A Brief History Of A Blockchain Artist

My art is influenced by my experience in security document production. In other words, the designing and printing of banknotes. This experience gave me the technical understanding of banknote production, unlocking the language of money design which I use to express my ideas.

My relatively short time (2 years) in a ‘money factory’ didn’’t come from nowhere. It was the culmination a lifelong interest in both art and money.

I was holding a pencil and drawing before I learnt how to speak. When I could speak, my first question to other children was “so how much pocket money do you get?” I was specifically interested in what form this currency took.

By age 13, I had decided that Art was my purpose. By this time, I had hand-drawn banknote forgeries, printed up my own currency which I issued into the playground, and made iteration after iteration of spin-offs that closely resembled the circulating UK banknotes. Not having access to Adobe Photoshop, I drew by hand on large pieces of paper, which I got scaled and repeated into sheets at a local reprographics studio. I was also a constant annoyance to bureau de change counters, as I would regularly ask for spare foreign currency that I added to my ‘library’ and used for inspiration.

At 19 I went to art school in London. Art school was a trade-off: while I explored new avenues and skills in the form of video editing, radio show production and presenting, brief experiments in journalism, developing images with the biology department’s x-ray machines, discussing differential topology over tea in the maths department, surgically suturing pigs’ livers into hearts late night in the medical buildings, producing music in an anechoic chamber in New York— and partying with celebrities at the Dorchester Hotel— I put my childhood interest in money to sleep.

But then I graduated in 2008, and the markets fell. This changed everything. Not only did my interest in money re-awaken, but I ‘woke up’ to everything. Several things came from this. One, I dove into researching the financial system, and discovered things that changed my perception of reality. Two, I returned to designing banknotes, with some vague idea of collaborating on alternatives to the legacy financial system. Three, I began to play the markets as an investor.

For the next few years, my life was intertwined with art, banknote design, and adventures in finance. This led to freelance projects, traveling around the world, and money-related jobs that ranged from menial to specialized; from working in a cash-only gambling arcade, to the antique banknote department of an auction house. To this day, I prefer hanging out in ‘money places’ – casinos, the viewing deck over a trading pit, money museums.
One day, I was at a job interview for a junior graphic design position, when the boss looked at my portfolio and said “why haven’t you applied to one of the companies that print money? They would snap you up”. 12 months later, I was working in the money factory.
While I collected skills and experiences in various jobs and traveled the world, my research into the financial system, my desire for an alternative, and my investing instincts all converged on Bitcoin.

I’ve been buying (and losing and re-buying) Bitcoin since 2011. As soon as I understood it I could see the potential.

But what is just as interesting to me is the ability for the Blockchain to create digital scarcity. This means a decentralized art world is coming. The Avant Garde has a Blockchain infrastructure to financially incentivize itself.

Like much of culture, the centralized Art World doesn’t have the tools to move beyond a narrow, politics-based system of exclusivity. Blockchain will burn this away.
My art is concerned with Humanity’s vision of itself, the future, and freedom. I consider money to be a reflection of our self-perception. The story of cryptocurrency is the story of a redefining of Humanity’s self-perception and desire for novelty, borne out of necessity. My design methodology, my fascination with money, and the potential for self-expression to be truly decentralized all converge on the blockchain.

LIFE

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Copyright 2019 Tom Badley.
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