ETH Rising Collection – ATHENA & CRYPTOKITTY – Digital + Physical
Lithograph on watermarked security paper
Embedded UV fibres, UV-sensitive inks, authentic security printing + NFT
Also available for 0.75 Ethereum, here
This print has been produced in collaboration with a security printer to create artwork that is technically similar to a banknote, using multiple security features, print technology that isn’t readily available, as well as authentic banknote design. This artwork pushes new boundaries in fine art lithography, and is almost impossible to counterfeit.
Lithography is one of the main components of banknote printing. However, this is very different from artists’ stone litho or photolitho processes. Banknote printing – or generally speaking, security printing – is created at levels of detail that are not commercially available, making it impossible to copy without access to the same technology.
This artwork extends the technical limits of banknote printing, into a fine art format, in way that has never been seen before…
As well as high detail printing, some of the inks also glow under UV blacklight, and the artwork is printed on watermarked security paper with embedded blue and red UV fibres, which also fluoresce under UV light.
A family of five artworks – each mixes classicism, touchpoints of the Ethereum brand, and takes the form of an archaic bond certificate with a guilloche border. Each features a large central engraving of a classical figure.
Engraving is a 500 year old technique, often used in banknote portraiture. The process has been refined and standardized for the banknote industry, and is one of the integral componants of banknote art, that gives money a sense of quality and authority. In this case, each engraving is made of hundreds of lines and dashes, placed by hand.
The story behind the artworks came from the artists’ continuing exploration of the brand of cryptocurrency, the aesthetics of banknote design, and ultimately, Tom Badley’s central question: how do we as Humans come to value things? One of Badley’s catchphrases (and the headline for this website) has become “Money Is The Mirror Of Humanity”. There remains no stable definition for money; in the 70 year history of the International Monetary Fund’s literature, advisories and round tables, a constant definition of money on Earth is still absent. Tom has concluded that the nature of money – what Humans find valuable and trusted – is no more than a reflection of Humanity’s self perception. If it’s shells, little pieces of paper, cotton, gold coins, sardine tins – each is a reflection of a people’s self determination, self esteem and knowing: money is a mirror of the value we give ourselves.
Tom Badley sees the emergence and adoption of blockchain money and cryptocurrency as a turning point Humanity’s self perception. Cryptocurrency expresses an emergent Human desire to break free from the weight of things; to become interstellar; to be self determining; to be sovereign; to have fun – to live a life of ease, that is untethered from the slavery of debt money and the narrow bandwidth of culture that is constantly being appropriated by centralized authority.
The development of cryptocurrency has been accompanied by a specific visual lexicon – a constantly evolving constellation of memes, taglines, mascots – all expressing, in their own way, the underlying aspirations of the technology. It has certainly been interesting to see how the tech has influenced the visual accent of each cryptocurrency, and how each currency has expressed a facet of blockchain’s original aspirations.
Tom Badley has said that “crypto was waiting 10 years for cryptoart”. Indeed, the emergence of cryptoart / NFT art has freed cryptocurrency by expressing its unique accent, flourishes and meaning. Crypto artists enrich the brand of crypto, and have given cryptocurrency the persona it always wanted to express.
Ultimately, these artworks represent this process – they’re self referential celebrations of Ethereum and crypt0art itself.
Ethereum is a blockchain that has a distinct brand, feel and visual language. Owing a lot to the persona of it’s creator – Vitalik Buterin – Ethereum is associated with an effeminate, child-like playfulness, but also a rigorous intelligence and efficiency of operation. It has a familiar lexicon consisting of rainbows, cats, unicorns, aliens and alpacas. But it also has an undeniable permanance and utility. The same Ethereum that motivates Vitalik Buterin to do the ‘Badger Dance’ at Edcon 2018, is also the same Ethereum that is being used to issue European bond tokens, managed by Goldman Sachs. What a unique brand!
How to represent this in an artwork?
These prints utilize the trusted quality of banknote design, the familiar ‘bond certificate’ format, and Classical themes, to create a sense of stability and trust we associate with money. This is mixed with vivid colors and meme content that is distinct to Ethereum.
The largest of the 5 features an engraving of the sculpture Hercules Battling The Lernaean Hydra (at the southern entrance to the Hofburg Imperial Palace, Vienna, Austria). This represents the triumph over debt based money – Hercules’ club has been replaced by a chain, symbolizing the blockchain.
Two smaller artworks feature a boy: Aquarius with a bird, and with an Alpaca – based on the 1868 sculpture by Adorno Tadolini. The sculpture originally depicts Ganymede and Zeus, and this is written on the artwork to satisfy Classicists… But Aquarius is the youthful male. This figure represents the Age of Aquarius – which we are now arriving at: a shift in Humanity’s self perception and direction with each procession of the zodiac necessitates a shift in Humanity’s mirror; the money system. Ethereum is the money of the Age of Aquarius.
Aquarius, the water bearer, is a personification of the writhing decentralization of blockchain technology – efficient, expanding in all directions, homogenous, and having no centre. The youthful male is also an effeminate Buterin-esque Peter Pan figure: adult men who refuse to grow up, play video games in the metaverse, and trade digital unicorns – a life of ease and playfulness in a weightless world.
To honor the mythology, Aqurius/Ganymede is pictured with a bird, representing Zeus. And to honor Ether, Aqurius/Ganymede also hugs an alpaca. The two versions point to how the myth started, and how the myth is going, and reminds us that Humans never cease to find meaning in animal avatars.
The other two works feature a young female figure, representing Athena – Goddess of creativity and the arts, among other things. In one, she holds a Cryptopunk, in the other she holds a Cryptokitty. These images represent the divinity of Human creativity, whether in real life, or the digital space.
The backgrounds of each piece are made up of Ethereum ‘coins’, micro details, references to Nyan Cat, alien emojis, and other coin designs that imbue the work with having monetary value. The end result is a celebration of cryptoart, the art process, and Ethereum itself, as a kitsch, youthful space, that is able to transcend prior systems of value and transaction.
To enquire futher about this artwork, please contact tombadley.net via Telegram or click the ‘ENQUIRE’ button to the right of the main image.
Uncopyable Art – More Information
As well as using banknote design techniques to make the graphic design itself, these works are also created using anti-counterfeit printing, similar to paper currency. The paper is watermarked and embedded with UV fibres that glow under blacklight. The paper can also be verified as genuine with a special pen – if the paper is fake, the pen will make no mark; of the artwork is genuine, it will turn the paper pink. The printing is a high resolution process, which allows for details that would blur and deform if the artwork would be photocopied using conventional printing. Some of the artwork glows under a banknote checking UV lamp – another common security feature of paper money. Finally, each printed artwork is uniquely serial numbered over the design. Combined, these security features make the artworks almost impossible to copy.
To make anti-counterfeit art is one thing. To secure a piece of paper using the same techniques as the most trusted pieces of paper in the world (cash) – is unheard of, until now. Tom Badley draws on proprietary know-how that can only be found in the banknote printing industry – a little understood niche that has been called ‘the king of printing’. Banknote printing is the most precise, technically demanding and secretive part of the entire print industry. Yet without it, the global financial system would have no face, no trust, and no brand. Badley’s work uses these techniques as standard, uniting aesthetics with the same security we associate with paper money.
Authenticity has been an eternal problem for art. Verifying an artwork is the deciding factor to determining its cultural significance and financial value. These works, made with Grow Your Base, represent Badley’s first true uncopyable artworks, outside of the familiar territory of the banknote. They realize an long held artistic dream, to extrapolate banknote design into larger-than-life formats, and offer the market something beautiful, unique, and… uncopyable.