With the emergence of blockchain technologies, as with every new technological innovation, come sweeping restructurings and changes in all fields. The transformative potential of every new set of tools lies in how they are put to use, and the ways in which they are co-shaped through the concerns, imperatives and visions of those who use them.
Thanks to blockchain, we are now able to experiment with autonomous governance for culture in ways that were never before possible, creating programmable economies around cultural work that can encode shared sets of values, while contributing towards protecting and improving shared resources. Blockchain technologies may be presenting us with a new window of opportunity; an exit strategy from a system that is built to serve the interests of the 1%. The art world is ripe for disruption!
The Trojan DAO is initiated by a group of artists, formed in Athens, during the times of austerity and debt crisis. Building on our experiences of working at a place where most institutions, private and public, are struggling with bankruptcy, and capital controls have put severe restrictions on financial flows. Experiencing the old structures collapsing around us has also been extremely creative, a kind of liberation from fear. As direct results of the crisis, we are surrounded by grassroots experiments in direct democracy and self-organization.
We began to conceive of a way to break free from the limitations of the obsolete systems we find ourselves in, and transform them into a field of new possibilities - while remaining unbureaucratic, responsive and creative! As artists we imagined the future art organizations as themselves being artworks rather than hierarchical structures. We imagined social sculptures, able to be participated in and exited with equal ease, in the place of the age-old systems. Structures that would more closely resemble living adaptive organisms and collaborative distributed works of art, that cannot be censored and that can operate without middlemen and beyond borders. We began to imagine creating a performance-as-institution, an experimental coordination game for the creation of an art world beyond the artificial scarcities and competitive practices that are holding creativity back.
The limitations of the established art industry are well documented: It is a system within which the lack of transparency, the reliance on the perpetuation of precarious and voluntary work, over-bureaucratization and corruption are systemic. It is a system build primarily for the gatekeepers and middlemen to capture value. Ten years after the latest global financial crisis began, the art world emerges more dependant on centralised finance than ever; concentrating its productive resources in the hands of the few, while most, especially those involved in locally focused, community-based cultural practices, struggle for sustainability.
Pursuing this vision, in January 2019, in Aracon, we connected with DAO incubator, a group of DAO developers, researchers and enthusiasts that was forming at the time, and began the process of running community meetings and workshops in Athens exploring the various aspects of DAO creation and participation.
Inspired by the game-theoretical mechanisms of the Moloch DAO, we saw before us a way to “level the field”, a way of incentivizing coordination between the various agents of the cultural ecosystem by collapsing traditionally separate parts of how funds are processed and distributed, into a minimal but powerful process. A mechanism to ensure that inspirational ideas could gain support and flourish no matter who they came from, and no matter how non-conforming they may be. A collective vehicle as a “Trojan Horse” able to operate with equal ease both within and outside the framings of the conventional “art world”. The name is inspired also by this text by Lucy Lippard.
Thus we decided, in the spirit of the “readymade”, to fork the Moloch and repurpose it into collaborative art work.
Trojan springs to life, as a DAO for the creative community — leveraging blockchain technologies and smart contracts so as to re-imagine how a cultural organisation operates and is participated in. Rather than having cultural policy dictated from the “top-down” the Trojan DAO proposes a radical alternative: Participants, creative teams, artists, and patrons can collectively fund cultural work, and the creation of shared infrastructure for cultural practices, while all participants can be involved in the decision-making for the distribution of funds through voting, organizing around common interests, values and artistic ideas of its evolving community. Since its governance infrastructure is embedded into the blockchain, this will enable resources to be allocated quickly, transparently and effectively to where they are most needed, without third-parties and without the red-tape and bureaucracy of conventional cultural institutions. It can enable connecting creators and communities unhindered by borders and capital restrictions, and the funding of artistic efforts that occur outside of the framings of the institutional system, that might have otherwise gone unfunded.
The Trojan DAO can be a tool for activism, a performance, a lobby group and an intervention; It can be used to collectively manage shared resources for art, such as gallery spaces, create decentralised residency programs, and fund exhibitions, workshops, gatherings and hackathons. It can be used to connect creators and communities around the world who share a common vision, a network of mutual support encouraging the flow of resources and fostering grassroots artistic projects.
The Trojan DAO is founded on the understanding that culture is a collaborative process, it results from networks of relations and mutual dependencies, and it involves the ability to shape material that can be expanded to other socially relevant spheres. As creators, to construct systems that better represent us, means that we must be thinking of economic structures surrounding us and define how we relate to each other, as material to be intervened on and shaped artistically. Each one of us has a creative potential, which is hidden by competitiveness. To recognize, explore and develop this potential through blockchain and on the ground is the mission of the Trojan DAO.