How a theater scene turns into crypto art

ONELast weekend, an NFT of the theatrical performance “Einstein on the Beach”, a performance premiered in Avignon in 1976 by Robert Wilson and Philip Glass, was auctioned off for 28 ETH. This means that this NFT of a scene from Wilson’s production, where a light beam is slowly moving from horizontal to vertical, was paid around 76,800 euros. Lots of money for a file.

The process is relevant to the art market and compares the revenue from this NFT sale with the prices an artist like Robert Wilson achieves, for example, with his video portraits in traditional galleries. The event is particularly exciting because something was sold here that until recently was considered unsaleable: a stage work. Although dramatic texts and productions are sold, until now no one has been able to acquire a work privately in the same way as acquiring a painting or a sculpture.

modern theater world

The work character of the stagings is collective and not factual, because works are joint works for public use, which means that they are made “new” every night and belong to everyone who makes and experiences them. This is not the case with works of art such as paintings or sculptures, as they can be transformed into a unique property and can be enjoyed individually, even without being public. In the modern theater world, it’s about what happens between people. But this form of work is always dedicated and exhibited in collectives and for a collective of spectators. The invention of the NFT has changed that. Into the group production and societal experience of theatrical art, the NFT cuts from Wilson’s famous scene as scissors, sequences and isolates the series of performance events and “on-chaining” one of its particles, i.e. embeds it in an algorithm-encrypted data property string and thus make it marketable and marketable in the crypto world of Web3 – the new generation of the Internet based on blockchain technology.

Making a scenic work moment negotiable is an important event for theater and art history. It owes its existence to two other notable events: on the one hand, the event format surrounding the auction mastered a task that had previously been considered difficult to solve. Because the format tested at the Mitte power plant in Berlin has suddenly transformed the completely non-sensory blockchain processes, such as the production and sale of an NFT, into moving real-world experiences through sophisticated staging. And the other aspect of this NFT sale of a theater stage is the fact that this sale has enabled a global community of collectors and traders who use cryptocurrencies that they create and can determine the value of themselves. Which is more or less as if the Volksbühne in Berlin or the Burgtheater in Vienna itself minted euros with which one can pay for their tickets. Successful artists and gallery owners have always known that not only first-class presentation rooms and refined exhibitions of the works in reputable institutions are important for high-price sales, but above all the creation and maintenance of a community of faith in these works. Nowhere else is there so much to eat together and in comfort as in the world’s leading galleries.

It will be the NFT: the crowd at the Berlin power plant.


It will be the NFT: the crowd at the Berlin power plant.
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Photo: Helge Mundt

Ether, the new oil

In the hyperindividualist, hypercapitalist market world of cryptocurrency, these value-creating club events now take place on social media and platforms like Discord, primarily within the DAOs themselves, the decentralized autonomous organizations that not only form their own communities of interest but also their own cryptocurrency like Bring forward bitcoin or ether. The Internet has long since created its own currencies, currently there are over 11,000. Bitcoin is seen as gold in this Web3 crypto-financial world and ether, the currency of the blockchain network Ethereum, as the new oil. The 28 ethers for Wilson’s Theater NFT were paid for by an entrepreneur who currently sells Crypto Citizen NFTs to thousands of people each in ten global cities in the US, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa through DAO Bright Moments, which he co-hosted to establish. . One inevitably thinks of the 10,000 NFT tokens from the “Bored Ape Yacht Club” that were stored on the Ethereum blockchain in 2021 and now have over a billion dollars in sales. It was therefore eagerly awaited who would buy the “Einstein on the Beach” NFT at the end of the ten day long auction.

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