Therme Art Program


Therme Art presented Refik Anadol’s Sense of Healing and hosted the Wellbeing Culture Forum, Can Art Save the Blockchain? as part of the Korea Blockchain Week 2023 IMPACT Conference at the Shilla Seoul

Can Art Save the Blockchain? panel discussion at Korea Blockchain Week 2023.

Therme Art recently attended Korea Blockchain Week in Seoul, presenting Refik Anadol’s Sense of Healing: AI Data Sculpture A, and hosting their latest Wellbeing Culture Forum with an exciting cross-industry panel of innovators, entrepreneurs and thought leaders that discussed developments at the intersection of art, technology, and creative production. Can Art Save the Blockchain? was the central question to the conversation, which was curated by Therme Art and moderated by Mikolaj Sekutowicz, and featured serial entrepreneur Nabyl Charania; independent curator, art dealer and writer Afrodet Zuri; and Global Director of Art Basel from 2012 to 2022, Marc Spiegler on the panel. The discussion explored how AI and blockchain are reshaping the art market, fostering new relationships between artists and collectors, and emphasising the cultural importance of art in the context of Web 3 technologies.

The Wellbeing Culture Forum took place at the Shilla Hotel, the main location of KBCW’s IMPACT conference, alongside the presentation of Refik Anadol’s Sense of Healing data sculpture. The work presented an opportunity for event attendees to ground themselves through its meditative visuals and showcased how the latest advancements in data capturing, neuroscientific research, quantum computing and spatial development can be applied through art to promote mental wellness in new and innovative ways.

Refik Anadol, Sense of Healing: AI Data Sculpture A, presented at the Schilla Seoul Hotel during Korea Blockchain Week 2023.

Sense of Healing, commissioned as part of Impact One’s mental health initiative MYND, a collaboration with neurotechnology leader Mindmaze and Therme Art, lies at the intersection of neuroscience and design to visualise fundamental questions about the architecture of the human brain with the most cutting-edge data visualisation tools, presenting a multi-sensory, immersive work that grounds viewers in the present moment. As the rapid scaling up of emergent technologies demands new ways of approaching urban landscapes, ecological care, cultural preservation and societal wellbeing, art serves as a transformative force that can restore wellbeing through its deeply rooted connective capacities. The artistic application of Web3 in Sense of Healing embodies the coalescence of art and technology in its ability to incite collective renewal and connection.

Technology is always produced in the image of the culture that creates it. This has seen particular hierarchies and structures emerge in the age of the internet that replicate those found in its western socio-economic origins. What Web3 promises instead, is a rhizomatic model that presents a potent alternative for a decentralised, distributed and traceable planetary-scale network. Novel forms of engagement and exchange enabled by Web3 can drive business models that are more equitable and mutually beneficial to the communities they operate within and alongside. Furthermore, Web3 can empower these communities through connection and collaboration.

Yawanawá and Refik Anadol, Winds of Yawanawá

The potential of Web3 technologies beyond corporate utilisation, and the cultural transformation these technologies can enable is only just beginning. Some of its most innovative uses have been shown through projects such as Winds of Yawanawá, a collaborative work by Refik Anadol and the Yawanawá community of Acre Brazil, curated and commissioned by Therme Art and Impact One as part of their Possible Futures initiative. As Therme Art’s Mikolaj Sekutowicz remarked during the panel discussion, “Through ‘Winds of Yawanawá,’ every collector is a patron of the Yawanawá community, whilst receiving an eightfold return on investment.” The Winds of Yawanawa artwork series fuses traditional indigenous chanting, stories and craftsmanship, along with real-time climate data from the ancestral lands with a machine-learning algorithm. The work creates a collective interpretation of the Yawanawá heritage using Ai, with all proceeds of the sales going directly to Instituto Nixiwaka in support of long-term initiatives for the protection of the Yawanawá territories and cultural heritage. Winds of Yawanawá paves out an applicable framework for tangible solutions for Indigenous autonomy and environmental protection.

From left: Mikolaj Sekutowicz, Nabyl Charania, Afrodet Zuri, Marc Spiegler

In the art market, blockchain has re-established the dynamic of patronage, by which buyers of artworks determine the way in which artists develop their creative practice. As Afrodet Zuri explained during the conversation, “the blockchain has recreated patronage, which we haven’t had in centuries. Artists now have patrons again through the blockchain and users. Collectors are empowered to drive the artists’ practice. Before artists were driven by galleries. Now art is driven by collectors again.”

The expansion of computer processing and the birth of the digital realm over the last several decades has inevitably seen entirely new forms of art-making, sharing and interacting unfold in its wake. Now with the advent of Web3 technologies like NFTs and decentralised financial systems, we can see the parallel evolution of creative practices and cultural initiatives emerging under the potential it brings. Cultural and artistic endeavours have been essential in fostering interest and engagement with blockchain and digital art is increasingly sold, showcased and authenticated using the ledger. The rise of NFTs was a catalyst for the adoption and integration of blockchain solutions across various industries, whilst prompting vital questions around market access, ownership, artistic production and collaboration. As such, new forms of digital art are inextricably linked to Web3.

In the words of serial entrepreneur Nabyl Charania, “our entire culture is evolving. Many just focus on business but what people don’t understand is that culture drives business. People think blockchain just appeared. No, it was a process driven by people wanting to participate in the world, and that’s through culture.” “Narratives evolve around humans and art,” added Marc Spiegler, underscoring the central role of cultural dynamics in shaping the impact of blockchain technology.

Refik Anadol, Sense of Healing NFTs showcased at The Gateway: Korea 2023

Art holds a foundational role in changing perspectives and building a regenerative culture, by unearthing different stories, creating conscious connections and reshaping understandings of the world around us. This allows for new ways of thinking, seeing and being to blossom into existence. Dynamic forms of digital work that utilise new technologies as tools have exciting potential for unlocking new approaches to Web3 applications; at once moulding the technology through praxis, widening the scope of how it can currently be used, whilst also imaging its more radical possibilities.

Korea Blockchain Week aims to cultivate a space where Web3 technologies can be examined and its impact on various industries and cultures explored. Can Art Save the Blockchain? aligned succinctly with this wider theme, expanding on the central role that cultural regeneration must play in the contemporary art world as the relationships between traditional art forms and markets evolve alongside the evolution of Web3 and AI.

Refik Anadol’s Sense of Healing NFT editions were also presented at The Gateway: Korea, an immersive audiovisual gallery of leading digital artists, as part of Korea Blockchain Week 2023.