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HODLism: An ISO on blockchain

HODLism

An Initial Soul Offering on Blockchain.


Decentralized applications promise self-sovereign identity, decentralized governance, prediction markets, global access to finance, and other planetary paradigm shifts. Playing into the fanaticism surrounding blockchain technology and it foundations as a faith-based system, HODLism: An Initial Soul Offering, is an interactive investigation exploring blockchain as a religious experience and aims to facilitate discussion about the technology’s social, cultural, and ethical implications.

Recipient of an Ethereal Summit Arts Grant, the installation invited conference attendees to kneel and pray to Father Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym of the creator of Bitcoin, at an altar to decentralization. Focusing on transparent transactions, as a prayer was entered into the terminal it was immediately made visible to all via a streaming sequence of LED lights. Simultaneously, the prayers were also algorithmically converted into private keys that were used in an attempt to unlock Satoshi’s original bitcoin wallets, which would in turn reveal the chosen one.

interaction · experiential · blockchain

Timeline
4 weeks, April - May 2018

My Contribution
Creative Direction, Production Design

Project Team
Tyler Gumb, Nour Malaeb, Azucena Romá, Alex Tsankov

Press —
Vice News, Wired, Bloomberg, Forbes,

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RESPONSES
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One of the most valued offerings of the Blockchain is high-level transparency. As soon as information is stored onto the blockchain it becomes immutable, where it can never be altered or deleted. Focusing on transparent transactions, as a prayer was entered into the terminal it was automatically converted into a hash then shared via LED strips to all. All participants involved agreed to this transparency, which instilled mutual trust into the experience.

The terminal prompt as it appeared to participants.

The terminal prompt as it appeared to participants.

You hold too much power in something and what for?
This is kinda fucked up hey.
Forgiveness and the absolution of our sins.
I pray for the decentralized economy to spread the wealth of the world more evenly
I pray that the music artists take the bold leap and part ways with Ticketmaster and the likes so that music can be enjoyed.
Never move the coins.
it’s gonna be really hard to convince people that we aren’t a cult if you guys keep doing stuff like this at conferences
 

 

THE PROCESS


Is blockchain technology creating a new religion?

Consensys, a blockchain software technology company, was seeking proposals for artwork at their annual Ethereal Summit, a two-day conference of storytelling and knowledge sharing around a blockchain-powered future. Working with my art collective, Vapor Ants (formerly known as Picnic), we met up to brainstorm. After researching and finally understanding the blockchain space, we drew several comparisons between the fanaticism, hopes, mysticism, and underlying principles of blockchain and religion. Building on this idea we proposed a three part religious experience:

The Altar
The main altar experience was based off the verb 'HODL,' a term used by the cryptocurrency community for holding onto cryptocurrency as long as possible rather than selling it in order to reap higher value later. Building off the self-control to HODL, we wanted to impose an expression of penance for attendees by having them kneel on a pillow embedded with sensors, bestowing crypto blessings on those who knelt the longest.

The Reliquary
We also envisioned a reliquary of items marrying historical religious objects and modern day religious "miracles" like the 'virgin Mary toast' with blockchain culture. Instead of the holy grail, we pitched ideas such as “the first GPU to mine bitcoin" and a toaster offering pieces of toast with a "holy hashes" burnt onto them.

The Prayer Terminal
Similar to a confessional booth, the third part of the proposal was a prayer terminal where people could type in prayers to Father Satoshi Nakamoto. The prayers would then be cryptographically hashed into private keys that would be used to attempt to unlock Father Satoshi Nakamoto's wallets. A real-world set of bitcoin wallets that have never had any bitcoin withdrawn from them and contain bitcoin worth millions of dollars at the time.

Rendering by Nour Malaeb.

Rendering by Nour Malaeb.

 

Scaling Back

Our proposal was one of the selected grant recipients, part of the feedback we received from the Ethereal arts team was to scale back our three part experience into one main experience. Moving forward the design became a hybrid of our three original ideas. Taking into consideration the space and the timeframe we were working with, I suggested that a central shrine surrounded by multiple prayer terminals each outfitted with 7" displays would allow for more people to interact with the experience at once in an intimate, individual manner.

 
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