B.I.: I haven’t produced any artwork in the digital realm yet. I do have some ideas in my mind, but they need to mature and flourish in the form of an artwork. In other words, it should be a piece that is specifically produced by a digital medium, not for the sake of producing digital content.
M.B.: The most important aspect of blockchain technology is that it works on a decentralized transaction system that does not require any intermediaries where the artist’s rights are under protection. How do you evaluate this as an independent artist?
H.S.: When one of our artwork is sold, unless we have a close relationship with the collector that purchased the art piece, the artwork goes on a journey whose fate we are oblivious to. Subjects such as the protection of artists’ rights, traceability of the transactions, and issues related to copyright are extremely pressing in resales. Currently, there are NFT platforms that act as intermediaries between collectors and artists. We as artists are also directly in touch with NFT collectors through our cryptocurrency accounts. I quite enjoy this diversity.
M.B.: The most important aspect of blockchain technology is that it works on a decentralized transaction system that does not require any intermediaries where the artist’s rights are under protection. As an artist represented by Versus Art Project, how do you manage to form a tripartite communication between the gallery, the monoco.io platform, and yourself as an artist listed on this online platform?
SABO: As the Versus Art Project family, we try to follow all the innovations closely. During the meetings we held with the monoco.io team and represented artists of the galleries, we both got informed about the platform and exchanged ideas regarding its operational system. After productive and question-filled discussions, we got involved with the project and started off our collaboration. In addition to all these, it is also possible to be listed on the platform as an independent artist.
M.B.: The most important aspect of blockchain technology is that it works on a decentralized transaction system that does not require any intermediaries where the artist’s rights are under protection. As an artist represented by BüroSarıgedik, how do you manage to form a tripartite communication between BüroSarıgedik, the monoco.io platform, and yourself as an artist listed on this online platform?
B.I.: We decided to be a part of the monoco.io platform after the online and then face-to-face meetings during the pandemic period. One of the important factors in this decision-making process was knowing that Selman Bilal is the founder of this platform.
Actually, our working principle is built on having a representative agent but also standing as independent artists as well. Ultimately, the primary dynamic that holds us together is our perspective on art and life.
M.B.: What kind of method and mediation does your cooperation with monoco.io provide in your production? Is it possible to open your artwork for sale that is listed on monoco.io on other platforms? How do the production process and working strategy on monoco.io benefit you as an artist?
H.S.: First of all, I would like to congratulate the monoco.io team on the bond they established with independent artists. Equally, opening up a space for the artists that are represented by galleries but are not aware of the potential of blockchain technology and the digital certification service that is provided on the platform are equally noteworthy aspects of this online contemporary art platform. My artworks listed on monoco.io are exclusively on this platform. For this reason, although I have works that I offered for sale on different international NFT platforms in the past, I truly comprehend and appreciate the sensitivity of the monoco.io team on this issue. At this very point, the expansion into the digital space beyond the walls of a white cube gallery space pertained to traditional representation modes strengthened my ties to the monoco.io platform.
SABO: Although the partnership we have established with monoco.io is a particularly new one, I am sure that the platform will expand lavishly. I have been included in the platform with three different works for now and I produced these artworks only to be listed on this platform. I do not intend to exhibit or sell these on any other platforms. The positive effects of being involved with innovative and exciting new artworks are definitely there.
B.I.: The technical part of our collaboration with monaco.io is more about the transition of the artwork onto the platform rather than listing brand new production. I took part in this platform with different versions of my work entitled “Butterfly Effect” and a short version of another video named “Justice”. For my “Butterfly Effect” video, I was working on the issue of “bending” the video at that time and I exhibited this piece by “bending” it while I was participating at Saha Studio. I reproduced these works for the monoco.io platform and these works are only listed here. There has been such a wild market for a few years that as an artist, you want to stay away from all these works, but on the other hand, your sense of curiosity is pushing you to open the door. Behind the door, there is such a huge cloud of dust that it is almost impossible not to be swept away. In this sense, monoco.io is a more sensible and grounded platform for artists and collectors. I hope we would all have fruitful cooperation that results in a pleasant experience after all.