Artists are starting to lean towards crypto-powered fundraising, with Parisian artist Ben Elliot taking the first leap with the Ben Elliot Token (BET), which is to be launched in 2021 on the Stellar (XLM) blockchain network. The tokens are directly linked to his career evolution, meaning that the value of the tokens will presumably fluctuate according to the value of Elliot’s work. According to Elliot’s website, the BET will allow investors “to profit by trading and selling the coin in the form of virtual artworks.” Could cryptocurrency be the future of art dealership?
Elliot stated that “BET is a tangible asset that can be directly converted into artwork. As the internet and social network rise, money, business, creativity and the ways one manages them are shifting. Creatives and influencers monetising their personal content and data have now become more valuable than some traditional industries.”
First, let’s go into what a cryptocurrency actually is. To put it simply, a cryptocurrency is a digital currency. To define it, the first part of the word ‘crypto’ means ‘hidden’ or ‘secret’, which reflects the secure technology that is used to keep track of ownership and payments between users.
Cryptocurrencies exist electronically and use a peer-to-peer system—or blockchain technology, which enables the existence of cryptocurrency. There is no central bank or government to manage it. Initially, blockchain technology was invented for the best-known cryptocurrency, the Bitcoin. Ripple, Litecoin and Ethereum are a few other different types of crypto assets.
So why has Elliot decided to make this move? The artist has been known to explore new systems of emerging trends, creation of values, artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, decentralised internet and, in general, innovation. He often partners with companies from contemporary industries such as tech, advanced lifestyles and entertainment to highlight the concepts and values that they carry. But the context of his work primarily focuses on blurring the lines of reality.
In his extended and ongoing series titled Unreleased Selfies, Elliot released pictures of himself that were never published on social networks printed to the size of a 5’5 smart screen. He says that “They are selfies that I originally took for my Instagram. I never published them because they were not good enough or because they were outtakes of other selfies. It is a kind of behind-the-scenes of my posts.”
Elliot also reflected on his Resin Series, and stated that it started according to two millennial principles: dematerialization; and transactional communication. As observed by NumeroArt’s editor-in-chief, “The truth of reality no longer opposes the fakeness of the virtual, the private sphere is no longer a protected domain,” which directly links to Elliot’s venturing into the crypto-realm.
In an interview with FAD magazine, Elliot was asked ‘what’s real?’. His response being, “A human concept that is slowly losing its meaning.” Art has always lived with a parallel importance to human nature, one being the reason to why art is created, and bought—art as an expression of feeling, the other being for investment purposes—art usually, if marketed and looked after properly, gains value over time. There are multiple reasons why people buy art, of course. But Elliot’s reasoning behind a realness that is losing its meaning, truly reflects our concept of value today.
Something as abstract and conceptual as the reason for art mirrors the understanding of the volatile nature that cryptocurrencies possess. It also introduces the reasoning behind Elliot’s need to launch BET, without the banks or government in control of the value of a piece of art—the artwork’s value lies in the hands of the highest bidder. Instead it will be a collective encrypted database and the creative platform could, as Elliot hopes, open up opportunities for individuals to access these online exhibition or viewing rooms, which are currently limited.
As we know, art is deemed to be broad by character, so BET plans to host physical events called the ‘new summit’, where investors will be able to discuss the trends of the internet market as a whole, the new summit will consist of exhibitions, talks, screenings featuring cultural innovations, also artificial intelligence and robots.
In his words, Elliot claims that BET will join the forces of technology and creativity through cryptocurrency, blockchain and art to make the smartest and most secure artwork ever. We might all be collecting tokens in the form of art next year, but let’s see if we can trust the enigmatic world of electronic money first.
If you too, like me not long ago, found yourself opening crypto wallets and frantically checking the inflation rate of the coins every half hour, turns out that feeling was vastly more complex than simply FOMO of waking up quite literally a multi-millionaire. Much like many addictive aspects out there in our lives, cryptocurrency trading shares many of its traits with gambling and substance abuse. So much so, that in June of this year, Scotland became the first country in the world to open a rehabilitation centre for those battling with cryptocurrency trading addictions.
Yes sure, trading in stocks is also an addiction in its own right, but isn’t the dark side of crypto trading and its addictive byproduct essentially the clearest indicator there can be (a red flag in fact) that the currency is flaky as hell and more unstable than mining coins on a domestic router? The Scottish Castle CraigHospital’s new crypto-addiction department is unique and should not be overlooked for its significant forward thinking. But what should also be notable are the dangers of continuing to pump money into a coin—and a future economy—that is gravely unstable and unpredictable.
“Cryptocurrency users can get hooked by the volatile fluctuation of prices online which creates a ‘high’ when they buy or trade a winning currency” and “this can be exciting but also addictive and… financially disastrous,” said a representative from the clinic. The symptoms of crypto addiction are not dissimilar to those of gambling, from people risking their spare money to groceries funds, rent and mortgages. Yet one of the fundamental differences in regard to crypto addiction is that its success stories, like that friend of a friend who made millions in months or 50 Cent becoming an accidental Bitcoin millionaire, are heavily mediatised. As crypto coins gained immense traction twelve months ago, with Bitcoin reaching a figure of £12,000 per coin and Ethereum and others following in its footsteps, it seemed that everyone wanted to get their hands on it—heck even I went as far as opening a crypto wallet and started to dabble in a trade of a currency I essentially knew nothing about—and I’ve never so much as looked at a stock before.
The bottom line here is not so much a praise for the crypto rehab, nor that we need more, but that the speed with which the industry is excelling has left too many gaps in what we should perceive the currency to be and how it might be regulated. There are still advocates of crypto trading who do not believe an addiction to the trade exists and that, according to Manav Singhal, CEO of the blockchain startup Velix.ID, “Profits and losses are just a part of the trading, and it is no different than trading any other kinds of securities.” Adding that “There’re many reasons that make you trade cryptocurrencies frequently, given how fast things are changing in the industry.” And indeed that is true. But when an industry has boomed so quickly and to no limitation, without regulation (which granted is the great thing about crypto and yes I admit this opens up all sorts of questions to currency regulation), the most financially vulnerable are at very high risk of losing it all, including psychological wellbeing.
Even though Bitcoin is at an all-time low (it has been plummeting since its peak in December 2017 and is now at 68 percent of its then value), and the crypto economy having shed a total $500 billion according to CoinMarketCap, success stories in its trade still surround us—small and large. So as the haze of accidental or fluke crypto cash-ins fades; as the market value drops and as more and more people are being treated for serious addiction issues around it, it might be time to move away from the free-of-regulations dream that this currency promises and truly start to tackle the dangers it poses in real life.