Proofs of Work #18

MARCH 31ST, 2022

PHOTOGRAPHY WITH AN EDGE is a periodical feature showcasing NFT artists working with photographic practices that defy or challenge the common definition of a photograph. We are here to explore and celebrate these more exotic forms of photography and the free mixture of old and new, art and science, analog and digital employed in the exploration of the limits and possibilities of light, chemistry, and bits. 

As an experimental photographer myself, deeply involved in making marks on photosensitive surfaces, Pedro Victor Brandão’s work drew me like a fly to honey on my first discovery of his series, Proofs of Work. From the nonrepresentational to the abstract to the more traditional, these analog works executed from 1992 to 2012 masterfully tell the story of a gifted photographer in command of his medium. I am particularly drawn to the black and white images, their details capturing and holding my attention in a firm grip. I find myself wanting to know the backstory of each and every one as I return to look at them again and again. They embody the ageless mystery of silver gelatin, light, chemistry, and creativity.

Proofs of Work #9

Cloud, Continent, Island, Pedro’s more recent work on KnownOrigin, continues the mystery. Here he adds a challenging thought experiment and demonstrates his command of the digital darkroom. In each work in this series, a single raw photographic file is subjected to a custom script that extracts sequential frames at 0.01 f-stop increments with a sine-based contrast curve. Combined to create short videos demonstrating the evolution of the image throughout the curve, the results are fascinating, visually and intellectually. They delight, they inspire, and they set my mind to racing down new paths as I consider the possibilities they urge me towards.

Untitled #3

Pedro’s Slits in Depth series on illustrates once again that he never rests on his laurels.  Here he has used the interactive nature of the platform to showcase a series of dynamic 3D stereographic compositions that alternate interior and exterior spaces in impossible perspectives, autonomously cycling throughout the hours of the day.

Untitled #3

Let’s let Pedro tell us more about himself and his work.

Can you describe your process?

The process with Cloud, Continent, Island was created as a response to an almost emergency need. The first two sets were made in 2010 and worked as a reward for a crowdfunding I had to make. At that time I was starting to show my work around and there were many national salons in Brazil - group exhibitions with many people, which sometimes gave prizes to one or two selected ones. This type of event was what could bring some visibility to the artists at the time.

Around February of that year, I sent my portfolio to the open call for the 12th National Salon of Arts of Itajaí, which took place in this city in the state of Santa Catarina. After some conversations with the curator Josué Mattos, seven works from three series were selected to participate in the show. I was excited at first, but it didn't take me long to understand that I had to bear all the costs of production, packaging, shipping, and if I wanted to go to the opening, I had to buy the tickets myself. It was then that I had the idea of printing an edition of works to be sold at minimum prices to cover the production costs of the other works that would go to the exhibition.

Installation view of Untitled #1.1 (Cybernetic Memory), from Short series during 12th National Salon of Arts of Itajaí, 2010.

The series is made from images of clouds photographed backlit during storms in raw format. The intention was to exhaust the possibilities of a single raw file, showing in each output only a part of the image's histogram. I made a simple script to be able to export thousands of images with variations of 0.01 stop of exposure. At the time I didn't have the computing resources to edit these images in an animated way - and even if I managed to edit the films, it would be quite difficult to sell them as files to raise the necessary funds to cover the expenses of the exhibition in Itajaí. So I printed the images in editions of 15 copies and with the help of many friends, I managed to finance the production of the works - turning what would be one more (costly) free-work situation into a zero-sum situation.

But in 2021, now with a video card capable of processing 4K videos, I decided to return to this series and mint the works #3 to #7 as animations on KnownOrigin.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I think that in the history of photography there are some classic examples, but in 2010 I remember reading about the “Equivalent” series by Alfred Stieglitz and his essay “How I came to photograph clouds?”. There was another earlier text as well, by Jules Janin who, in 1839, wrote a description of fascination when he saw some of the first daguerreotypes, and there he talks a lot about this capture of the landscape. Generally, the works I do arise from research that takes place inside and outside the field of art, but somehow linked to experiences of my own.

This is the case of Cloud, Continent, Island, which appears with an emergency aspect (to gather funds for the production of other works), but also of several other series that evaluate and interpret the current stage of capitalism. I also like to understand the mediums before starting to produce, so that I can see if I can exhaust the possibilities through studies.

What started you on this journey?

I was kind of born into an analog photography lab, which was the family business for almost 30 years until it went bankrupt in the early 2000s because it couldn't adapt to the digital photography revolution. So from a very early age, I started making cameraless experiments on weekends, developing a photographic language that went beyond the click. I see that in your work too, Wanda, and I think it's amazing that we're having this conversation.

I think that in every artist's life, there is that moment when they decide: “this is what I want to do”. In my case, this decision came from a need to understand landscapes around me in a processual, research-based dynamic. Over time, I also realized that an artistic practice would only make sense to me when it was in dialogue with our own time, and also with other peers. In this sense, I found very potent interlocutions during the time I attended the Parque Lage School of Visual Arts. I did assistance work for several artists too, and this was something important in my training, as was participation in collectives and study groups.

What prompted you to expand your work into the NFT realm?

I discovered the forum Bitcoin Talk, also in 2010, and since then I have kept a constant interest in the intersection of distributed ledger technologies and contemporary art. At the beginning there was something that reminded me of one of the first crowdsourced projects, which I saw in my childhood, SETI@home. Back in the 90's users could install a screensaver that used computer processing power when the machine was idle to perform data analysis aimed at discovering radio evidence of extraterrestrial life.

Later, in 2013 and 2014, together with the artist Maíra das Neves, I developed the þit project, when we implemented a model of self-production of financial and natural resources on a semi-abandoned plot in the city of Oer-Erkenschwick, in western Germany. Our model approached various fields of knowledge, such as religion, law, economics, aesthetics and politics to rethink mining and land use in an artistic practice in which one of the main elements was the creation and installation of three cryptocurrency mining rigs – the financial sculptures entitled Giant Miner #1, #2 and #3 – with which we created a common fund used in workshops, to finance some activities in that space and also to pay the rent of the lot itself. I think it was the first time we were able to make these technologies work in a practical way, with real consequences, while producing a series of works fueled by this research that took place in a collective environment with intense sharing of ideas - something that is much better than “DYOR”. Collectively doing our shared research is way better than doing your own research.

Occupation of an empty lot during the þit project. In partnership with Maíra das Neves, 2014.

In 2019 I minted my first series of non-fungible tokens for the solo show Forjada e Outros Formas [Forged and Other Forms], which was presented at Portas Vilaseca Gallery, in Rio de Janeiro. Returnable is a series of 12 objects in which this idea of co-ownership that generates long-term revenue appears again, but this time it had tokenized equivalents. I made the series with a custom contract on the Mintable platform, and ⅓ of each sale made by the gallery was returned to the wallets contained within the works through a sale operation on Opensea. The objective was to triple the value of the share and repay the initial investment made by collectors. Something which in fact happened in 2021, during the appreciation cycles seen during the pandemic.

Screenshot of Opensea page for Returnable series, 2019

I think that non-fungible tokens along with the idea of self-issuance is a medium for artistic and financial expression - that's why I have called this field cryptomedia. It is not just a means of payment or a way of cutting out intermediaries, but a stack of socio-technical solutions with which it has been possible to implement, to varying degrees, the idea of “venture communism” put forth by the Telekommunisten collective since 2001. That is something that alters the perception of the value-forms of our time. I am interested in producing works that can only happen in this environment while embedding practices of redistribution, archiving and composability.

Where do you expect your work to take you in the next year?

The 20's started in a very strange way, didn't they? When I minted Returnable in 2019 I knew it would be a technology that could go through a very steep adoption curve, but I didn’t expect it to be so fast. I also did not expect that this speed would happen next to a pandemic, in the midst of so many restrictions. So I find it a little difficult to predict or create expectations for the future…

I am currently preparing a solo exhibition for 2023 that considers the category of value as a starting point for some new iterations. I have been doing “anarchiving” work for The Sphere, a web3 circus that has been redesigning structures for funding, creating and collectively crafting performance art works. I’m continuing to develop the Acerola Fund as a DAO, which since January 2021 is functioning as an experiment in indirect coordination and distributed governance aimed at acquiring works made by artists from the Global South. And with Maíra, we are organizing materials from the þit project for further deployments. I hope that soon we will have overcome this recessive period of the great lockdown and we can also have more and more IRL meetings.

Where can people find your work?

I am participating in two group shows now: one in person at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, called Terra em tempo: fotografias do Brasil [Earth in time: photographs from Brazil], curated by Beatriz Lemos with curatorial assistance by Natasha Felix after the museum's photography collections. And there is also a Visita guiada [Guided tour], a digital exhibition created by the curatorial platform aarea for Pivô Satélite. In the latter, I show a dynamic piece, minted on the Async.Art platform. Site visitors can sign a message with their wallet to enter the giveaway of a work. The drawing will be on April 24, 2022.

And I invite the readers to visit my linktree, almost everything is there: 


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