The DAOWO Sessions explores future implications of blockchain in art with five prototypes hinged on trust & disruption

, 27 April 2021

“It means we’re constantly bashing into, revealing, and getting to know better the relationships between art, value, and money,” says Furtherfield Gallery co-founder Ruth Catlow on blockchain technology and the financialization of art in the last conversation of The DAOWO Sessions, a series of online events programmed with Goethe-Institut London, which ran from January 28 to March 4. Curated by Catlow, Berlin-based artist and theorist Penny Rafferty, and Ben Vickers, the project explores possibilities for blockchain intervention within the arts. 

The DAOWO Sessions, ‘DAO AS CHIMERA’ (2021). Image courtesy Goethe-Institut.

The DAOWO Sessions arrives at a time where public mania over non-fungible token (NFTs) and crypto marketplaces has ignited discourse on independent economies, art-making, and the environment. While not nearly as popular, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) are distinct from most blockchain technologies, in that they run in a siloed peer-to-peer capacity. This is the basis for the series’ inquiry into the potential of DAOs, in which five teams share prototypes on institutional disruption, community-building, and socio-political re-imagination. 

Hong Kong-based Ensembl’s presentation examines the ‘immutable record’ of blockchain transactions as a tool for demystifying the process of music copywriting, distribution, and royalties. Meanwhile, Berlin’s Black Swan DAO experiments with infrastructure for collaboration and decision-making across cultural sectors. “I think the DAO would allow for more agency for artists to kind of have to [sic] create a different kind of practice,” says curator Bhavisha Panchia in her presentation with Johannesburg’s Covalence Studies on artist mobility in precarious economies. Outside the explicit art world focus, DAO AS CHIMERA mediates on the 2020-2021 protests in Belarus with a perspective on blockchain-inspired live-action roleplay, shared decision-making, and solidarity.**

The DAOWO Sessions ran from January 28 to March 4, 2021. The series is available online via Goethe-Institut’s website.