Undergrown

drafting a hedge against existential risk exposure

generative installation, site specific, 2023

Bitmain Antminer S9 crypto miners, modification and setup protocol, custom Linux operating system, custom cooling controller, custom software, computing performance visualization, SD cards, twin-wall sheets, video projection

The project is rooted in the observation that various plants, just like humans, have evolved a form of decentralized network technology and its necessary infrastructures in an independent and in a convergent manner. Completely different approaches have emerged, obviously. Nevertheless, they all form an entangled infrastructure of both energy and information. Our systems are based on electric signals with huge electronic power needs, while plants often apply a simultaneous redistribution system for information and nutrients. The installation’s narrative engages with this recent paradigm shift in the understanding of the convergent evolution of different species’ technological schemes.

« Analogous alienation. »
Vilem Flusser; Louis Bec « Vampyroteuthis Infernalis »

The project is proposing a hacking kit to repurpose obsolete crypto mining hardware in an exhibition setting. The objective is to retrieve its usable computing power for volunteer science projects. A DAO, a decentralized autonomous organization, is set up for its strategic organization. The modified miners thus help to reduce our planetary existential risk exposure (in financial terminology: to hedge). A symbolized hedge bush is formed by rows of ASIC miners.

The original and unique purpose of this type of hardware – calculating the cryptographic puzzles on which the trust system of cryptocurrencies are based – has all too quickly become unprofitable. A huge number of these devices are now completely obsolete.

A decentralized cluster computer is formed with the miners, not for hedging human financial benefits as originally intended (limiting risk exposure in financial assets, what cryptocurrencies are often used for), but for solving environmental issues by attributing the general computing power of these devices to volunteer computing. By participating in volunteer science projects in the fields of biochemistry, biodiversity, and climate change, the project effectively reduces our planetary existence risks a tiny bit.

A hybrid decentralized decision process is implemented to the cluster network modeled after quorum sensing (a biological decentralized decision process), to decide on the allocation of the available computing resources. This decision process is formally organized as a DAO, imitating the strategies of hedge funds by applying risk management methods. A hybrid decentralized network is formed, neither of human nor plant origin.

« To glimpse both sides of this emergence simultaneously, would be to behold one’s opposite, an image of the self as reflected between two facing mirrors. »
Vilem Flusser; Louis Bec « Vampyroteuthis Infernalis »

The installation mimics a hedge bush and its plant communication with unprofitable hardware of decentralized finance. It produces drone symphonies through its powerful cooling fans, a crucial aspect of its initial excessive heat production. An intense sound and wind experience is created, manifesting the cluster’s computer activity. A video projection further materializes the installation’s computational actions.

The project is strongly site specific. The installation of the piece follows a protocol, which consists of a hacking kit for the mining hardware, as well as a wiring kit and structural instructions. The miners can be sourced locally, whenever possible.

« Awareness is a general property of any self-organising system experiencing uncertainty. »
Bernard Scott « Conversation, Individuals and Concepts, Some Key Concepts in Gordon Pask’s Interaction of Actors and Conversation Theories »

_Exhibitions
02.2024   Polygon Afters – NFT Paris – Paris (FR)
09.2023   Exploring the Decentralized Web – Art on the Blockchain – HeK (House of electronic Arts) – Basel (CH)
12.2022   Work in progress presentation – V2 – Rotterdam (NL)

_Support
+ Pro Helvetia, Swiss Arts Council
+ V2_
+ DRAC Hauts-de-Fance

The following text has been written to accompany the installation:

We look at the traits which have evolved convergently
in humans and hedges of bushes.

Both are « diffuse brains »1, but in a different sense.
One dispersed, one disillusioned.

Both have established networked communication
and a kind of infrastructure, necessary for this endeavor.

Humans use electromagnetic waves
pushing them through copper and air,
as well as rapidly flickering lights.

Hedge bushes use aromatic chemicals,
and make use of the delicate threads, grown by other living beings.
They use it to spread information, but also to redistribute nutriments.

The latter quickly reconfigures, relinks and regroups,
implementing a kind of risk reduction strategy.
As tries to do the former.

Both are very dependent on their respective networks.

« Analogous alienation. » 2

We look at specific cases:
the communication in between a cluster of bushes
and the networks of decentralized finance.
We want to compare the implementation choices of these infrastructures and contemplate on a third kind of network.
We want to grow our hybrid perspective on these networks.

Neither fast nor slow.

Neither hedge nor human.

« To glimpse both sides of this emergence simultaneously, would be to behold one’s opposite, an image of the self as reflected between two facing mirrors. » 3

We have a common goal:
We want to hedge.

We want to develop a derivative, a set of rules,
to reduce the exposure to future risk for our common environment.

We want to hedge our common grounds
– biodiversity and soil, air and water quality –
and support them with our computing power,
to predict and reduce our common future risks.

« Awareness is a general property of any self-organising system experiencing uncertainty. » 4

1 Stefano Mancuso, interview on the french radio France Culture, April 20, 2019 (in French)
2, 3 Vilem Flusser; Louis Bec “Vampyroteuthis Infernalis”
4 Bernard Scott, “Conversation, Individuals and Concepts, Some Key Concepts in Gordon Pask’s Interaction of Actors and Conversation Theories“

Exploring the Decentralized Web – Art on the Blockchain – HeK (House of electronic Arts) – Basel (CH)
Polygon Afters – NFT Paris – Paris (FR)