toggle to "SITE" for Great Knot land art project


Message from the artist

Knots depict, in this art, what block chain's protocols do, by providing the attributes of cryptic insights to a registry created for decentralizing all assurances of integrity.

This web site is a conceptual art work. It conceptualizes a registry of “Cryptoknots” in a graphic portrayal of block chain's function.

The recent popularity given virtual coins and tokens by Bitcoin gives knots license to identify themselves as objects in this crypto space. This art develops them into protocols for recording the provenance of the knot's physical form, and then, as cryptoknots, places these in the mix as insights into cryptography's role in block chain's protocol.

The art's protocols create cryptoknots as virtual works that are arbiters of value, and records this association once they are acquired. The protocols assure each is unique and one of an unending supply of cryptographic identities populating a knot registry. This process graphically mirrors the block chain's distributed ledger protocol.

These knots offer a practical way to approach limitations in autonomous participation that block chain encounters as the goals of decentralization press up against the democratized Internet's for maintaining the integrity promised by the block chain. The locking of transactions into a unchangeable time-stamped record is generally understood, but the appreciation of cryptographic machine code limits participation to the technically savvy.

The art simply presents an easier way to understand cryptography than block chain. This does not mean that graphics are to replace block chain's use of hashes and algorithms. It just means it's easier to identify with the way cryptography works through knots and this opens the opportunity to make the transition to the codes of the distributed ledger.

This prepping of recruits is symbiotic. The art requires a decentralized, fully autonomous system that perpetually applies its protocols to creating unique virtual manifestations of physical knots, forever. That matches what the block chain must do in its technology. So latching on to the block chain and the world of cryptocurrency through a strategy of shared interests benefits the art's registry as its builders become comfortable with cryptography, and, as they join block chain's ranks, embeds this relationship ever deeper into the core intellectual base of the decentralization movement, promoting both concepts in the process.

This art is developed out of three protocols carried out in the four-stage plan found in the greatknot.com web site; as an illustrated “white paper”. This site on the Internet is the only presence of the conceptual art. Ancillary works, like “The Great Knot” land art sculpture, and “cryptoknots”, separately illustrate the conceptual art's protocols, both virtually on the Internet and actually as physical entities.

This web site demonstrates how the actual and virtual aspects of a concept combine into an art. It has appropriated blockchain technology as a system and is using structured facts to encrypt value into its systemic art works. The land art sculpture, The Great Knot, is used as the example for an artwork at the end of this value-generation process. This concept is specifically directed toward a social preference for only trusting realities whose provenance is distributively verified as actually what is claimed. Demonstrating how authentication is the foundation of value in an artwork, back to its first mental construct, is conceived here as an art in its own right.

In the sidebar of this part of the web site are the Origins; Properties; Process; and Prospectus concepts that merge a blockchain distributive development model into a system for producing an infinite number of individually unique knots.

The tokens in this art are applying cryptocurrency ideas and protocols. Here they are identifiable instances of a module of the grid that guides the design of knots. That grid occupies the background of all these pages (in a web 3.0 environment, which this art anticipates). The tokens are associated with the knots developed in groups whose base value controls the token code and its value. A random sample of these knots are shown in the site's sidebar. The continuous creation of knots produces tokens, whose denominational value increases proportionately as the value of the knots they originated in find their market.

Everything in the system has an identity, and a proof-of-work protocol provides the incentives that keep the system producing tokens for circulation. A competition to create a next design follows specific rules of logic. The first response to a "call" for a design to match the protocols of the system is owned by that designer and up to nine follow up designs with the same solution share the tokens associated with the design. The owner and this consensus group verify their match is correct, add it to a blockchain, and provide consensus on the next design whose position in the sequence they then call for. This distributive development model is capable of continuing to create and exchange an infinite number of individually unique knots forever.

Relevancy in this art is grounded in the idea that blockchain is changing the world through the popularity of cryptocurrency, and that signals there is going to be a giant battle for control of the concept of trust and exchange of value.

Bitcoin has taken the common imagination in this new direction. If the real topic here is the expression of value and how the blockchain provides certainty of value through the distributed ledger concept, then the topic is one that affects everything, including art. Uncertainty always looks to a trusted authority for its cues and disruption of that makes for a legendary battle, to be certain.

My art had worked out the strategy for this a half century ago. This conceptual art that was my signature creation in the late 1960s is taking a chance, even as an analogy, to benefit from what has created this consciousness now.

The fact that Bitcoin has now the popularity of a trend means that there is a consensus that provenance is a real concern, finally, and Bitcoin, as a protocol, addresses this. The more this consensus is about questioning trust the more the blockchain "technology" becomes "technology revolution" in the imagination, and broadens the appeal of the concepts of my art as current technology.

But what I offer is quite a different approach from Bitcoin's. The geometry of my art is expressed as SVG code compared to the conceptually equivalent in Bitcoin's protocol, which is hexadecimal hash codes.

That method of coding value is what had brought the Bitcoin protocol to my attention. A virtual currency that has no material existence being exchanged for actual goods as a logic for creating its value, just by use, had an uncanny confluence with my concept of a graphic design of a complex knot that could be tied to transform its identity into an object.

This is the Black Swan that brings my art out of the unknown.

My concept of new blocks of SVG code, equaling a virtual plan for a knot that could become a dimensional object, being added continually by a system into an unending sequence of knots, just as bitcoins are added to competitively through “mining” for a hash code, is what my analog-based mind could understand that Bitcoin's protocol was about.

My conceptual art was easily rebrandable as a "protocol" by replacing "mining" for the hash code with "creating" the graphic of a new knot. SVG code is the content of the block and the hash code's use becomes simply a reference to a redundant factor. The identity of the block is its graphic content, not its hexadecimal string; a significantly more accessible approach than Bitcoin's protocol and immutable ledger for explaining a distributive technology on a graphic environment such as the Internet.

So it should be easy to understand why in my “protocol” the grid that provides the analytical base for knots is the origin event for the chain; the Genesis Block; and that's why I have made it into my token. It's the basic knot grid module used to tile the background of this page. As the first block of the chain it gives conceptual form to what will be the blockchain's function. In initiating the chain it is a declaration that this geometry is what inspires the value. The second block at the head of the chain contains one module as the setting for a three crossing knot. The third is also a single module two linked three crossing knots just fit into.

Thus begins the chain. There follows a four crossing knot whose block requires four modules for support. This is followed by a linking of the four with three crossing knots, and then with it linked to itself for a sixth block, and so on in a defined sequence order tied to an expanding geometry of the grid as more tiles are added. This continues indefinitely on toward a knot with an infinite number of crossings on an infinitely large grid. In essence, then, this protocol works with blocks of visually discernible graphics that define provenance-creating unique content. The knots are produced by a system that finds its basic value in the mission of creating additions to a blockchain, forever.

Within this sequential chain there is a currency value expressed as tokens that have an identity graphically translatable to an origin in the content of a block in the blockchain. This is where the hash code finds its correllative purpose. These follow a number order that also can become infinitely large. This is descriptively presented in the series shown on the fifth link of the sidebar. These each have numbers on the modules underlying the block's particular knot design. Each number that is in this knot block is a potential currency transaction that is verified in the blockchain and transactions in its knot reference can affect its currency value. So it is important that the full content of the block be perceived as art, and this communicated in its relationship to the value of the token as currency. Token numbers can also be collectible.

These are not tokens in a fractional system, like cryptocurrency, but signatures, or signets, in a system of evolving identities. Each knot is a unique entity; an actual object of art; and as a singularly unique idea, the concept of this "knotchain" is also an artwork. With the value placed in each component of it as an individual work of art, the risk of investing in any element of this artwork is really a much more acceptable way of building value than the standard Bitcoin has established. After all, this is creating a chain of identity characteristics that far exceeds the trivial ones in an ordinary cryptocurrency's DNA.


The Great Knot, April 27, 2011


Michael Sullivan Smith, 2015
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