An 8 channel video, installation, net art work, workshop code on github and research paper. An adapted version of the Film will be screened at Bett Gallery during the #MLX launch, 5-6 November 2020.
Lithopy is devised and curated by Denisa Kera and Petr Šourek.
The project Lithopy centres around a design fiction village, Lithopia, to explore extreme scenarios of future data and blockchain governance, integrating resistance by using Hyperledger Composer and Fabric to deploy smart contracts triggered by satellite and drone data. The villagers in this fictional place use satellite and drone data to govern their affairs in an extremely transparent, yet aesthetic manner. They live their lives in front of the all-seeing technical “eyes” of God and Providence, such as Sentinel 2A and B Copernicus satellites, and public drones used as notaries. Special long gestures, large LiCoins, but also acts of covering spaces in land-art, Christo manner at strictly defined times trigger the transactions on the Hyperledger blockchain managed over the Node RED dashboard.
Lithopia has a sister city on the Micronesian island of Yap that uses similar large stone coins to preserve their oral memory of ownership, marriages, and important events. Lithopians deploy their large 3D printed LiCoins visible to satellites and drones in various rituals and transactions that trigger the Hyperledger smart contracts. LiCoins are similar in size to the famous Rai stones, but they also contain lithium (obtained from the old mines in an attempt to reclaim ownership of their natural resources) mixed into the plastic filaments used to 3D print them. The LiCoins are moved around to indicate important transactions and contracts on the blockchain.
For Lithopians, the Hyperledger blockchain is a form of oral culture time-stamping all transactions and emphasizing genealogy over exchanges and stewardship over ownership.
The work’s aesthetic is somewhat ironic, the blockchain and satellite “lithopia” inspired by stories from the mining region of Cinovec about facades of family houses covered in lithium powder. In the 1980s, the former miners had regarded lithium’s glittering powder as a junk material freely available for the exterior decoration of houses. During the 2017 Czech Republic elections, a Lithium craze unleashed, and the winning party scored extra 10 percentage for promising a lithium paradise for all without ever mining even a single grain of lithium ore. The semi-legal facades of the miners family houses suddenly became an unlikely form of fortune, an unintended form of resistance in the speculative lithium wars between the political fractions and corrupt business interests. Kera and Sourek interpret this as a start of the Czech lithium punk genre and a model of management of resources and emergent technologies.
To respond to the populist promises and ongoing speculations in Lithium, but also similar political projects, such as the calls for national blockchain cryptocurrency, the Lithopy team continues in the work of these villagers and their lithium punk genre. They support early and extreme forms of adoption of emergent technologies that reproduce the “facade” effect or a hack and bring unintended forms of resistance as alternative to the speculative and extractive powers to be.
In Lithopia, all sorts of promises and three sorts of mining come together: mineral extraction, big data mining and blockchain mining to explore the Czech lithium punk fantasy. The ideal citizen of Lithopia follows in the steps of the good soldier Švejk and follows ad absurdum all emergent technological protocols to embrace all data structures and alghoritms.
The multiscreen movie that accompanies the blockchcain, LiCoins and Node RED prototypes advertises a Sunny Day in Lithopia:
Packets on a ledger fulfil the **old dream of a divine providence supervising and managing every occurrence and every creature. Blockchain technologies perform what Christianity and Judaism imagined as a continual creation, sometimes described as ( השגחה פרטית Hashgochoh Protis), what Descartes in his “Meditation III” describes as a God that conserves the world by continuously creating it, and what Leibnizian imagines as a pre-established harmony. To stream and timestamp packets on the ledger is to design an all-seeing, all present and perpetually creating God. The timestamps and blocks of all the transactions and activities in the life of the Lithopians is a form of divine providence, but also a magical ritual of protection via God’s eyes.
The project comprises several prototypes of smart contracts, documentation of their testing, a design fiction movie and installation and survey centred on the significant mineral resources of the Czech territory––in particular, lithium. Lithopy questions the practice of this mineral’s extraction and its use.
Denisa Kera is a philosopher and designer that experiments with various creative strategies of public engagement in emerging science and technology issues. She uses design methods (UX, critical design, design fiction, future scenarios, participatory design), ethnography and prototyping to research STS (Science, Technology and Society) issues. Read more about here practice here.
Petr Sourek is a playwright and philosopher. He is founder of The new “Corrupt Tour” company takes groups around Prague, to gawk at places tied to our country’s many political and financial scandals. Read more about his practice here.
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