Censorship resistance: Hong Kong’s Apple Daily archives preserved by artist Kevin Abosch

From June 20 1995 until June 23 2021, Hongkongers concerned about growing Chinese influence in the Special Administrative Region had at least one local media outlet in their corner. 

Apple Daily was known for its pro-democracy stance, when not covering sensationalist tabloid-style news — two editorial innovations that set it apart from almost all other media outlets in Hong Kong at the time of its launch.

And although the publication survived a 2020 raid on its offices, when the CEO, COO, Editor in Chief and other executives were arrested by police on June 17 2021 on suspicion of violating Article 29, a Hong Kong law passed in 2020 with the backing of the Chinese government that precludes “collusion with external forces to endanger national security”, Apple Daily was finished.

But Irish artist Kevin Abosch intends to ensure that even though Apple Daily is gone, it will not be forgotten.

His new artwork, PERSISTENCE, is a USB drive that contains over 11,000 news articles from Apple Daily, as well as an executable file that can be used to boot a Koii node secured by the Arweave blockchain.

“The battle to preserve freedom of the press will be fought with technological weaponry,” claims Abosch

Numerous organizations, including Reporters Without Borders, are on record as suggesting that the national security law in question was used by the “Hong Kong government… to take down a symbolic figure of press freedom.” The European Union spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security said that the closing of Apple Daily “seriously undermines media freedom and pluralism, which are essential for any open and free society.

“It’s understandable that autocrats fear decentralized technology as they fear anything they can’t control absolutely,” continued Abosch in reference to what he describes as the “China-controlled Hong Kong government”.

PERSISTENCE is not just an art intervention — It is a proof of concept for a weapon designed to thwart attempts to censor journalists.”

Abosch has become a celebrated artist in the cryptoart sector, renowned for his experimentations with cryptography and codes. He has previously told Cointelegraph that “My truth, and the promise of crypto, is that privacy is a human right.”

Related: NFTs make it possible for gamers to have digital property rights.

This is his second collaboration with Koii Labs, which is developing a decentralized protocol for high volume, transparent activities in areas including public archive curation, reputation systems, and digital media rights.

Koii founder Al Morris said that “Whether conflicts are armed or cultural, the history books are usually written by the prevailing force. Decentralized technology makes it possible for the voices of all participants in the human struggle to preserve their experiences forever.”

Abosch has previously discussed his plans to outfit an orbital CubeSat with a Koii node, with the intention of providing climate change mapping to researchers. At the time, he also revealed that he had coded a reference to the location of Uyghur ‘concentration camps’ in Xinjiang into an artwork that he had presented to the National Museum of China in Beijing.

Abosch also includes an encrypted key suggesting ownership of a non-fungible token (NFT) and a set of hacker tools on the PERSISTENCE drive “that may prove useful under certain circumstances”.

The artwork will be presented at London’s Pippy Houldsworth Gallery from July 9 until August 6 2021.

PERSISTENCE by Kevin Abosch / courtesy the artist.


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Art in orbit: Kevin Abosch takes NFTs to the stars

The phrase “NFTs are going to the stars” gets a new meaning today as Irish conceptual artist (and one of Cointelegraph’s Top 100 in Blockchain 2020) Kevin Abosch has announced the planned launch of a orbital satellite dubbed “1111 KOSMOS.” 

The announcement comes shortly after the conclusion of a related NFT drop, Abosch’s 1111 series. A collection of 1111 NFT-backed images, the artist’s website hinted that the pieces would be a gateway to a larger project, and that “over time it will be revealed how communities from around the world can interact with the work.”

In an interview with Cointelegraph, Abosch referred to 1111 KOSMOS as one of what will be many “activations” for the original 1111 series, and as “a guiding star of sorts for the collectors as a whole.”

He went on:

“Much of the imagery in the 1111 NFT’s are of satellites. There are plenty of surprises in store for those who choose to take the journey.”

1111 KOSMOS will be a CubeSat outfitted with “a sophisticated camera and proprietary software will produce high quality data pertaining to global climate change,” per a press release from Abosch. The images and data collected by the satellite will be made available to climate change researchers and governmental bodies, as well as used to create another NFT series to be distributed to 1111 holders.

Abosch — who is known for a hint of theatricality that can leaven his often conceptually-driven and philosophically complex work — hinted at the satellite launch throughout last week on Twitter, at one point referring to it as “cosmic.” There’s a strong possibility that the satellite will be used for more than mapping climate change, as well: at a recent exhibition at the National Museum of China, he used paintings to subtly jab at China’s state-run Uyghur concentration camps:

Though Abosch says he “doubts” he’s the first to use satellite imagery for artistic purposes, using a satellite to conduct climate change research, to create and distribute NFTs, and to further interact with a details-as-yet-unannounced DAO element woven into the 1111 series is certainly a novel combination. 

Abosch told Cointelegraph that in order to accomplish such a technological and artistic feat, a full team was required, including Coder-Dojo founder James Whelton and Bridge founder Connor Murphy.

“While my area of specialty is computer vision, James is a versatile software engineer and Connor’s forte is data science. This challenge of this type of mission is in building agile yet robust architecture while keeping power consumption at a minimum. At the end of the day, it’s just a computer floating in the sky, but we have work around the limitations.”

Ultimately, the effort is part of a broader theme in Abosch’s work to make his on-chain installations interactive and experiential — and hinted that 1111 might be his most robust effort on that front yet.

“1111 challenges the assumption that we collect art by suggesting that perhaps the art collects us. By amplifying intrinsic value and through emotional engagement of the collector, it become increasingly difficult to intellectually argue that one is superior to the art. I have no problem with the “flippers” but I imagine for some there will be a sense of regret in not fully engaging in the ongoing relationship with the work.”

1111 KOSMOS will launch in Q4 of 2021.