DAOWO Global Initiative

DAOWO © Goethe-Institut | Studio Hyte

The DAOWO Global Initiative forges a transnational network of arts and blockchain cooperation with leading international arts and technology institutions and communities in cities around the world.

Together with Furtherfield and the Serpentine Galleries, the Goethe-Institut initiated a global collaboration examining blockchain technologies' potential for the arts and civil society by convening transnational networks of of leading international arts and tech institutions and communities. Our ambition is to seed a new decentralised ecology of open source cultural organisations, built by artists embedded in distributed global communities. Designed to activate collaboration across communities, disciplines and sectors, DAOWO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation With Others) programmes enable participants to interrogate the benefits and pitfalls of blockchain developments for arts, culture and wider society from local perspectives. Events connect visionary artists, cultural workers and blockchain entrepreneurs, together with local initiatives, communities, institutions and businesses to seek new transnational systems and approaches.

The DAOWO Global Initiative Network

In February 2020, we invited cultural practitioners and representatives of non-profit arts and technology organisations from around the world to participate in the Artworld DAO – A 52hr** Gathering. Together we discussed, analysed and mapped the obstacles, opportunities, and implications for progressive, decentralised artworld automation.

This intense learning session and retreat in an English countryside estate allowed cultural community activists to host their own events in their localities and organisations and prototype a DAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation). Participants dissected the “old artworld” and drew on the emerging blockchain artsspace to prototype DAOs as art and for art, to increase solidarity, strangeness, and freedom to take collective action – to create new arts ecologies. A jury of experts awarded funding to prototype progressive art DAOs and artworld DAOs to four successful teams.

Radical Friends

Radical Friends presents results from the DAOWO project and is curated by Ruth Catlow and Penny Rafferty in dialogue with Sarah Johanna Theurer and Julia Pfeiffer. Participants include James Whipple (eea; M.E.S.H.), OMSK Social Club, Jaya Klara Brekke, Harm Van Den Dorpel, Cem Dagdelen, Aude Launay, Sarah Friend, Laura Lotti and Calum Bowden (Black Swan), Bhavisha Panchia and Carly Whitaker (Covalence Studios), Nicolay Spesivtsev and Dzina Zhuk (eeefff), Massimiliano Mollona (Ensembl), as well as Ashley Lee Wong and Andrew Crowe (MetaObjects).

The Online Summit Radical Friends discusses the value of and pathways to peer-produced decentralised digital infrastructures for art, culture and society. It aims to create a new environment for mutual aid and solidarity in the cultural sector. By bringing together ground-breaking players from the cultural sector and decentralised peer-to-peer technologists, the summit explores how traditional organisational patterns can be transformed through decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs) enabled by blockchain technology.

Book Launch

  • Radical Friends Banner © Ruth Catlow

  • Quote Hans Ulrich Obrist © Blockchain Lab

  • Quote Maria Paula Fernandez © Blockchain Lab

  • Quote Ed Fornieles © Blockchain Lab

  • Quote Stefen Deleveaux © Blockchain Lab

  • Quote Billy Rennekamp © Blockchain Lab

  • Quote Amy Ireland © Blockchain Lab

  • Quote Holly Herndon & Mathew Dryhurst © Blockchain Lab

Blockchain Lab, Ruth Catlow and writer Penny Rafferty, editors of this new book, in exploring Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) and their potential in the arts.

In recent years DAOs have been heralded as a powerful stimulus for reshaping how value systems for interdependence and cooperation manifest themselves in arts organising. 

Catlow and Rafferty’s Radical Friends - Decentralised Autonomous Organisations and the Arts consolidates five years of research into a toolkit for fierce thinking, as well as for new forms of radical care and connectivity that move beyond the established systems of centralised control in the art industry and wider financial networks.

At a time when so many are focused on NFTs, Radical Friends refocuses attention on DAOs as potentially the most radical blockchain-based technology for the arts in the long-term. Contributors engage both past and emergent methodologies for building resilient and mutable systems for mutual aid. 

Collectively, the book aims to evoke and conjure new imaginative communities, and to share the practices and blueprints that can help produce them. Radical Friends includes contributions of essays, interviews, exercises, and prototypes from leading thinkers, artists and technologists across this emerging field.

© Blockchain Lab

Ruth Catlow & Penny Rafferty

Ramon Amaro, Calum Bowden, Jaya Klara Brekke, Mitchell F. Chan, Cade Diehm, eeefff, Carina Erdmann, Primavera De Filippi, Charlotte Frost, Max Hampshire, Lucile Olympe Haute, Sara Heitlinger, Lara Houston, Cadence Kinsey, Nick Koppenhagen, Kei Kreutler, Laura Lotti, Jonas Lund, Massimiliano Mollona, MetaObjects, Rhea Myers, Omsk Social Club, Bhavisha Panchia, Legacy Russell, Tina Rivers Ryan, Nathan Schneider, Sam Skinner, Sam Spike, Hito Steyerl, Alex S. Taylor, Cassie Thornton, Suzanne Treister, Stacco Troncoso, Ann Marie Utratel, Samson Young

Mark Simmonds

Cover and Inside Illustrations
Marijn Degenaar

Online Events

DAOWO Sessions - Artworld Prototypes © Goethe-Institut | Studio Hyte

The DAOWO Sessions – Artworld Prototypes is a series of live online events bringing together cultural practitioners and representatives of arts and technology organisations and communities to share learning experiences and challenge the role of the arts in the emerging blockchain space. We are asking: how can DAOs learn from artists to interact with people and communities where they are?

To receive information about forthcoming showcase and discussion events:

(Re-)Watch the Events

The Machine to Eat the Artworld Goethe-Institut / Studio Hyte

4 March 2021: #DAOWO Sessions - Artworld Prototypes
The Machine to Eat the Artworld

The final event: A conversation with the curators of the Artworld DAO think tank and the DAOWO programme. Ruth Catlow and Penny Rafferty interviewed by curator and writer Francesca Gavin.

Hong Kong - Ensembl Goethe-Institut | Studio Hyte

25 February 2021: #DAOWO Sessions - Artworld Prototypes
Hong Kong: Ensembl

An "Ethereum​-Based Platform for Decentralised Organising of Artistic Production" - The project seeks to implement a Decentralised Autonomous Organisation to reflect upon value, revenue, stake, roles, work, collectivity, and sharing in an interdisciplinary context of contemporary music-making: How should value be shared and revenue be distributed in complex collaborative projects? How do we define stakeholders and objects, and how is value attributed? How do we seed a ecosystem rich in resources without dictating its structure? Furthermore, Ensembl deals with questions of authorship and collective forms of artistic production, where objects are never stable or static, but constantly being made, (re)performed, (re)distributed, bringing new life to a piece: Is there such a thing as an original, complete artwork, or is there simply the on-going evolution of culture through collaboration?

Minsk - DAO as Chimera Goethe-Institut / Studio Hyte

11 February 2021: #DAOWO Sessions - Artworld Prototypes
Minsk: DAO as Chimera

A "science-fiction of the present-day": this initiative is a network and a live action role play​ game that serves as a place to gather and preserve the speculative knowledge about 2020 blockchains – and speculate on future histories of blockchains, when all DAOs will have happened, and blockchains will have become "reptile" technologies. The project by eeefff aims to provide a view on the cultural, tech and start-up sphere in Belarus, to free the emancipatory potential of collectivity by experimenting with its inner logic, and to suspend the – apparent – neutrality and progressiveness of automated financial technologies.

DAO - Johannesburg Goethe-Institut / Studio Hyte

4 February 2021: #DAOWO Sessions - Artworld Prototypes
Johannesburg: Covalence Studios

This session connects with Johannesburg’s DAO to introduce Covalence Studio, a network of resources, skills and support for artists and creative practitioners with the goal to rethink equitable artistic practices that can thrive under restricted movements and collapsing economic infrastructures. The project is managed by Bhavisha Panchia, Chad Cordeiro and Carly Whitaker.

DAO Berlin Black Swan Goethe-Institut / Studio Hyte

28 January 2021: #DAOWO Sessions - Artworld Prototypes
Berlin: Black Swan DAO

This first event introduced BLACK SWAN DAO, an experimental initiative which responds to the increasing precarisation of cultural labour by providing practitioners with tools to collaboratively organise and share resources. The project is managed by Laura Lotti and Calum Bowden from Trust, an interdisciplinary research and development lab in Berlin for artists, designers, technologists, and ecologists working with advanced technologies and experimental theories.

A publication accompanies the series: 'Open sourcing the Philosopher's Stone - An Artworld DAO Reader' is the culmination of four years of cross-disciplinary practice focusing on the phenomenon of Artworld DAO as apparatus and stimulus for experimentation between artists, engineers, and mystics who are rebuilding global artworld imaginaries in a cooperative vein to shape new cultural value systems. The book contains contributors by leading thinkers and practitioners in the field, and is a collection of essays and artworks, along with interviews, conversations, blueprints, exercises and practices. It is intended as an informed archive and a toolkit for further use. 

Voices from the Community

The Teams

Talking Culture - Episode #2

Past DAOWO Activations

The DAOWO blockchain laboratory and debate series for reinventing the arts has been running since 2017. Following the 2017-18 DAOWO series, the 2019 DAOWO UK Summits brought together the worlds of art and blockchain, and laid the foundations for a global transnational network.

Focused on establishing greater cooperation between the arts and blockchain industry, leading researchers and key artworld actors convened in a series of events. Discussions focus on potential cultural and social impacts, technical affordances and opportunities for developing new blockchain technologies for fairer, more dynamic and connected cultural ecologies and economies.

Curatorial Team

The DAOWO blockchain laboratory and debate series and the DAOWO UK Summits were developed by Ruth Catlow and Ben Vickers in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut. Penny Rafferty joined the curatorial team to co-develop the Artworld DAO – A 52hr** Gathering and DAOWO Global Initiative together with the Goethe-Institut.

DAOWO GIF © © DAOWO | Studio Hyte DAOWO GIF © DAOWO | Studio Hyte

Ruth Catlow © © Ruth Catlow Ruth Catlow © Ruth Catlow
Ruth Catlow is an artist, curator and researcher of emancipatory network cultures, practices and poetics that embrace more than human interests. She is artistic director of Furtherfield, a hub for critical explorations in art and technology, a community of radical friends who carry out fieldwork in human and machine imagination, founded with Marc Garrett in London, in 1996. She co-edited Artists Re:Thinking the Blockchain (2017). Ruth is director of DECAL Decentralised Arts Lab, a Furtherfield initiative which mobilises research and development by artists, using blockchain and web 3.0 technologies for fairer, more dynamic and connected cultural ecologies and economies.

Penny Rafferty © © Hannah Rumstedt Penny Rafferty © Hannah Rumstedt
Penny Rafferty
 a writer and visual theorist based in Berlin, is one of the co-founders of the blockchain-based micro-economy-in-the-arts platforms Ishtar Gate and The Black Swan DAO. Her theoretical essays and creative texts have been commissioned for Cura, Kaleidoscope Magazine, Keen on, Taz.de, NRW Düsseldorf, Flash Art and Elephant Magazine amongst others. She co-developed the think tank series Artworld DAO’s with Ruth Catlow in coordination with The Serpentine and Futherfield and continues to work as both an auditor and researcher in the tech cultural field.

Ben Vickers © © Ben Vickers Ben Vickers © Ben Vickers

Ben Vickers is a curator, writer, publisher, technologist and luddite. He is CTO at the Serpentine Galleries in London, co-founder of Ignota Books and an initiator of the open-source monastic order unMonastery.


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