Blockchain’s first Arab-led, pan-regional NFT art exhibit

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New Arab talks with Withara about the latest exhibition ARQAAM. This is the first Arab-led pan-regional NFT exhibition on a blockchain platform featuring digital artists in the Global North and Global South.

As the information age has pushed us deeper into the unknown, the intensity of technological mutations has provided a new way for culture to be heard, seen, and become.

New and popular media formats such as TikTok, Clubhouse and Discord have revolutionized the way we interact with the virtual world. This created a new form of intercultural relationships and changed the way we perceive memory, body and space.

Nevertheless, data saturation also led to collective blindness. As algorithms have become a fundamental part of rational choice, our own significant abilities are paralyzed. More and more people’s beliefs about the world are now determined by their technical gaze.

“As the Metaverse gets closer and closer, the way we see the world is constantly changing, influenced by the blurring of identity and culture.”

So how can we stay ahead given these enthusiastic innovations? Can you actually go ahead? Such questions have been plagued for decades.write in Time magazine Fifty years ago, RZ Shepherd said: “Just as fish can’t conceptualize water and birds, humans have little understanding of the information space that is the layer around electronic smog.” For most of the world’s population, this analogy is still relevant today. there is.

The global digital divide, maliciously exposed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, has highlighted the consequences of not being given the same level of information access to some of the population. Again, the Global North and Global South still seems to be lagging behind.

Nevertheless, New arab Cairo-based platform Wizara, sat down on the first blockchain-based platform that artists built for artists and chatted about their exhibits ARQAAMOutside of Silicon Valley’s cabled servers, it’s clear that there are signs of how we – the postcolonial generation – can lead the way to this brave new world.

Wizara is the first blockchain-based platform for artists primarily based on the Global North and Global South. ARQAAM The first NFT-led exhibition.

Its purpose is to foster a new paradigm for the African, Arab and Asian digital art scenes. By putting trust in the blockchain, he claims to be the next great equalizer, at least in early childhood.

So what is a blockchain? There is no doubt that I heard the words echoing from the conference room to the pub table.

A blockchain is a completely undamaged network of digital ledgers that provides a clear history of transactions configured within the database’s computer network and is accessible to anyone in the network.

As a system, blockchain is virtually impossible to modify, hack, or cheat on the system, giving full power to those who trade within the system.With Withara ARQAAMThe artist who sells the work as NFT (Non-Fungible Tokens) on the blockchain has complete autonomy for the work, and the purchaser knows that the artist’s work is his own and cannot be forged. I can be sure.

At this point, the word ARQAAM is noteworthy. As co-founder Adham Hafez explained, the Arabic word means “number”, a classic example of how the Eurocentric world adopted the achievements of other civilizations and their sources were forgotten. is.

We use Arabic numerals every day and they support our daily lives. Still, “its history and knowledge of sharing and coexistence” is a passing fact, given little importance. ARQAAM Playfully rejecting this peculiar story of historical events, rejecting only Western lenses, providing a modern, perhaps futuristic way for artists to create and define their own heritage. ..

The project explores common questions that shape a team of artists, without focusing on specificity or themes. What is the future of the body in the age of artificial intelligence (AI), what will happen to us, how performance will change, how it is stored in memory, a machine to imagine the future Shows how optimally can be molded. We vs. them, not ours.

More than 20 artists from various countries such as Egypt, Sri Lanka, Syria, Kenya, Palestine, South Korea and Armenia are participating. ARQAAM “The moment you enter a conversation, name a definition, rename it, and work together.”

“Just as fish can’t conceptualize water and birds, humans have little understanding of their information space, the layers around electronic smog.”

In his groundbreaking essay collection, Soul of the Black Fork (1903), WEB Du Bois first described “double consciousness” as an inherent characteristic of racialized minorities within a repressive system, but it still inevitably interacts with it.

Especially in relation to the postcolonial generation, this gave us two ways to see the world: through the lens of the oppressive majority and as an outsider with a unique culture. This double line of sight is the core of Withara, ARQAAM: Looking back on the past, examining the present, and exploring the future.

One such work that symbolizes this is the Lamia Goda doll. quarantine.. The latter is a belly dancer riding in a car in the KitKat district of Cairo looking for the lost wreckage of the infamous cabaret.She decorates traditional costumes Vedra – Fitted bra, hip belt, full-length skirt.

While Bob together, she looks for past companions for adventure, but still finds only indifference to the urban environment: fast fashion, soulless eateries, banks. She is a lost profession and is lost in the knowledge profession.Her position as a supporter of raas al baladi, Now resigned to Oriental art and colonial aesthetics.

Quarantine proves that many artists in the Global North and Global South are always quarantined. Faced with both local and global disconnections from their art, their only comfort can be found within the platform without politics and judgment. Quarantina, evacuating to the blockchain, hopes that her art form will not be lost, or at least reminiscent of her former appearance.

Lamia Gouda has created a series of photographs, videos, and GIF art that explore the history of belly dancing and its location in a rapidly changing city.This series gives a glimpse behind the scenes and records how public spaces react to belly dancers, even when shown by quarantine of puppets rather than humans. [Wizara/ARQAAM]

Probably the most impressive work ARQAAM However, it comes from Moroccan interdisciplinary artist and coder Ahmed El Shaer.

Ahmed’s dialogue with machines engaged in conversations with AI deals with how machines can conceptualize paradise. When El Shaer uses MIT’s software to convert text from scriptures (both monotheistic and polytheistic) into code, the software converts the code into images. Surprisingly, Ahmed did not enter the image into the software, only the text.

The following expressions are the result of how the machine imagines our own calculations and creates important metaphysical and apocalyptic questions for us to think about.

“AI Heaven”-AI-generated painting by Ahmed El Shaer. The depictions created by these human-AI interactions create a temporary Trompe-l’Ouille expression reminiscent of Persian miniatures and Baroque architectural motifs. [Wizara/ARQAAM]

As El Shaer explained, what excited him most about this project was his faith given to the car. “You never knew what was coming out. I always think we are the ones who come up with visual expressions.” His series of work is ARQAAM Our cook’s belief in the afterlife proves that it may not be so original after all.

“With over 20 artists from different countries including Egypt, Sri Lanka, Syria, Kenya, Palestine, South Korea and Armenia, ARQAAM begins conversations, names and renames definitions and collaborates. It’s the moment to work. “

Of course, with the establishment of Withara, ARQAAM I wouldn’t come without a challenge. There are many artists who resist NFTs and blockchains, mainly because of the electrical stress on the environment. Wizara is trying to find a way around this, and as co-founder Adham Hafez said, there is a way to do it by using a form of blockchain called Polygon. New arab, “Make it green”.

Resistance is likely to come from an established structure on the internet.The day before the exhibition went live, Harfez said New arab Their Instagram account was shadow-banned, so any form of promotion was largely unaffected.

For those who work in digital activism, such silence is an unfortunate factor in their process. During the recent Israeli attack on Gaza in May, those trying to thwart Instagram’s so-called “community guidelines” will engage in many different tactics heard. Again, the irony of avoiding the “algorithm” originally created by the Islamic polymath Al-Khwarizmi was not lost.

As the Metaverse gets closer and closer, the way we see the world is constantly changing, influenced by the blurring of identity and culture. As Wizara proves, such changes require us to create unique cultural products that not only have a “shelf life” but can also provide a new creative ontology component. increase.

This responsibility is not lost even in the postcolonial generation, who see cultural objects and formations as a powerful weapon against Eurocentrism.

Through cultural expression, historical oppression, and the growing dystopian ties in the city center, we influence the possibilities of space and time, rethinking the silent history and previously forgotten groups. It has the power to make it possible. Wizara is one such pioneer who undertook this fateful task.

Benjamin Ashraf is a non-visiting researcher at the University of Jordan’s Faculty of International Studies and a researcher at the University of Jordan’s Center for Strategic Research. He is also part of the New Arab editorial team.

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