UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Creating with blockchain technology : the "provably rare" possibilities of crypto art Finucane, Blake Patricia


My thesis examines crypto art from several different vantage points. This is a budding artistic phenomenon which, can be broadly defined as art that takes place on the blockchain (also called a distributed digital ledger). Investigating this movement can aid in illuminating alternative forms of contemporary artistic practice, the direction of the blockchain, and a better understanding of cryptocurrency. Crypto art facilitates an efficient form of economic value creation for both artists and collectors, enabled by the blockchain’s capacities around tracing provenance and authenticity as well as implementing mechanisms to ensure artists receive compensation at the point of sale and resale. These outcomes would not have been possible in a pre-blockchain world. However, many of the approaches and philosophies are shared between the makers and functions of crypto art and conceptual art. Several aspects of blockchain technology are “new,” but the problems and questions that crypto art addresses, including its association with larger financial forces, have tremendous art historical precedent. Much of the modern art system is even built upon these connections, and paralleling this movement to conceptual art can help expose these affiliations. Looking at blockchain through the legacy of conceptual art also demonstrates the need for this technology and its capabilities, most notably, the built-in payment structure for artists. With this in mind, the central questions in my thesis are: how has crypto art challenged the relationship to authorship, ownership, dematerialization and distribution that were fundamental to conceptual art? And what relevance does this have for blockchain technology today? In attempting to address these questions, this paper will argue that crypto art reveals and critiques the framework of the art market. I will focus on Rare Pepes (2016-present) for my primary case study but will also survey other crypto art works to support my argument. The majority of my research engages directly with crypto art. For supplementary material, I have relied upon the work of Jason Bailey and Hito Steyerl as well as Oliver Roeder. I will also employ the writings of Lucy Lippard, Benjamin Buchloh and Joseph Kosuth to think through the theoretical side of conceptual art.

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