LACMA | Los Angeles Central Library | Long Beach City College

I am so fortunate to have received a LACMA Art + Tech grant in 2022 to launch Substrate, a multi-valent experimental, collaborative systems project the first part of which is completed. The second part, an AR visualization, will follow in future months.

In the face of compounding, interconnected global crises, Substrate, an experimental art project in futuristic civics, looks for solutions in nature, focusing on biomimicry. Mycelial networks provide a robust model as networks that supply decentralized, self-sustaining, reciprocal, efficient systems of community care and resource-sharing to the interdependent carbon-based life they support. Our shared social, economic and environmental futures may depend on learning from this blueprint for “moral economies,” privileging the health and sustenance of the entire system over the needs of discrete individuals. Emerging technologies that contain the structural capacity for similar systems, including distributed ledgers of blockchains, decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), and the novel virtuality and interoperability of a “Web3” internet may provide new models for redistributing and protecting cultural knowledge and culturally-specific epistemologies, an early (but by no means solitary) step toward generating more equitable civic futures.

Interdisciplinary collaboration has been as key to this project as facilitating rich biodiversity is to mycelial networks. Substrate summons the “mother tree” civic hubs and overlapping networks of an art museum (LACMA), a central library (LACPL), and Long Beach City College. This institutional interlocking provides the ground to forge a new model of cultural engagement, access, and provenance using industry leader Protocol Labs’ data storage network, Filecoin, particularly through the launch of the Filecoin Virtual Machine. Southern California community college curatorial students, led by Curator Karla Aguiñiga, have rigorously researched the “nutrients” (or metadata, histories, properties) of cultural artifacts they value from LACMA’s collection (in direct service of its goal to be a “distributed museum”), to share, protect, honor and distribute through a flagship digital (and possibly hybrid) exhibition in LA’s Central Public Library, itself a nourishing hub for larger communities. The student group, including Casper Torres, Shereen Moustafa, Mark Sosa, and Miguel Zavala, will share their perspectives as part of a live panel discussion at LACPL in Summer 2024. The LED-screen standard-bearer StandardVision will host the digital components, as it is already installed in the LACPL atrium for the purpose of making digital art public.

This initial community-determined exhibition, minted, encrypted and time-stamped on the blockchain, will be shareable, traceable and adaptable through the vast network of libraries in California and throughout the United States. This model is designed to be adapted and further developed for additional contexts and community needs/interests. The project is thus forming a substrate – an ever-expanding, accessible foundation of experimental exhibitions and new (and hopefully unexpected) forms of cultural engagement from which interested communities might be equitably and creatively sustained.


A Substrate Project 
by Shereen Moustafa, Mark Sosa, Casper Torres, Miguel Zavala

Please direct all inquires to: 
Jessy Arisohn, 291 Agency  




©2024 Nancy Baker Cahill Studio. All rights reserved.

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