Wednesday, December 22, 2021

"Brian Eno on NFTs & Automaticism"

Eno is pretty much a polymath genius. In this interview with Evgeny Morozov he ascends to some rarefied company.*

"NFTs seem to me just a way for artists to get a little piece of the action 
from global capitalism, our own cute little version of financialisation." 

From the crypto syllabus:

Brian Eno is one of the most accomplished artists working today. Having given us the genre of ambient music, he also produced many of the most remarkable acts of the past 40+ years. He is also known for his sound, video, and digital art including 77 Million Paintings, which, with its generative spirit of abundance, might be the opposite of what NFTs represent.

Brian once pissed into Duchamp's famous urinal, unhappy with how the gallery world was misinterpreting Duchamp's philosophy of art. Having known Brian for some time – we both share an interest in cybernetics and the work of Stafford Beer – I reached out to him to ask his opinions about NFTs and what he makes of the broader political import of crypto.

If NFTs are really Duchamp's Readymades reversed, as the American art historian David Joselit argued in a much-discussed short essay from April 2021, what better figure to ask for answers than the man who urinated into Duchamp's Fountain?

~ Evgeny Morozov

Keywords: NFTs, Art, Financialisation, Robin Hood-ism, Marcel Duchamp

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As an artist, you’ve always reached out to economists, collaborating with Yanis Varoufakis, Mariana Mazzucato, and others. You have also been one of the earliest high-profile advocates of Universal Basic Income. Your political compass seems to be working rather well. What’s one thing about global capitalism that could help us understand the context in which crypto has become so central to the public debate?

I see a world absolutely awash with loose money and speculation because the various governments of the world, unwilling to make any serious structural changes that would threaten the present status quo, have decided to solve every problem by printing more money to throw at it. This is presumably why stocks soar when there’s an emergency like Covid – because speculators realise that a new emergency means a new infusion of money, and they know that much of it will end up in their hands.

I can understand why the people who’ve done well from NFTs are pleased, and it’s natural enough in a libertarian world to believe that something that benefits you must automatically be ‘right’ for the whole world.

There is much excitement about crypto these days, with many claims made in the name of these technologies. What do you make of their promises?

I see a set of solutions but I don’t know what problems they exist to solve other than 'How can we use these to absorb all this spare money that’s washing around?'. Most of the conversation I hear is asking the question ‘What could we do with these technologies?': which doesn’t mean 'how could we change the world into a better place?' but 'How could we turn them into money?'.....

*Previously via Mr. Morozov

And previously on Mr. Eno: 

Brian Eno Answers Nassim Taleb