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GLOBAL ART FORUM 15: ‘THIS IS THE PICTURE’




The 15th edition of the Global Art Forum, commissioned by Shumon Basar, was entitled ‘This is the Picture’ and examined the worlds of digital artefacts and crypto economies. The programme was in dialogue with the new Art Dubai Digital section.  This year’s Forum took place on March 10, 12-13, 2022, during Art Dubai at Madinat Jumeirah. 

We have seen a Great Reversal over the last decade: online is no longer secondary to offline. Are we now extensions of our screens? We are seeing new values emerge from new virtual assets, as scarcity of digital space and objects can finally be measured. Art and culture have always mirrored social and technological change. Where are we heading next?   

‘This is the Picture’ invited artists, curators, creators, thinkers and technologists to explore sessions around: 

  • Innovative NFT art platforms and projects featured at Art Dubai Digital and beyond
  • Digital communities, also known as Decentralized Autonomous Organisations
  • The promises and perils of a Web 3.0 world
  • Crypto Subcultures and the Meme Economy
  • The emerging aesthetics of the meta-verse
  • How legacy audiences and institutions are engaging with these accelerated developments

These lectures, discussions and conversations — combining in-situ sessions with live video appearances — were like a revealing screenshot of our evolving times. 

Guests included: Guy Ullens, Jérôme Neutres, Ryan Zurrer, Judith Benhamou-Huet, Holly Herndon, Mat Dryhurst, Dorian Batycka, CyberBaat, Morrow collective, NFT Asia, Fingerprints DAO, Kevin Buist, Daniel Felstead, Ruba Al Sweel, Lawrence Lek and Saeed Hareb Al Darmaki.



Highlight Sessions



GLOBAL ART FORUM 15: FULL PROGRAMME


ART DUBAI, MINA A’SALAM, MADINAT JUMEIRAH


6:30-7:15pm

THIS IS DIGITAL HISTORY
DIALOGUE
Philanthropist and Collector Guy Ullens and Chief Curator, Guy & Myriam Ullens Foundation Jérôme Neutres
Starting with Chinese scroll paintings from the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, Guy and Myriam’s adventures in collecting and philanthropy have spanned several decades and continents. Having founded the influential Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, Beijing, in 2007, more recently, the Swiss based Fondation Guy and Myriam Ullens has started a new chapter collecting historically significant computing and digital art from the 1960s till today, with over a hundred works already in place.




7:15-8:00pm

THIS IS THE NOW
DIALOGUE
Founder of Dialectic Ryan Zurrer and Art Journalist Judith Benhamou-Huet
In November 2021, it was revealed by Christie’s that Beeple’s physical and digital work, a two meter tall LED screen sculpture of an astronaut strolling through a dystopian landscape, had been sold to Swiss venture capitalist Ryan Zurrer for some $29 million. It marked yet another landmark in the recent history of digital, blockchain oriented art. In this dialogue, Zurrer chartered his journey from crypto investment and entrepreneurship to building an art collection, and why he has become such a vocal enthusiast for NFT art.




ART DUBAI, MINA A’SALAM, MADINAT JUMEIRAH


2:30-2:45pm

THIS IS THE PICTURE
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION
By Global Art Forum Commissioner Shumon Basar




2:45-3:45pm

IS THIS AN ESCAPE 
DISCUSSION
Artists Holly Herndon and Mat Dryhurst. Hosted by Shumon Basar
Machine learning, audio deepfakes, Web3 powered artistic autonomy. Holly Herndon and Mat Dryhurst wield diverse technological and discursive tools. Their work encompasses electronic music, generative animated NFTs, a Zeitgeist podcast (Interdependence), and now, a new collaborative, decentralized media organization with like-minded creators (Channel). All of which garnered their inclusion in this year’s ArtReview Power 100, where they were described as “indispensable guides to our digital future.”




3:45-4:00pm

THIS IS DEFIWGMINFTRSIFLIP
INTERLUDE
Art Journalist and Curator Dorian Batycka
To the uninitiated, the world of cypto/blockchain/NFTism is a disorienting deluge of incomprehensible terms and acronyms. To the initiated, this babel is a badge of belonging. Dorian Batycka presented a wry, abridged glossary — and what this new language tells us about the culture around these new technologies.




4:00-4:30pm

THESE ARE ECTOGAMES 
LECTURE
Independent Critic, Curator, Design Strategist Kevin Buist
Ectogames are NFT projects that offer elements of games but lack the organizing form of a game. Kevin Buist — who invented the term — explained this inverted logic, and what their unstructured play reveals about the potential next relationships between art and games using blockchain technologies.




4:30-5:30pm

THIS IS THE WAY (PART 1)
DISCUSSION
CyberBaat, Morrow collective and NFT Asia.
Hosted by  Shumon Basar
Three collectives from the new Art Dubai Digital section shared their journeys in building NFT platforms, audiences and communities, across the Global South.





ART DUBAI, MINA A’SALAM, MADINAT JUMEIRAH


2:30-2:45pm

THIS IS THE PICTURE
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION
By Global Art Forum Commissioner Shumon Basar




2:45-3:45pm

THIS IS THE WAY (PART 2)
DISCUSSION
Fingerprints DAO, GAZELL.iO and Product Manager (NFTs) at Nansen.ai Paul Harwood
Hosted by  Shumon Basar
The second session featured some of today’s most innovative blockchain first entities, and their work framing digital practices and products.




3:45-4:00pm

THEY DON’T KNOW THIS IS A MEME
INTERLUDE
Art Journalist and Curator Dorian Batycka
Over the last year, we have seen the tumultuous arrival of the crypto-memeconomy. Equally, the simplest caricature of NFT art comes in the meme-friendly form of dogs, apes, punks and low-res rocks. Are memes the civilization we deserve, or a curse we have to bear? Dorian Batycka analyzed the cultural logic of meme capitalism: pamp, damp, rinse and repeat.




4:00-4:40pm

AM I THE METAVERSE
DISCUSSION
Academic Daniel Felstead and Writer and Researcher Ruba Al Sweel. Hosted by  Shumon Basar
If Second Life is now First Life, what isn’t the metaverse anymore? Daniel Felstead presented the hyped promises and painful realities of this corporate-led reality-reboot, where Web2.0 and Web3.0 vye for credibility and domination. And Ruba Al Sweel described recent developments in regional artists’ digital aesthetics, and whether the “Continental Vibe” is the inevitable look of our metaverses to come.




4:40-5:00pm

THIS IS NEPENTHE
PRESENTATION
Simulation Artist Lawrence Lek
We traveled into Lawrence Lek’s latest virtual world, Nepenthe, named after a fictional medicine from Greek mythology that made you forget. Explored themes of memory and site-specific architecture, gaming and healing, Nepenthe — and its NFT derivatives, on show at Art Dubai Digital — drew on speculative links between mental health and simulation.




5:00-5:30pm

THIS IS THE CRYPTO ZONE 
FIRESIDE CHAT
Founder and CEO of Sheesha Finance Saeed Al Darmaki 
For several years, Dubai and the UAE have explored ways of nurturing one of the most forward looking crypto and blockchain driven ecologies. In this conversation, Saeed Al Darkmarki outlined some of the notable public and private sector initiatives in this space, including the recently announced Dubai World Trade Centre crypto zone.




COMMISSIONER



Shumon Basar is a writer, editor and curator. He is author of the books The Extreme Self: Age of You and The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present, both with Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Together, they co-curated the large-scale exhibition Age of You at MOCA Toronto and Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai. In addition to being Commissioner of Art Dubai’s Global Art Forum since 2011, Basar has also been a member of Fondazione Prada’s “Thought Council;” a curator at Porto’s Fórum do Futuro; and has editorial/advisory roles at the magazines TANKBidoun032c and Flash Art.


CONTRIBUTORS’ BIOGRAPHIES

Ruba Al-Sweel is a writer and researcher with a focus on online movements and digital communications. Her writing has appeared in the Brooklyn Rail, Art Asia Pacific, VICE among others. She holds a master’s degree in media and creative industries from SciencesPo, Paris, and currently manages global communications at Art Jameel.


Saeed Hareb Al Darmaki is the Founder of Sheesha Finance and MD of Casper Labs MENA Region. Nominated Investor of the Year at the AIBC Summit UAE, Saeed has investments in 40+ crypto projects and is a board member of various organisations, including RealEx, MENA Fintech Association, and many more.


Dorian Batycka is a curator and art writer based in between Europe and Dubai. He has been active in crypto and NFTs since 2017, when he co-founded Kineticoin. Since 2021, he has been working to bring socially engaged art to the blockchain via SPSK. His writing can be found in Hyperallergic, CoinDesk, Decrypt, Artnet News and the Art Newspaper, where he covers the trials, tribulations and lulz of the art market.


Judith Benhamou-Huet is a French journalist, an independent curator and the author of a number of books.  In June 2022 she is co -curating an exhibition at the Guggenheim Bilbao:  Serra, Seurat, drawings. She created Judith Benhamou Reports  five years ago  where she writes and make videos about art, artists and the artmarket . For 30 years she has also been a columnist for the French economic newspaper Les Echos and her blog can be found here. 


Kevin Buist is an independent critic, curator, design strategist, and former Artistic Director of ArtPrize, where he oversaw artists, operations, and design. He holds a MA in Visual and Critical Studies from Kendall College of Art and Design.


Mat Dryhurst releases music, research and artworks solo and in conjunction with creative partner Holly Herndon. He teaches at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute and hosts discussions with figures shaping 21st century culture on the Interdependence podcast. He is a founder of channel.xyz.


Daniel Felstead is Course Leader of the MA Fashion Media & Communication at London College of Fashion (UAL) and co-founder of The Emergence of Tomorrow: World Building for a Post-Growth Existence. His PhD explored the work of Tino Sehgal in relation to concepts of plasticity, materiality and the speculative.


Chris Fussner is a design strategist, cultural laborer and founder of Tropical Futures Institute rooted in Cebu, Philippines. Chris studied Design Strategy and Research at Parsons School of Design and is currently based in Milan/Discord. He is interested in innovation cycles, gaming, collective intelligence and a class at Parsons known as ‘post planetary design’ inspired him into the space of cryptocurrency and NFTs. He is currently the curator of Art Dubai’s Digital section, and is presenting a solo exhibition of Tammy Nguyen at S.E.A. Focus as well as doing general day to day DAO labor.


Paul Harwood is the product manager for NFTs at Nansen.ai, an associate lecturer at Falmouth University and visiting lecturer for the Royal College of Arts. He is currently in the later stages of a PhD where he actively researches value created by networks and communities brought together by web3.


Holly Herndon is an American multi-disciplinary artist. Her work involves augmentation of her voice and image, facilitated by critical research in Artificial Intelligence and decentralized infrastructure. She recently distributed ownership of her voice to the Holly+DAO, and publishes her thoughts through the
Interdependence podcast.She completed her doctorate in Composition at Stanford University working with the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). Her influential musical works PROTO and Platform are represented by 4AD.


Lawrence Lek (b. 1982, Frankfurt am Main) is an artist, filmmaker, and musician working in virtual reality and simulation. His practice explores artificial intelligence and worldbuilding – drawing upon computer generated imagery and gaming software – as a form of collage, incorporating elements from the material, sonic and virtual worlds to develop narratives of alternate histories and speculative futures.


Jerome Neutres, PhD, a writer and curator, was born in France in 1970. After completing his studies in literature and semiology of the text and the image, he has been curating some forty art shows since 1996, among which the acclaimed digital exhibition “Artists & robots” at the Astana International Expo (2017), and in the Grand palais, Paris (2018). His researches focused mainly on pioneer artists and innovative forms and mediums of art. Former director for Strategy at the Réunion des musées nationaux-Grand palais, Paris, where he has been working 10 years, and former president of the Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, he has also served in an earlier career as Cultural Attaché of France successively in Spain, in India and in the USA. He focuses today on his independent art curations and productions. He is since 2019 the chief curator of the Guy & Myriam Ullens Foundation, for which he is developing an ambitious comprehensive collection of digital art.


Hito Steyerl (born 1966 in Munich, Germany) is a filmmaker and writer based in Berlin.


Guy Ullens is a Belgian citizen, born in 1935 in San Francisco, and living in Switzerland. After graduating from Leuven Law University and completing a MBA at Stanford, he ran a large industrial family group during some 40 years, transforming a local business into a large active investment fund worldwide named Artal. Since he retired from the business activities in 2000, he has been developing major philanthropic projects. Guy Ullens started collecting art in the 1960’s, with a focus on new territories and pioneer artists. He combined various collections before becoming in the 1990’s the pioneer of the discovery of the contemporary Chinese art scene, accumulating some 1500 works by young masters like Zeng Fanzhi or Huang Yong Ping.


Ryan Zurrer is founder of Dialectic, a bespoke invite-only crypto-wealth family-office based in Zug, Switzerland, managing approximately 1 billion in AUM. Ryan has been an active venture capitalist for nearly a decade focused on decentralized networks and alternative funding mechanisms. He has been the first capital in the door in a plethora of top-tier crypto projects including Ethereum, MakerDAO, Polkadot, Filecoin, Sky Mavis and dozens of others. Ryan was the first employee at Polychain Capital where he lead Polychain’s investment team and sat on the board of the Web 3 Foundation. Prior to that Ryan spent a decade in utility-scale renewables focused on BRIC countries and built more than 1GW of clean energy. Ryan also runs a bioscience venture fund called Vine Ventures which is the leading capital pool in the emerging psychedelics space which recently closed the first for-profit funding mechanism for MAPS. Ryan is a graduate with distinction of the Richard Ivey School of Business.


MORROW collective is an NFT curatorial initiative founded in March 2021 by Claire Harris, Anna Seaman and Jen Stelco, and aims to bring the traditional art world into the NFT space through hybrid exhibitions, showcasing physical art, NFTs and augmented reality. MORROW are owners of multiple Metaverse gallery spaces, where collectors around the world can appreciate the quality of curation remotely. MORROW prides itself on sourcing art for its substance and narrative, creating dialogue between highly established artists as well as emerging talents.


NFT Asia is a digital-native community uplifting Asian and Asia-based artist. Founded by a team of artists and curators across the traditional and digital art worlds, we are focused on sharing resources, creating opportunities, and fostering close connections. Since our founding in early 2021, we now have 12,000 active members across our channels.


Fingerprints DAO is a digital collective that supports an ecosystem of web3 cultural organisations. Through its collection and by collaborating with artists, the DAO champions the use of blockchain as an artistic medium in its own right.


GAZELL.iO is the digital art arm of Gazelli Art House comprising of physical space in the Lower Ground floor of 39 Dover Street, GAZELL.iO Project Space, and a dynamic online exhibition programme including GAZELL.iO Residency, NFT initiatives and collaborations and a permanently installed VR Library. Since 2015, GAZELL.iO Residency has offered a unique insight into the environments of some of the most recognised and upcoming VR and AR artists. The four-week online Residency allows artists to take creative control of the domain, enabling them to code their online universe, showcase their artistic journey, and interact with their audience directly. The Residency grew into an annual exhibition series Enter Through the Headset, the fifth anniversary of which was celebrated in 2020 by an exhibition and the launch of a permanent display of the VR Library. Showcasing previous GAZELL.iO residents, visitors can book here to come and experience the growing selection of VR works at 39 Dover Street. GAZELL.iO aims to bring digital art pioneers and a new generation of artists to a broader audience through its dynamic exhibition and educational program.


CyberBaat is a collective of artists of African descent in the metaverse. We support our collective with the platform to grow their creative careers in ways that serve them and their communities.


  

Programme supporter of the Global Art Forum


ABOUT THE GLOBAL ART FORUM



Global Art Forum is an annual, transdisciplinary summit, based in Dubai, which combines original thinking and contemporary themes in an intimate, live environment. Since 2007, the Forum has been a key part of Art Dubai’s extensive cultural programming. Featuring live talks guided by a curated theme, Global Art Forum has brought together over 500 global minds from pop culture to renowned academia: artists, curators, museum directors, filmmakers, novelists, historians, philosophers, technologists, entrepreneurs, musicians and performers. Central to Global Art Forum’s continuing success is the dialogue the platform fosters across disciplines, reporting from every part of the world to paint a truly 21st century portrait of how the globalised world thinks. The Forum has been invited to present special editions at the Royal Academy of Arts, London; and the ArtScience Museum, Singapore.



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