The relationship between art and money can be understood in different ways. On the one hand, art exists in the form of artworks which are traded on the market. The fictive value of these works is determined by the economic rules of the market. However, pieces of art can also intervene in economic and social processes. They can be seen as economic units created by an artist, which can interfere actively in existing economic systems. 1
For his project 'Insertions Into IdeologicalCircuits 2' (1970) Cildo Meireles put a stamp on a one dollar note, removing it from circulation, thus granting the viewer time to reflect upon the currency. Maria Eichhorn (2002) founded a stock corporation within the scope of Dokumenta11, which held a special status: its capital could not be increased. The shares were only able to be transferred to the corporation itself, and were therefore taken out of monetary circulation. This stipulation, or 'special status', stood in diametrical contrast to the social structure of other stock corporations, which were primarily profit-oriented.
Wolfgang Müller's 'Knochengeld' could be acquired only in a gallery in exchange for money. The currency was accepted at local theatres, galleries and bars as a payment. Furthermore, Müller's 'Knochengeld' decreased in value every seven days. Caleb Larsen's 'A Tool To Deceive and Slaughter' (2009) consisted of a computer, which as soon as an internet connection is established, offered itself for sale on eBay. As long as the work was embedded in its predetermined technical environment, (a gallery with internet access) it operated autonomously, questioning the legitimacy of traditional ownership structures existing between art and economic processes. 1
By increasing automation and self-optimization via implementing a feedback system (allowing for constant state evaluations), most infrastructural systems could certainly function autonomously. Indeed, Mike Hearn, a former Google employee and one of the leading Bitcoin software developers, has suggested that cars could own themselves:
“We can program it to make a little bit of profit, so it’s got some money for a rainy day, but not excessive amounts. We can make it the most moral, socially minded capitalist possible. (...)
You would be using an app that goes onto Tradenet and says: ‘Here I am, this is where I want to go, give me your best offers,’. (...)
The autonomous taxis out there would then submit their best prices, and that might be based on how far away they are, how much fuel they have, the quality of their programming. (...)
Eventually you pick one - or your phone does it for you - and it’s not just by the cheapest price, but whether the car has a good track record of actually completing rides successfully and how nice a vehicle it is.” 2
In Hearn's scenario, self-owning cars do not operate intelligently, but act in accordance with hard-wired basic rules which favour their own economic interests. Below follows the outlining of a prototype for an autonomously acting, self-sufficient economic unit, in light of the examples highlighted above.
1. More examples and detailed introduction, Myers, Rob: (Conceptual) Art, Cryptocurrency and Beyond, 15.10.2014, http://furtherfield.org, URL: http://furtherfield.org/features/articles/conceptual-art-cryptocurrency-and-beyond ↩
2. Hearn, Mike, quoted in the article, Leo Kelion: Could driverless cars own themselves, 16.02.2015, http://bbc.com, URL: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-30998361 ↩