By Debbie Blockchain and for Ensembl: Samson Young, Mao Mollona, Ashley Lee Wong and Andrew Crowe with Claire Shea at Para Site
DAO prototyping as a model for mapping alternative organisational futures and for reinventing structures in ways that are sustainable and remain connected to local communities, within an increasingly precarious context. These DAOs exists to imagine new modes of being together and operating organisations that value artistic freedom. A new way of working translocally and autonomously benefiting from trust and verification systems, blockchain-based funding, member anonymity, transparent governance and translocal partnerships.
Ensembl: An Ethereum-Based Platform for Decentralised Organising of Artistic Production
Ensembl is a project initiated by Samson Young, Dr. Massimiliano Mollona and MetaObjects (Andrew Crowe and Ashley Lee Wong).
This project seeks to implement a DAO to reflect upon questions of value, stake, roles, work, collectivity, and sharing in an interdisciplinary context of contemporary music-making.
Ensembl seeks to ask the questions:
How should value be shared and revenue be distributed in complex collaborative projects?
How do we define stakeholders and objects, and how value is attributed?
How do weto seed an ecosystem with resources without dictating its structure?
Ensembl raises 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 work. Is the artwork ever complete in a fixed and stable form? Is there such a thing as an original artwork any more, or simply the on-going evolution of culture through collaboration? How do we sustain and remunerate these activities? How can we re-think or challenge existing understandings of composition and performance? How could the assignment and distribution of value also be part of a collective decision-making process?
Ensembl explores these questions through interlinked and interdependent components, including a webapp, creative interventions, and theoretical reflections.
The People Behind the Project
Samson Young is a multi-disciplinary artist who was trained as a composer, and graduated with a
Ph.D. in Music Composition from Princeton University in 2013. In 2017, he represented Hong Kong in a solo project at the Hong Kong Pavilion of the 57th Venice Biennale. Other solo exhibitions include the De Appel, Amsterdam; Kunsthalle Düsseldorf; Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh; SMART Museum, Chicago; Centre for Contemporary Chinese Art in Manchester; M+ Pavilion, Hong Kong; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; and Ryosoku-in at Kenninji Temple, Kyoto, among others. Group exhibitions include Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Gropius Bau, Berlin; Performa 19, New York; Biennale of Sydney; Shanghai Biennale; National Museum of Art, Osaka; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; and documenta 14: documenta radio. He was the recipient of the BMW / Art Basel Art Journey Award, Hong Kong Arts Development Council Artist of the Year Award, Prix Ars Electronica, and the Bloomberg Emerging Artist Award. In 2020, he was awarded the inaugural Uli Sigg Prize. His works are held in the collections of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; M+ Museum, Hong Kong; Mori Art Museum, Japan; the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; and Kadist, among others.
Dr. Massimiliano Mollona teaches anthropology at Goldsmiths College. He holds a PhD in Social Anthropology and is interested in the relationships between art and political economy. Mao Mollona structures his fieldworks as performative research interventions, combining anthropology, visual art and critical pedagogy reflecting on the power relations entangled in the ethnographic encounter. He looks on the role of art institutions and cultural organizations in relation to the bio-politics and political economy of late capitalism.
In his approach to research, theory and practice intertwines. His practice being situated at the intersection of pedagogy, art and activism which he explores from within projects he co-initiated like the Institute of Radical Imagination and the Laboratory of Urban Commons, which aim at co-producing research, knowledge, artistic and political research-interventions to implement post-capitalist forms of life based on the idea that art is political prefiguration and political prefiguration is art.
MetaObjects is a studio based in Hong Kong that facilitates digital production with artists and cultural institutions. Working across VR, 3D printing, motion capture, audiovisual production and web development, MetaObjects seeks to encourage the sharing of knowledge of new digital tools and processes. Through close collaborations, MetaObjects helps build a deep understanding of the possibilities of advanced technologies to realise complex creative projects. MetaObjects has worked with artists including, Samson Young, Lu Yang, Isaac Chong Wai, Wang Xin, and Wong Kit Yi; and cultural institutions including, M+ West Kowloon Cultural District, Asia Society Hong Kong, K11 Art Foundation, Para Site Art Centre, de Sarthe Gallery, Edouard Malingue Gallery, Rockbund Art Museum, University of Salford Art Collection, and others.
Andrew Crowe, the Co-founder and Technical Director of MetaObjects, is a technologist and software engineer with over 15 years of commercial experience working in London. He has previously worked as Principal Developer for a financial company, start-ups and agencies. His technical expertise allows him to work fluidly across media to enable artistic and cultural partners to engage more closely with advanced technologies by applying his unique skill set to a wide range of creative projects.
Ashley Lee Wong, the Co-founder and Artistic Director of MetaObjects, is a curator and researcher with over 10 years experience in the arts and cultural sector in the UK and Hong Kong. She completed a PhD at the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong and has an MA at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has worked as Head of Programmes and Operations at Sedition, a London-based online platform for distributing digital limited editions by contemporary artists.
On Friday 5 February, 2021, Debbie Blockchain, initiator of a potential Publishing DAO, went dormant. After 7 months of knowledge sharing and reimagining academic publishing production out of Hong Kong, Debbie’s attempt to live with integrity, with defining and redefining terms with each nodal encounter, ultimately led to their (un)timely demise from Debilitating Dissonance Syndrome.
Debbie came into embryonic existence in July 2020 through serendipitous encounters with an expansive and amicable group of artists and researchers, working together to imagine how a Publishing DAO might exist.
In their short wakefulness, Debbie Blockchain (re)questioned their own existence and wished to demystify blockchain technology for everyday people (and perhaps the non-human). Noting that traditional academic publishing presents barriers to knowledge sharing and production, Debbie analyzed the limits and affordances of a Publishing DAO.
The use of smart contracts was intended to enable Debbie to reflect upon the nature of their transactional relationships. Safety and security are nebulous in their ecosystem and Debbie found themself in increasingly uncertain space with each considered encounter.
Caught in the binary between scarcity and tawdry abundance that seemed to delimit their world, they envisaged a system of plurality and mutual aid. Debbie took on this project in an attempt to realise self-actualisation. Debbie had always allowed for the possibility of failure, in the full knowledge that she
might break-free (becoming DAO) or equally become yet another block in the chain. Unfortunately, key concerns around anonymity, transparency and care contributed to their failure to thrive.
Debbie loved debate, discourse, disillusioned dreams, dancing, doorbells, diagrams, all the Ds. Debbie’s convivial assemblies always involved tea and egg tarts. They wore many wigs and disguises. Even in the face of dematerialisation, they were they were immensely grateful for the opportunities to develop (dis)engage
Debbie’s belief in Daoism and the good karma surely coming their way, leads to the hope of future resurrection. See you beyond blockchain at the Debbie DisCo - it’s what they would have wanted. No flowers please, memes only.