Ideas Behind Chaos Roads


Before talking about Chaos Roads, I should probably talk a bit about my larger goals.

I believe blockchain enables use cases beyond simply “trading”, even though this has been the 99% of its usage to this day. I think blockchain uniquely offers certain features that can be beneficial to society beyond “privacy” or “freedom to transact”. I’ve been defending these use cases to crypto-skeptics for a long time, and similarly, I’ve been pushing for these use cases within the crypto space instead of more speculation.

One of the most common criticisms of blockchains is “It’s XYZ with extra steps”. You can replace “XYZ” with “database”, “art”, “identity”, or something else. Crypto proponents know that “extra steps” mean “decentralization” and all the advantages that come with it, but I believe we need to show something beyond decentralization: we need to show the use cases that are only possible with blockchains.

With art tokenized as NFTs, a common criticism has been “it’s just a receipt”. Again, crypto proponents know that that’s how any traditional art is also sold, except that with blockchains we don’t need 3rd parties to verify. Onchain art fans like myself also like showing off onchain art where the token and art come together. But again, we need to show something beyond trustlessness, we need to show the kind of art that is only possible with blockchains.

Token Equals Text, by Rhea Myers
Token Equals Text, by Rhea Myers

My go-to reference has been Rhea Myers, as she has consistently created conceptual art that has been uniquely possible in blockchains. Fingerprints DAO, one of my favorite DAOs, established collecting this type of art as its goal. Since I joined the NFT space in 2021, I have discovered many collections that fit the criteria of “art that’s only possible with blockchain”, and these collections have become my main interest ever since.

The Road

In the context of art, blockchain is not just a medium for transfers or trading, it’s a medium for new art ideas to be realized. So which ideas did I have in mind when making Chaos Roads?

1. Where is art?

Many conceptual artists before, such as Nili Werner, Rhea Myers, and Mitchell Chan, have explored the token and art separation. “Token is art” is a phrase you’ll hear in some blockchain circles. If I’m honest, I don’t fully subscribe to this framing. In its natural form, the token, with its transferability properties, is the deed to art. Token is art only if it contributes to the concept and the purpose.

So what if we approach this topic a bit differently: What if we had multiple art forms within each token? A visual painting, a musical piece, and a poem. And what if all of these art forms were constantly being regenerated by the Ethereum Virtual Machine within the chain? What if, if you want to sell your painting, you have to sell your poem too? What if your ownership enables a package of art that can’t be separated from each other? As such, ownership becomes art.

We can take it even further. If EVM is the entity that is constructing (and also re-constructing in the case of Chaos Roads, due to dynamism), isn’t EVM the real art form? Art is the invisible runtime of this always-on, globally accessible computer that we call Ethereum. This runtime can be transformed into any art form that we want: Paintings, music, poetry, or ideas themselves, perhaps even just numbers.

The form does not matter; it’s the unique, runtime nature of this always-on computer that makes the art come alive.

An ever-changing poem in Chaos Roads
An ever-changing poem in Chaos Roads

Chaos Roads is therefore aiming to show crypto-skeptics this one humble dimension of having an always-on, distributed computer.

2. Chaos vs Order

Now that I am highlighting the runtime as both the medium and the art itself, what deeper ideas could we explore with it? Can we make a rough simulation of how the universe works?

Ethereum gives us smart contracts that can run forever, automatically. On the other hand, smart contracts can also give us control.

The 2nd law of thermodynamics states that “as one goes forward in time, the net entropy (degree of disorder) of any isolated or closed system will always increase (or at least stay the same).”

On the other hand, Quantum Theory states that conscious observation affects reality.

Can we program a “universe” where things get more chaotic over time, but conscious attempts of humans can bring more order to the universe?

We absolutely can! And we can only do it at scale with blockchains.

Chaos taking over the Sunset Synth tone
Chaos taking over the Sunset Synth tone

So it is possible to let a smart contract automatically increase the distortion visually, musically, and poetically; while another smart contract function to give a chance to the collector to “observe” the universe and bring order to art.

Some art gets criticized because they deepen their concepts with vague statements. The thing with Chaos Roads is that all the ideas it’s trying to explore are verifiable on the contract and on the blockchain.

3. The collector with a choice

This is related to the second idea, but it’s also worth mentioning. Crypto space has a lot of whales, and many collectors prefer vaulting their art and forgetting about it. There is nothing wrong with this approach, we can’t expect everyone to constantly allocate time for their art.

But there is also something to be said about being an active participant in art. It’s more engaging and fun for some people. And it often motivates the artists to enhance their creativity.

Chaos Roads, All Time High
Chaos Roads, All Time High

So Chaos Roads gives an option to the collector: Chaos or Control.

A Chaos Road owner can program their art to travel back in time within the chain and enforce a lower entropy. Note that this is temporary - as is the case with nature. The entropy will keep marching on, and chaos will return, even if it takes a long time.

It was important to me to keep both sides happy, and I think all the art forms (the painting, the melody, and the poem) within each token remain beautiful whether the piece is fully distorted, or its chaos is controlled. But more importantly, there is CHOICE: Consciously “observe”, or let chaos take over.

4. Censorship Resistance

I want to be very clear, this is not a concept the collection itself is trying to explore. It has not been my intention to address censorship resistance with the NFTs or the smart contract, even though I do value this concept obviously.

In general, I have been explicitly interested in onchain art for a long time. And if I wanted to have an isolated onchain universe, what better way to push this message than having even the mint site fully onchain?

This is why Linagee Name Registrar developers and I started talking about making a fully onchain mint experience for my fully onchain art collection.

Linagee Name Registrar developers worked hard with me, and I paid a good amount of ETH for gas out of pocket to ensure that the Chaos Roads’ mint website was fully onchain.

The eureka moment
The eureka moment

The fact is; as the first fully onchain read+write website, I’m hoping that Chaos Roads positively contributed to the censorship resistance movement. Even within one week of the mint, there have been several more steps taken by other communities towards a more decentralized internet.

End of the Road

This is how Chaos Roads came to be. I think the collection is very rich in its conceptualizations; at least that was my main goal when doing it.

I am told there are many people who enjoyed these ideas, and I hope that even the people who bought in for the beautiful aesthetic will start to explore the ideas the collection is trying to highlight. Rest assured: the pieces will remain aesthetically, musically, and poetically beautiful; but the meaning has been in the ideas.

Subscribe to Chainleft
Receive the latest updates directly to your inbox.
Mint this entry as an NFT to add it to your collection.
This entry has been permanently stored onchain and signed by its creator.