From the category archives:


The Blockchain and Digital Art: On ascribe, and its New Form of Art Authentication

by Paddy Johnson and Rea McNamara on October 22, 2015
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Trying to understand blockchain technology is a bit like trying to wrap your head around the subprime mortgage crisis: It may take more than a lifetime to fully grasp the concepts. In a nutshell, the blockchain is a distributed database—think a living, breathing spreadsheet operating in real-time—that audits itself every ten minutes and can’t be tampered with. An entire bitcoin network, for instance, relies on the blockchain as a shared public ledger. Every transaction of the cryptocurrency then is unalterably recorded.

Turns out this is the equivalent of digital provenance, so it’s very important to art. We talked to ascribe, a company that is using Blockchain technology for art authentication and contracts.

While in Berlin, we had the chance to speak with their creative team—including co-founders Trent and Masha McConaghy—to get a better sense as to what exactly ascribe offers to artists, and delve further into how it plans to specifically address the ongoing issues around the ownership, loaning and consigning of digital art.

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Curating in a Loaded Void: Art in Berlin’s Vacant Communist Architecture

by Rea McNamara on September 18, 2015
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When I’m in Berlin, I often think about the city’s most oft told quote, “Berlin is a city that never is, but is always in the process being.” Art critic Karl Scheffler penned those words over 100 years ago and they still seem relevant.

It’s a city that has had to adapt to unfavourable circumstances: the end of the Weimar Republic, the rise of the Third Reich, the postwar allied occupation that led to building the wall separating East and West. The wall was a stark embodiment of the foundational clash between communism and capitalism: the East had its monumental Stalinist architecture, the West its modular concrete utopias. Post-reunification Berlin saw the slow merging of these separate ideologies, and the enduring spatial fiction is that of a city always under construction.

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Blue is the New Black

by Rea McNamara on September 17, 2015
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At the press openings for Art Berlin Contemporary (abc) and Positions Berlin, one could sense a change is the in the air. The currents are changing. We’ve arrived at a new moment.

No, I’m not talking about the art — I’m talking about the art world uniform. If you don’t mind, I’m going to indulge in the following bit of Kay-Thompson-as-Diana-Vreeland trend forecasting, with a dash of Bill Cunningham street style sass thrown in.

New Yorkers, you may live and die by your all-black outfit. It’s what takes you from your studio visit to your reading group to your opening to the hush-hush post-vernissage dinner. But the Germans are heading in a different direction: they’re wearing blue.

Seriously. Blue is the new black.

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On Christian Falsnaes’s “Rea McNamara”

by Rea McNamara on September 15, 2015
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How does it feel to be an artist’s material? For me, it felt like crossing a boundary—or at least it did this afternoon when I was emailed a YouTube link documenting my performance in Christian Falsnaes’s “The Title Is Your Name”. The work is part of his contribution to the 2015 National Gallery Prize exhibition at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof, which includes works from the other shortlisted artists Florian Hecker, Anne Imhof and Slavs and Tatars. (The prize winner will be determined by international jury on September 18th.)

When I watched the video “Rea McNamara”, then, I saw myself — the supposedly passive art viewer — as the protagonist of this work of art. I’m alone, in a curtained-off white room, watching at a desk with headphones a video on a iPad. Prior to entering, I was in a cordoned off waiting room; at the request of a docent in German, I turned off my iPhone. A distracted attention span would not be tolerated.

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