Meet the Founders of Snark.art
An interview with Snark.art’s founders, Misha Libman and Andrey Alekhin.
How did the idea for Snark.art come about?
Misha Toward the end of last year we started talking about what’s going on with crypto and blockchain and the impact it could have in the art world. That we could look at projects like Cryptokitties and Cryptopunks for inspiration and go a step further. They’re really interesting projects, and they show the potential of blockchain, but there always needs to be a next step. That was probably the conception of Snark.art.
Andrey We both share a serious interest in both technology and art. Misha and I were surrounded by artists growing up, so it was a natural connection.
Was the idea always to create a laboratory for blockchain-based art?
Andrey Initially the idea was much simpler than it is now — to put digital art on the blockchain and use it for identification and tracing provenance. But we quickly grew interested in looking a bit further and trying to understand if this technology could influence the art itself. Then Misha came up with this shift — let’s try to use blockchain as an artistic medium. Admittedly it took me a while to get used to the idea, but now i feel like it’s the only way.
Did you have an aha moment?
Misha I remember when it all made sense. Right now the technology is very raw, and there are a lot of attempts to apply it toward more practical solutions. So at first we were stuck in that paradigm..
But then I thought, why concentrate on a single use case when we have artists who naturally push boundaries and look for new ways to show people the world?
Maybe we should position ourselves as guides for artists to explore the space. And when we started talking about potential projects that artists could create on the blockchain, it just clicked.
How much did you talk to artists as you developed the idea?
Misha I live in a building, and I’m strongly involved in the community, at 475 Kent in Williamsburg, which has been a center for artists, musicians, photographers all living in this kind of commune. It’s not quite the same anymore, but it really feels like being part of this living organism.
So when we started thinking about Snark.art, we immediately went next door and started talking to my neighbor Eve Sussman who’s a successful video artist — I’ve worked with her on several projects in the past. We wanted to get a sense of what she thought. And suddenly we started to get this incredible feedback loop, where we were throwing out ideas and artists started coming back with their own ideas, which bounced off of us and then resonated even more. We owe a great deal of inspiration for this project to the artists like Eve Sussman that helped us conceptualize our vision.
Andrey And New York City is a great intersection for Snark.art. You’ve got innovative blockchain projects here in Brooklyn, and it’s probably the art center of the world. And then 475 Kent is great — it’s so important for us that we are working out of there instead of some WeWork.
How much do you think it’s necessary for artists to understand the technical details of blockchain?
Andrey They need to understand a lot about the features of the technology, what it’s capable of. We’ve found that for artists it’s slightly easier to understand, maybe because their imagination works better or maybe because art itself is engaged with a lot of similar concepts. Of course it takes some time to get it, but it’s definitely more natural for them.
Misha Artists are always evolving and adapting, so they’re ready for new technologies. If you can somehow help them realize that blockchain is not just cryptocurrencies, but an interesting technology that has an intensely passionate community behind it, that starts a fire and ignites ideas.
Maybe at the end of an hour’s conversation, everybody walks away not knowing what’s going to come out of it, but everyone’s really excited that there’s this opportunity.
And what about the crypto and business community? How much do you need to educate them about contemporary art?
Andrey I’ve gone to a lot of meetups that are strictly about cryptocurrencies, and people are really interested, because this is something outside of the projects they encounter everyday.
The crypto community is already big enough that there are a lot of subcultures in it. Yeah, there’s the Lambo and quick buck scene, but it’s much bigger than that. The core community are passionate people who have a lot of interesting ideas. These people are young, and maybe they’re not into art yet, but conceptually they are.
For me bitcoin is a great piece of art. Leaving aside the technology, the younger generation decided that instead of dealing with the financial system of their parents and grandparents, they would just created value out of nothing. That’s an incredibly creative act.
In terms of the business community, right now we think of Snark.art as a laboratory. It’s not an actual business yet…
That hasn’t stopped a lot of crypto projects from doing an ICO.
Andrey We’re not going to do that. Right now our focus is on these experiments and this product. I’m not opposed to ICOs. That said, when you do an ICO without a product, it feels like a scam. But if you’re doing an ICO to finance growth, to grow your community, it’s potentially a great tool.
Misha Down the road, if some kind of ICO model would be beneficial to our projects we would definitely consider it. But we just want to deliver first.
How much do you have build out the tech side of the platform?
Andrey There’s a lot of technology involved, but the projects we’re developing are incredibly different from one another. Think of it like Netflix — is it really important what the Netflix UX/UI looks like? Ultimately it’s just the content that’s important.
With every project we’re trying to narrow it down to some standards, ERC-20, ERC-721, to make sure it’s truly decentralized. But we think of ourselves as a company that develops technological tools for artists. With every project we’ll build new tools that are open-source, and hopefully we can encourage other artists and engineers to use them.
Misha And the projects themselves have an extremely wide range — right now we’re discussing everything from live performances to interactive videos. Lining them up under a single umbrella becomes limiting.
Each project will be a separate product — they may be completely different, but they’re all part of Snark.art.
And our goal is that it’s not just artists who are involved, but also technologists who are interested in innovating on the blockchain.
Andrey I’ve been to several blockchain hackathons. Technology-wise, there are lots of interesting projects. But conceptually, most of these projects are not ideal to say the least. And I think this is where artists can help.
Is there a Snark.art aesthetic?
Misha From my perspective only in the way that it pushes the boundaries of blockchain technology.
Andrey And it shouldn’t be boring.
Even if it’s a wacky idea with no practical application whatsoever, but if you look at it and say, ‘Wow, I never imagined that the technology could be used in this way,’ that’s a Snark.art project.
What’s the roadmap? What’s the next six months to a year look like?
Andrey Six months from now we want to have the first few projects live and be working alongside many more artists on upcoming projects.. It would be amazing if a couple of indie developers built something on top of the tech that we’re building.
The whole blockchain community is all about open-source. Even if some projects fail other people can still build on top of them. The goal of our experimentation is to do something that can be used by other teams and artists, and hopefully that will make for an interesting future.
Misha I would love it if one or a few of our projects fundamentally changed how blockchain technology is viewed. It’s become so difficult to have an impact on people. All eyes are on a cell phone or a laptop — this is a new reality, and we could really do something quite incredible with that. Something that could have resonance globally.
If something we did got the attention of that global audience, actually moved them emotionally, aesthetically and made them rethink the way they live, they think — that’s my dream.