5 + 3 Interview Series | Second 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.
The second edition of the 5+3 interview are Ayça Telgeren, Begüm Yücel and Merve Ünsal!
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?
Ayça Telgeren: I consider this merge in two phases, the first is the digital identification of an artwork, and the second is the birth of an intangible field of production for artists who are accustomed to the physical production of art. Digital identity creation may seem like a technical development, but it is crucial for the artists. It is still vague for many to have their works in this media or to create works specifically for it. And amidst this confusion, the ‘whatness’ of the artwork is a frequently addressed topic of discussion.
Begüm Yamanlar: I work with photography and video that I digitally merge, colour and/or montage which are digital in their nature and easily uploadable to the blockchain, so not much has changed in my practice, neither in terms of concept nor practice. It is indeed effective for certificates of authenticity to be on blockchain for tracking purposes. I consider this improvement with the period following the production and the exhibition of the artwork rather than the production period itself.
Merve Ünsal: I think the artist-empowering quality in the blockchain technology and certification practice is in a sense consolidating. Although I am skeptical of centralized information management systems, the decentralized yet regulated flow of blockchain helps the artists, researchers, spectators, foundations, and collectors who are interrelated fulfil their responsibilities. In other words, the information about the artist’s archive becomes public which I believe will be important in transparentising certain channels of circulation.
In terms of my work, I enjoy being the playmaker via the circulation of them. Regardless of their medium, I produce them as single editions, with a single artist’s proof. I update my works’ list price each year and each year all works have the same price despite changes in size or length. At the root of this decision lies the fact that I stand against the materialisation of a concept so abstract as contemporary art and I fail to convince myself in pricing them individually. In regard to this, blockchain is an interesting context as an arena that tackles this idea and I am curious to find out how it may affect my works and ideologies.
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 hands 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?
A.T.: The artwork has its own journey once it separated from the artist; it becomes a part of other people’s lives and transforms collectors, perhaps countries. There is a romantic aspect to this uncontrollable separation, there is also the disadvantage of taking from the artist’s identity. The visibility must not be mistaken for fame in this context, what I refer to is the artist’s legitimation which is a term difficult to balance. The lack of legitimacy may lead to independency which comes hand in hand with lifelong insecurity. During the pandemic, the urgency caused by this has been felt across all artistic disciplines. The traceability of blockchain technology along with how it keeps in link the artist could lead to a solution for knife-edge artistic legitimation.
B.Y.: Due to the fact that I mostly work with photography and video, each work has multiple editions and although we know the primary collectors of the works, it is difficult to trace in case if they change hands. I find the improvements in the blockchain to be beneficial in terms of tracing the current collector, protecting the artwork from becoming a profit-making item as well as the artwork’s duplication. This opinion is regarding to the certification of the artwork on the blockchain, frankly, I do not find it right when a physically editioned work is transformed into digital files and circulated as editions.
M.Ü.: I am not sure if I could emotionally bear to witness an artwork’s journey in time and how it changes hands. Although, at the end of the day, an artwork is also a financial investment, yet it is unique and expressive through and as result of certain emotions of the artist. Therefore, I think this technology is more beneficial for those who study and research art, and who try to comprehend the ecosystem of the field. I can imagine where it might lead to having an engagement further than to exhibit on this platform and allow it to transform my works through pondering its concepts.
This technology has not yet affected my works formally; on the other hand, as an artist who works lens-focused and with found sound and image materials, I believe they will formally influence the works as these materials take more and more space in our mental 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?
A.T.: As I understand, by conventional artworks you refer to all works outside of the blockchain or those that are not created for it, so I respond accordingly. In terms of video and photography, I don’t think there is a big difference due to the screen-oriented nature. And I am still to comprehend the adaption of a physical work or an image of its physical installation to be exhibited on the blockchain. I find it worthy of a production style that works with the peculiarities of this platform, that is to say, I have not been able to accept the transformation of an image of a sculpture or a painting into NFT. We have not yet fully grasped this instrument we have in our hands; upon this comprehension we will be able to transform it into a tool. From this perspective, the benefit of a blockchain should be restricted to the certification of the artwork I have produced in ‘conventional’ mediums. Roles can change in the blink of an eye. I think that artists should not lose their right to speak their minds and therefore their decisive role in this field before the blockchain turns into a conventional one.
B. Y.: Since it is a new field of discovery in terms of production, it is an area that most of us are curious about. Since I have only just begun to discover it, I think that I can better analyse and convey the connection between conventional production and blockchain in the near future.
M.Ü.: I do not differentiate a work on blockchain from a work in another media, and it may be more reasonable to mention how I select my works that are on the blockchain. The works I have on monoco.io are remixes of materials from the outside world. In my work titled ‘A transmitted dialogue’, I have compiled a dialogue from the sound records of NASA on archive.org about how the first moments of encounter are untransmittable. For all the sentences that are already uttered, they exist as radio waves and what I do is to temporarily compose them in another formation. Similarly, the flow of the texts in my videos is temporary assemblages. The quality of digital culture that can be spread and scattered yet can also be regathered is something I use methodically; what is interesting in this case is that every movement is traceable on blockchain. The relationship between surveillance and trace is an intriguing subject and I often think about where blockchain will be situated among the culture and tools of surveillance.
M.B.: The most important aspect of blockchain technology is that it works on a decentralised transaction system that does not require any intermediaries where the artist’s rights are under protection. As an artist represented by Galerist, 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?
A.T.: The intermediaries protect the artist from the pains of financial bargaining regarding their work. I refer to it as painful as it is a dilemma for the artist where they want to dream and create without selling but they also have rent to pay. And as a result of the legitimation problem, they have no protection. They may loan the artist’s work to exhibit and not return, even sell and keep the shares; I have experienced this myself. That is why the buffer structures between the artist and the collector are important. I consider art and the artist as the subjects rightfully, and the way in which both Galerist and Monoco.io approach this collaboration similarly position the art and the artist at the core.
M.B.: The most important aspect of blockchain technology is that it works on a decentralised transaction system that does not require any intermediaries where the artist’s rights are under protection. As an artist represented by Öktem Aykut, 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?
B.Y.: Both companies act as a bridge that shelters the artist and the artwork, as well as transmits true data. The collaboration of Öktem Aykut Gallery and Monoco.io is one that supports and protects the rights of the artist and the artwork.
M.B.: The most important aspect of blockchain technology is that it works on a decentralised 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?
M.Ü.: I do not consider myself as an independent artist; although I do not have a gallery representation, I establish relationships – most of them temporary – with many institutions in means of different services, to support my art production. In this respect, ‘independence’ may mean many bonds and commitments.
I find the artists’ right to have a say in the circulation of their works to be very crucial. Since the sale of my first artwork, I have been trying to keep records of where they are and how they circulate. I have been preparing single-page performative contracts and certificates – though they do not have legal validity. In 2015, I created a contract regarding the circulation of my performance art and presented that contract as an artwork itself. The ‘Vasiyetimdir’ project we have initiated with Özge Ersoy and Aslı Çavuşoğlu on m-est.org also reflected on what the last say of the artists’ were regarding their art.
We will all be able to take a deeper breath when we can work where artists are aware of and protect their rights, and where they can imagine and realize mutually productive relationships with intermediaries. Hopefully, blockchain seems to be able to contribute to us along the way!
M.B.: What kind of a 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?
M. Ü.: As I have mentioned previously, all my works are single editions, it is not possible for me to exhibit the works I have shown here in terms of sales in different contexts. The course with monoco.io has been influential for me as it led me to regard my practice, which revolves around my artistic creation, from a different perspective. Although I have not been able to fully adapt these technologies in my practice, it was a surprising development to be able to provide the questions I have been thinking about for some time with technological tools rather than a structural change. If we can adapt what we have learned and understood to bring about the radical change we need, this technology will be beneficial to more people and we will realise its transformative potential.