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A People's History Project and the Arts Day of Giving

October 2, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
The Silver Eye Center for Photography will host a special event in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Arts Council's Art Day of Giving, an 18-hour, one-day event that lets art lovers throughout the city support their favorite arts non-profit with a small gift. Join Hillman Photography Initiative’s artists-in-residence Melissa Catanese and Ed Panar as they discuss their ongoing art piece A People's History of Pittsburgh.

According to the Hillman Photography Initiative's website, the project aims to "compile family-owned, found, and anonymous photographs and stories from the city’s residents to create an online archive that unearths and reconstructs narratives through the lives of Pittsburghers." Panar and Cantanese will also share images from the project that they plan to publish in 2015.

Attendees will be able to contribute their own pictures to A People's History, so bring your own images documenting your version of Pittsburgh's past. Silver Eye will fire up the digital scanners and let you upload your photos to the project on the spot. And through their computers, you will also be able to make a tax-deductible, partially matched donation to the Silver Eye Center for Photography in honor of the Pittsburgh Arts Council Art Day of Giving.

A Q&A with the Pittsburgh filmmakers behind "The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin"

In 2011, Pittsburgh-based filmmaker Nick Mross and his computer programmer brother Dan teamed up to make The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin, a documentary focusing on the growing popularity of the newly developed Bitcoin. Bitcoin, a de-centralized cryptocurrency, allows users anywhere in the world to complete transactions across the Internet outside of any banking system. They chronicled the wild rollercoaster ride of Bitcoin’s rapid and disrupting impact on the finance industry. And as the phenomenon splashed across websites and newspapers across the globe, speculators, tech entrepreneurs, and idealistic early adopters of Bitcoin all held on for dear life.

With the film’s impending release in limited cities on Oct. 3, a Pittsburgh premiere at SouthSide Works Cinema on Oct. 7, and video-on-demand on Oct. 10, we sat down with the brothers Mross to talk about Bitcoin’s wide-ranging applications and how cryptocurrencies can change the world.

PC: This film tracks the Bitcoin story as recently as February 2014, when Bitcoin experienced its two largest catastrophes. (Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem was arrested on Bitcoin laundering charges; Mt. Gox, the world's largest Bitcoin exchange, was hacked and robbed of $500 million in Bitcoin.) When did you feel like you got the film you wanted?

Nick: I think because everything was unraveling so quickly at the beginning of the year and so much was happening, we just kept shooting. With the storylines featured in the film, we just kept rolling with them and at some point, it was about trying to find a beginning, middle and end. And I think when the Senate hearings on cryptocurrencies occurred at the end of 2013, we thought that would work as a good ending. We thought that was a substantial enough milestone, along with the fact that the price [of one Bitcoin] went all the way up to $1,000 within the course of the film.

But then, all those events [related to our film] happened in early 2014  and it became hard to not include them. They were so significant. So for us, we got a little bit lucky with those big events which we helped establish earlier in the film.

PC: How did you get access to the big players in the Bitcoin phenomenon?

Nick: Part of it was that we were independent and we worked to establish trust right away. We were passionate about telling the story of Bitcoin and that made it very easy for people to realize that we were on their team. Another big factor was that we started early enough that Bitcoin hadn’t really taken off yet, as far as the price and a lot of the media exposure, so a lot of the companies and characters we were filming and talking to seemed excited to get the exposure. I always say that if we started six months later, I don’t think we would have gotten the same level of access.

PC: In light of the arrests and the hackings, how faithful are you now in Bitcoin? Are these growing pangs or warning signs?

Dan: The technology is the breakthrough here. The price reflects more of the consumer sentiment. But as far as what Bitcoin enables people to do, it’s really amazing. It makes the ability to transact with people as free as free speech. You can transact with any other human being globally and there’s no need for a third party involved, there’s no need for a bank account, there’s no need for a Paypal account, and there’s no need for you to ask anyone’s permission. That’s really disruptive for the banking industry, for the regulatory industry, and for pretty much everything, in a similar way that the Internet was disruptive.

But, for Bitcoin to truly go mainstream, it needs to find the balance between the right consumer protections and making it usable and consumer friendly without killing all the benefits it has to offer.

PC: What’s the bigger detriment to the advancement of Bitcoin: The regulation not catching up or the hackers and security issues that come with Bitcoin?

Dan: It’s going to be a tough balance. We actually have a similar argument going on with Internet regulation right now with net neutrality. If regulators write up terrible regulations, and they kill Bitcoin and the price drops really really low, and it’s only used by a handful of people, it will still work, it will just no longer be a dollar profiting kind of toy for people to play with.

PC: Bitcoin seems to attract different groups of people using it for very different things. What are some applications of Bitcoins?

Dan: The anarchists and the libertarians just want to make it available as an independent banking tool for anybody to use. But then you have somebody on Wall Street who looks at Bitcoin and realizes it’s this cool market that trades up and down and they can make a ton of money from it.

Then you have people in other countries like China where there are strict currency controls, and they are using it to move money outside of the country. Bitcoin is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And right now, the different use tastes are wrestling with one another to make sure one group’s regulations doesn’t hamper the other.

PC: Is there any kind of groundswell to provide Bitcoin access to people in Third World countries who don’t have good banking infrastructure?

Dan: Yes, the rubber is starting to hit the road on that idea. BitPesa (a digital currency exchange) is a company I read about recently that is really starting to move into developing countries. In Kenya and Uganda, people are starting to use Bitcoin instead of Western Union for remittances. Not in huge numbers and not in ways that justifies an entry point that threatens the remittance market yet, but people are talking about it and people are doing it because it makes too much sense.

PC: Both of you are Pittsburgh residents, a city with a rapidly growing tech entrepreneur community. Do you see the city as a place for Bitcoin to take hold?

Nick: I think so, but I have talked to a few venture capitalists in Pittsburgh in the past few months, and it seems like Pittsburgh is actually behind in some ways. I started the Bitcoin Meetup group in Pittsburgh about two years ago and we are up to about 190 members. But given the tech we have in the area, the number of retail outlets that accept Bitcoin is a handful at the most. Look at other cities on the West Coast in San Francisco or in Austin, Texas: Many people are using Bitcoin and hundreds of businesses accept it. But I think with Pittsburgh, which gets compared to those cities on occasion, I’m a little surprised we are behind on it.Mross and his computer programmer brother Dan teamed up to make The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin, a documentary focusing on the growing popularity of the newly developed Bitcoin, a de-centralized cryptocurrency which allows users anywhere in the world to complete transactions across the internet outside of any banking system. What they ended up chronicling was the wild rollercoaster ride of Bitcoin’s rapid and disrupting impact on the finance industry. And as the phenomenon splashed across websites and newspapers all over the world, speculators, tech entreprenuers, and idealistic early adopters of Bitcoin all held on for dear life.

With the film’s impending release in limited cities on October 3, video-on-demand on October 10, and a Pittsburgh premier at the South Side Works Cinema on October 7th, we sat down with the brothers Mross to talk about their incredible access to Bitcoin’s elite, Bitcoin’s wide ranging applications, and how cryptocurrencies can truly change the world.

This film tracks the Bitcoin story as late as February of 2014, when two of your subjects who you followed through out the film--Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem and the folks behind Mt. Gox, the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange--experienced catastrophies. (Shrem was arrested on Bitcoin laundering charges, and Mt. Gox was hacked and robbed of $500m in Bitcoin.) When did you feel like you got the film you wanted?

Nick: I think because everything was unraveling so quickly at the begining of the year and so much was happening, we just kept shooting. With the storylines featured in the film, we just kept rolling with them and at some point, it was about trying to find a beginning, middle, and end. And I think when the senate hearings on cryptocurrencies occurred at the end of 2013, we thought that would work as a good ending. We thought that was a substantial enough milestone, along with the fact that the price [of one Bitcoin] went all the way up to $1000 within the course of the film.

But then, all those events [related to our film] happened in early 2014  and it became hard to not include them. They were so significant. So for us, we got a little bit lucky with those big events which we helped establish earlier in the film. 

How did you get access to a lot of the big players in the Bitcoin phenomenon?

Nick: Part of it was that we were independent, and we worked to establish trust right away. We were passionate about telling the story of Bitcoin and that made it very easy for people to realize that we were on their team, and they then opened their doors to us. Another big factor was that we started early enough that Bitcoin hadn’t really taken off yet, as far as the price and a lot of the media exposure, so a lot of the companies and characters we were filming and talking to, they just seemed excited to get the exposure because in a way it’s kind of self promoting. I always say that if we started six months later, I don’t think we would have gotten the same level of access.

In light of the things that have happened with in the past year, the arrests, the hackings, how faithful are you now in Bitcoin? Are these growing pangs or warning signs?

Dan: The technology is the breakthrough here. The price reflects more of the consumer sentiment. But as far as what Bitcoin enables people to do, it’s really amazing. It makes the ability to transact with people as free as free speech. You can transact with any other human being globally and there’s no need for a third party involved, there’s no need for a bank account, there’s no need for a Paypal account, and there’s no need for you to ask anyone’s permission. That’s really disruptive for the banking industry, for the regulatory industry, and for pretty much everything, in a similar way that the internet was disruptive.

But, for Bitcoin to truly go mainstream, it needs to find the balance between the right consumer protections and making it usable and consumer friendly without killing all the benefits it has to offer.

What’s the bigger detriment to the advancement of Bitcoin? The regulation not catching up or the wild west aspect of hackers and security issues that come with Bitcoin? 

Dan: Again, it’s going to be a tough balance. We actually have a similar argument going on with internet regulation right now with net neutrality. If regulators write up terrible regulations, and they kill Bitcoin and the price drops really really low, and it’s only used by a handful of people, it will still work, it will just no longer be a dollar profiting kind of toy for people to play with.

Bitcoin seems to attract different groups of people, like anarchists and libertarians for example, using it for very different things. What are some applications of Bitcoins?

Dan: The anarchists and the libertarians just want to make it available as an independent banking tool for anybody to use. But then you have somebody on Wall Street who looks at Bitcoin and realizes it’s this cool market that trades up and down and they can make a ton of money from it.

Then you have people in other countries, like China where there are strict currency controls, and they are using it to move money outside of the country. Bitcoin is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And right now, the different use tastes are wrestling with one another to make sure one group’s regulations doesn’t hamper the other.

Is there any kind of groundswell, that you saw, to provide Bitcoin access to people in third world countries who don’t have good banking infrastructure?

Dan: Yes, the rubber is starting to hit the road on that idea. BitPesa (a digital currency exchange) is a company I read about recently that is really starting to move into developing countries. In Kenya and Uganda, people are starting to use Bitcoin instead of Western Union for remittances. Not in huge numbers and not in ways that justifies an entry point that threatens the remittance market yet, but people are talking about it and people are doing it because it makes too much sense.

Both of you are Pittsburgh residents, a city with a rapidly growing tech entrepreneur community. Do you see the city as a place, or a potential place, for Bitcoin to really take hold? 

Nick: I think so, but I have talked to a few venture capitalists in Pittsburgh in the past few months, and it seems like Pittsburgh is actually behind in some ways. I started the Bitcoin meetup group in Pittsburgh about two years ago and we are up to about 190 members, or so. But given the tech we have in the area, the number of retail outlets that accept Bitcoin is a handful at the most. Where as you look at other cities, like on the West Coast in San Francisco or in Austin, Texas, many, many people are using Bitcoin and hundreds of businesses accept it. But I think with Pittsburgh, which gets compared to those cities on occasion, I’m a little surprised we are behind on it.









 

Our top picks for the 2014 VIA Festival

The fifth iteration of Pittsburgh's VIA Festival is back, with eclectic programming including live music collaborations with digital media artists, film screenings, and art exhibits. And while there are almost too many events to catch them all, we picked out four performances you should check out over the next week.

Deafheaven - The Rex - October 2
This San Francisco-based five-piece band will almost certainly perform one of the loudest concerts in Pittsburgh this year. Their combination of black metal guitar thrashing -- replete with lead singer George Clarke’s guttural howls - and the ethereal melodicism and distortion-drenched squall of shoegaze creates music that hits you like a concussion wave after a bomb blast. Their 2013 album Sunbather was released to wide acclaim and stocked with tracks like “Dream House,” a mind-melting eight-minute tidal wave that encapsulates the group’s overwhelming yet anthemic aesthetic.

Ellie Herring - Hot Mass - October 3
Hailing from Lexington, Ky., experimental electronic musician Ellie Herring likes to smash apart R&B slow jams and rebuild them into sensual, glitchy bits of IDM. Her stunning 2013 full-length release Kite Days is like a cubist’s version of a Rihanna record, full of throbbing, chopped-up synth lines, house music breakbeats, and ghostly, melancholic vocals from Herring herself.

Cakes Da Killa - Union Trust Building - October 4
Silver-tongued MC Cakes Da Killa raps like a man on fire, and along with acts like VIA-veterans Le1f and Mykki Blanco, he helped defined New York City’s burgeoning queer hip-hop scene. His 2014 mixtape Hunger Pangs is a breathless, unrelenting and entertaining tirade, where Cakes takes down anyone, and anything, that stands in his way to the strains of sparse drum machines and skittering hi-hat splashes.   

JD Samson - Hot Mass - October 4
As an outspoken advocate of LGBTQ rights and a founding member of revolutionary feminist dance music troupe Le Tigre and the performance art-influenced electro group MEN, JD Samson has been at the vanguard of New York’s music scene for nearly 15 years. She comes to Hot Mass for a late-night show as a solo DJ act, ready to tear up the dancefloor with her restlessly creative disco-influenced mixes.
 

Planned Parenthood presents the War on Women Art Show

October 2, 7:00 PM
Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania is bringing the War on Women Art Show to the Andy Warhol Museum on Thursday, featuring work that tackles issues like the gender wage gap, sexual and domestic violence, and the attacks on birth control access. This fundraiser shows Planned Parenthood's investment in a slate of nationally recognized regional artists who are determined to explore the ways in which women are in combat across all segments of society. The show is a challenging, inspiring way to support Planned Parenthood's mission.

In addition to the silent art auction for the displayed artwork, the event will present a pre-show reception with Cecile Richards, CEO of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and former deputy chief of staff to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. For more information about the event, including ticket levels that offer special access to the event, check out the event page at Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania. (117 Sandusky Street, North Side, Andy Warhol Museum)
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Society for Contemporary Craft

2100 Smallman St
412-261-7003
www.contemporarycraft.org

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