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Amends Press Release
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Artist Kyle McDonald selling NFT marketplace emissions for $17M

Los Angeles, California (May 16, 2022)

In his latest work “Amends”, artist Kyle McDonald is auctioning three sculptures—from which the proceeds will pay to mitigate the historical emissions of three major art NFT marketplaces. The sculptures are both digital renders and physical handcrafted glass blocks, each filled with a material used for carbon removal and prevention.

NFT marketplaces allow artists to sell certificates of ownership in digital art to collectors in exchange for cryptocurrency. The majority of NFT volume relies on the Ethereum network, the second largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin.

Like Bitcoin, the Ethereum network is very energy intensive compared to traditional financial services. Millions of dedicated computers all over the world run at full power 24/7 to process only around 15 Ethereum transactions per second for less than a million users. The energy intensive “mining” process is sometimes described as “solving a complex mathematical problem”, but actually consists of guessing millions of random numbers per second—with the right to process transactions going to the first computer that makes a correct guess. Energy usage is currently estimated around 28 trillion watt hours per year.  Some of this energy comes from renewables, but the majority comes from fossil fuels. Total emissions are currently estimated at 8 million tons of CO2 per year. For comparison, networked services like Facebook serve nearly 3 billion people a month on only a quarter of the energy.

But this year, Ethereum is scheduled to roll out a low-energy solution, transitioning from the energy-intensive proof-of-work consensus algorithm to the energy-efficient proof-of-stake algorithm in an event called “the merge”. The price of the work will increase until that point accounting for ongoing emissions, with the work going on sale immediately after the merge.

McDonald says, “The science shows that even if we end all emissions today, we still need to remove hundreds of billions of tons of historical greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and ocean. In tech the motto is ‘move fast and break things’, but those broken pieces are haunting us. Changing things going forward isn’t enough. This work represents a major opportunity to take responsibility for a small portion of our impact on the environment.”

To mitigate the share of these emissions from NFT marketplaces, McDonald has partnered with three organizations: Nori, Tradewater, and Project Vesta.

The auctions will be facilitated by the San Francisco based art and technology organization Gray Area Foundation for the Arts. The current reserve prices total $17M USD, with each work ranging from $500k to $16M USD, corresponding to the 19,000 tons of CO2 to 690,000 tons of CO2 emitted by each marketplace. These emissions estimates are based on over a year of research led by McDonald: studying the efficiency of Ethereum network, the location of the computers, the energy mix of different regions, and different models of emissions responsibility assignment. His work represents the first comprehensive bottom-up estimate of Ethereum’s energy and emissions, and has been widely accepted by energy experts and the crypto community alike.

The digital work consists of videos produced in collaboration with artist Robert Hodgin, and the physical work consists of handcrafted blown glass by Kazuki Takazawa. Each carbon removal organization has provided a different material for the glass blocks. From Nori, carbon-rich soil; from Project Vesta, olivine sand; and from Tradewater, shredded refrigerant canisters. The physical work will be revealed a month after launch. In order to receive the physical sculpture, a collector will be required to “burn” their NFT—renouncing their ownership in the digital work in return for the physical work.

“Amends” is launching on OpenSea, Rarible, and Foundation. McDonald plans to eventually expand beyond NFT platforms, addressing the historical emissions of the entire Ethereum blockchain—currently around 16 million tons of CO2.

Kyle McDonald is an artist working with code based in Los Angeles. He crafts interactive installations, sneaky interventions, playful websites, workshops, and toolkits for other artists. Exploring possibilities of new technologies: to understand how they affect society, to misuse them, and build alternative futures; aiming to share a laugh, spark curiosity, create confusion, and share spaces with magical vibes. Working with machine learning, computer vision, social and surveillance tech spanning commercial and arts spaces. Previously adjunct professor at NYU's ITP, member of F.A.T. Lab, community manager for openFrameworks, and artist in residence at STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at CMU, and YCAM in Japan. His work is commissioned and shown internationally, including the V&A, NTT ICC, Ars Electronica, Sónar, Todays Art, Mass MoCA, and Eyebeam.

Gray Area is a 21st-century countercultural hub catalyzing creative action for social transformation. Gray Area's mission is to cultivate, sustain, and amplify a community of creative practitioners who apply antidisciplinary practice—including art, technology, science, and the humanities—towards engaging with the complex challenges facing our world. Through public events, education, research, and incubation Gray Area maintains a platform that enables creators of diverse backgrounds and perspectives to transcend boundaries within deep artistic collaboration and gain agency to impact the world through category-defying work.

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