The Right Kind of Snark for the Art World
Art has always been the mechanism to push and pull at cultural boundaries, and there hasn’t been such a thick boundary between a new technology and public engagement as there exists with blockchain. While a pure explanation of decentralized ledgers is mired in dizzying jargon, a poignant artwork can compel new users by way of pure imagination.
This is the thesis of Snark.art, a new laboratory and platform that works with creative practitioners to develop new blockchain use cases. From film to poetry and blockchain-backed artistic assets, Snark.art’s team is helping mobilize a new generation of crypto-fueled experimentation. We had the opportunity to sit down with co-founder Misha Libman and discuss the development and mission of his office.
Co-Founders Andrey Alekhin and Misha Libman
The Creative Crypto (CC): Can you tell me a bit about your background and how got started?
For probably 10 years, I’ve been working more on the technology side. But maybe in some alternate reality, I would have preferred to devote more time to creating art as I had at one point participated in a number of video art projects with several artists. So when Andrey (co-founder of Snark.art) approached me early this year, we started talking about creating something that would combine these two aspects of my background.
It took a while for us to conceptualize what exactly we want to do in the space. But definitely there was this energy and excitement about doing something that would be an intersection between the arts and blockchain technology, and we went through probably a few different concepts and started speaking with artists that we knew.
Slowly, we kind of came to realize that ultimately the technology is relatively new and most artists don’t even know about it and it’s very technical. We wanted to help artists realize artworks that are on one hand conceptually strong, sophisticated, almost poetic, but also can use blockchain as a sort of a medium.
CC: So in terms of your experience approaching artists, what has the feedback been and especially how you landed on working with the artist Eve Sussman and if there are other projects going on as well?
I worked with her on several projects so she was a natural candidate to start talking to, plus Sussman is an amazing artist, very intelligent and sophisticated. And what surprised us initially was how easily she understood the idea. Almost from the first meeting, Eve started throwing ideas that just shocked us a since that first meeting with her. We spoke to a number of artists and it’s actually quite impressive how easily they understand some basic concepts of blockchain to start thinking through experiments or projects that they could do. The feedback has been amazing from the artists and everybody’s super excited but there’s not a lot of references to start from.
CC: As you talk to more of these artists and from your own experiences, what are other examples are there for artists leveraging this technology?
Some are exploring the concept of trust and transparency blockchain claims to provide and so there are projects that are perhaps more performance-based. There are some projects that explore blockchain as a unique delivery mechanism that may provide certain things like provenance and digital scarcity for art. There’s going to be a project that’s going to be announced soon related to poetry and the delivery of poetry in a new and exciting way versus a more traditional outlet like bookstores.
And so we’re trying to find strategies that are more interactive because it seems to be that interactivity tends to be key in a lot of the projects that we’re working on.
CC: Do you imagine creating resources that any artists can look to and start to learn about the technology specifically from art? The big question for the crypto-curious is – okay, where do we start? And do you imagine some of these tools created for, let’s say Eve’s piece, will become more open so that people can follow suit and take her precedent and be able to build it the same way? Or are you focusing more on the specific projects with artists?
I would say that this is actually discussed quite a bit internally, what is Snark.art and what exactly do we want to do. We realized that artists who want to create using blockchain may not be technically savvy enough to produce such artwork, and at that time we decided that we will actually dedicate resources to work with artists on their works. We’re thinking about scaling this up, at this point we’re planning maybe to release a new project every two or three months and we already have a pipeline of projects that we’re planning for early next year. We’ll need more resources and that’s the biggest challenge that we have to be able to overcome.
At the same time, we are going to try to be as transparent as possible as far as the entire development process so that people can use projects as examples. For all the tools that we’re creating for each piece, we will try to be as open source as possible. I still think it’s going to be challenged because this technology is not easy and unless you’re talking to an artist that has a background in programming, they will need help.
We are hoping that as we start releasing projects, we will also meet people from the technological side – people who maybe are already working on blockchain and are also interested in collaborating with artists and helping artists realize certain artworks.
CC: With the production of some of these projects. What’s the roadmap and lifeline that you’re looking at? Are you doing everything on your own platform or are you starting to look for other partnerships and companies that are helping distribute these pieces?
We’re working right now with Eve to tokenize and create smart contracts for distribution, a functionality that we want to roll out at the end of this year. Collectors of these items will be able borrow and organize a screening of the works. And so to some extent, we are trying to control both the quality of how the artwork is presented and also give the tools to potential buyers.
The platform for trading these pieces will be built on our website first. We are open to working with the other exchanges to help these collectors go further. It’s not a priority at the moment as we’re trying to mainly concentrate on the actual release of the piece down the road. We will certainly look into it more closely.
CC: On your website, you have as a core mission statement – We believe blockchain can transform art and art can advance crypto. I’d like to hear your thoughts on what you think this type of use case will do for the crypto industry in general, whether for education or adoption.
I know it’s sort of theoretical at the moment, but by working with these artists, we’re looking to push the boundaries and expose more use cases for the technology because it does feel a little bit that the technology is great, but still very early in terms of discovering more and more opportunities for application.
And so it just almost seems natural that artists can push those boundaries potentially faster and quicker and somebody else can then scale up and create something out of it.
CC: What we’re seeing now is most people rushing to establish business models around certain aspects of industries in blockchain and there’s actually very little room for experimentation outside of that focused entrepreneurship. Why is blockchain specifically so fascinating for creative practitioners?
It’s the elements of trust and transparency. We have had the internet for over 20 years and it was kind of a mediated person to person communication system. But once you add this element of trust and transparency, we’re starting to see significant changes. Right now, I’m talking to a voice on the other side of the phone and there’s a certain element of trust created by the fact that we were put in touch through people that we know. Blockchain is opening up more of those channels of communication that build trust between makers.
People are almost rethinking the way certain interactions take place. We certainly look forward to creating more and more of these situations through art and hopefully we’ll speak again in six months and we’ll have two or three more projects out there. We could talk in more detail over how they’re actually exposing blockchain technology and creating use cases for it, and how it’s actually changing the interaction around us.