Bloemenveiling, 2019

website; smart contracts; GAN generated video; AI bots


Bloemenveiling is a distributed app to auction artificial-intelligence-generated tulips. Echoing the auctions that sprung up throughout taverns in 17th century Holland at the height of Tulip-mania, the piece interrogates the way technology drives human desire and economic dynamics by creating artificial scarcity. Short moving image pieces of tulips created by generative adversarial networks are sold at auction using smart contracts on the Ethereum network. Each time a tulip is sold, thousands of computers around the world all work to verify the transaction, checking each other's work against each other. Even if the website for the auction shuts down, a permanent record will still exist of who owns which tulip. A network of bots participate in the auction alongside humans, driving demand in much the same way as the automated trading algorithms that drive modern financial markets. After a week, the tulip is blighted, and the moving image piece can no longer be viewed by its owner. In this way, the decay and impermanence of the natural world is reintroduced into the digital world. While the artificial intelligence that created the moving image pieces has the potential to generate infinite flowers, the enormous distributed network behind Ethereum is used, at great environmental cost, to introduce scarcity to an otherwise limitless resource.