Esteemed artist Miltos Manetas will tokenise 50% of his Julian Assange portraits, with the goal of raising awareness for the imprisoned activist. To further cement the blockchain connection, proceeds of the NFT drop will enter a DAO that forms part of the Venice Biennale Festival’s Internet Pavilion, a tech tent founded by Manetas in 2009.
Named This Cannot Be Erased, the special collection of 111 NFTs will grant buyers access to one-of-one digital versions of hand-painted portraits created by Manetas over the last two years. The collection will be divided into three phases during which 37 tokens are to be minted on the Materia blockchain, starting June 23.
This year’s Venice Biennale, now in its 59th year, runs from April 23 to November 27. While the majority of tents at the festival are reserved for countries, the Internet Pavilion is dedicated to Assange under the theme “AIIA – Assange is Internet Internet is Assange.”
This Cannot Be Erased was produced by Manetas with support from long-time collaborator Howie B, a British composer who scored the original Internet Pavilion event thirteen years ago. Back then, Manetas and curator Jan Aman stirred controversy by inviting a number of people involved with activist website The Pirate Bay to Venice to inaugurate the Embassy of Piracy.
The latest collection develops Manetas’ interest in freedom in the internet age, with the artist having continually voiced his support for a man he regards as a close friend. The painter, whose digital works have previously appeared on VR platform Second Life, likens the silencing of the WikiLeaks founder to governments attempts to crush dissent on the World Wide Web, leading to the aforementioned theme for this year’s Internet Pavilion: Assange is Internet Internet is Assange.
The 111 NFTs in the collection are curated digital versions of the Assange portraits the artist created as part of the #AssangePower social media campaign. That blitz led Manetas to showcase his creations at Rome’s Palazzo delle Esposizioni and later Belgium’s IKOB Museum with an exhibition entitled Assange Situation – Emergency.
This year, the location of the Internet Pavilion is the vast, prison-like domain of The Gervasuti Foundation, which Manetas considers an appropriate setting given Assange’s ongoing incarceration. The Foundation is located at the north end of Via Garibaldi, on the site of the Gervasuti family artisan wood workshop.
Holders of This Cannot Be Erased will not only own a piece of art history; they’ll also become Trustees of AIIA, with the NFT designated a “currency” of a new internet “country” unbound by borders or barriers. As mentioned, money raised from the sale will go into the Internet Pavilion DAO, meaning art collectors can help decide which art projects the Pavilion funds in the future.
Miltos Manetas has said that his goal is to raise awareness of Assange’s treatment, believing that he has been unjustly demonised for his whistleblowing activities. This view is echoed by human rights organisation Amnesty International, which calls the UK’s decision to extradite Assange to the US a “travesty of justice.”
NFT that make up the new collection last for a minute, during which time the holder sees the face of Assange, fracturing before rapidly coming back together, never to erase. Each artwork is accompanied by a musical theme composed by Howie B.
Assange is currently appealing the UK government’s extradition ruling. If the appeal fails, the activist could face a 175-year prison sentence if convicted in a US court.
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