Contemporary and predominantly conceptual artists pioneering the NFT art movement, long before Beeple and Jafri made headlines, include Lans King and Gordon Berger. Both were early proponents of grasping and exploring the impact of blockchain and its effect on the relationship between humans and technology, using it as a foundation to build their unconventional blockchain art.
In 2019 King launched his radical NFT conceptual project ““(Network of) Self”, 2019 – Current” by surgically implanting a microchip capsule into his left hand and registering his “artist self” on the blockchain. The microchip contains chain code embedded in all his artworks as well as the algorithm he uses to produce the physical works. King boldly states, “I am an NFT”. Instead of putting merely one work of art on the blockchain he has put his entire self.
“The code is the actual work and the microchip is the artefact”, comments King, “Like a key to an entire body of work”.
The collector(s) will have co-ownership over the artist’s personal data, geolocation and biometric information – observable on a dashboard via a programmable NFT on an encrypted domain.
Lans King – Network of Self-Microchip-Capsule
King has always used code in his art, which he refers to as “synthetic paintings”. His art combines algorithms and digital printing with manual painting and drawing techniques. The algorithm is used to transform familiar images – such as Botticelli’s Venus – into a field of numbers and symbols. Printed on canvas, this field is the base for his paintings in which the analog and the digital “meet, clash and shatter,” as described by King. His recent paintings/NFTs incorporate the moving image and, in some cases, combine an augmented reality experience to be viewed through a mobile phone or tablet.
King, who lives and works in London, Paris and New York, believes that his mission is to raise questions about our relationship with technology, data privacy and self-sovereign identity as well as the revolutionary digital relationship between the artist, the artwork and the collector.
VIDEO: LANS KING, ‘(Networking of) Self’ Briefing
Gordon Berger was the first TEDx speaker to talk about blockchain and cryptoart in early 2018. His fascination between the intersection of virtual and physical reality – in this case, traditional painting and technology – led him to discover and become an early adopter of ‘blockchain’ in 2012. He started to explore the creative potential and eventually use it as a medium for his work, resulting in him becoming one of the first artists to tokenize digital paintings as NFTs.
This process inspired him to further question our perception of value in relation to physical and digital objects, which led to the creation of his ‘Solidity’ and ‘Materiality’ series in 2019. The importance of these series comes from the fact that it is the first artwork to be digitally created on the blockchain, using its data and afterwards materialized from the digital to physical reality.
The artwork was created combining a decentralized computer algorithm with the artist’s digital brushstrokes. Factors that determined the positions of each brushstroke were influenced by blockchain and included data such as, the hash of the last block, Berger’s unique digital identity and the exact time of creation. A cryptographic algorithm then generated a one-off abstract artwork which was put on the Ethereum network as a token. Berger then transposed the NFT artwork into a physical reality by using software that analyzed all the pixels and projected them into a 3D form.
Gordon Berger’s Physical Blockchain Art
For ‘Solidity’ Berger created a series of almost identical physical artworks that were all based on the unique digital NFT. He used techniques like casting and 3D printing for the artworks texture and afterwards, painted on them trying to make them look as identical as possible. This part of the process he called “the human error” because the imperfection of the hand guaranteed that each physical copy had something distinctive. However, those physical pieces are the ones being reproduced, and in a way devalued, while the most unique is the digital artwork. Through this series, Berger is shifting traditional perceptions that physical works are considered ‘original’ whereas digital images are generally perceived as ‘copies’. In doing so, he challenges the concepts of uniqueness, authenticity and value.
Gordon Berger’s ‘Solidity’ Exhibition, New York, 2019
Berger’s second series ‘Materiality’ was created in a similar manner except it is focused on the analog and physical presence. Removing the “human touch” – in this case, the painting by hand – this series explores automation, labor and production. The tactile artworks were all generated from the same digital source; however, he chose to use a variety of different materials and fabrication methods for each of the final works creating diverse physically manifestations of the token.
The process of his blockchain art brings together concepts of reproduction, value and smart contracts whilst linking the physical and the virtual dimension.
Berger has exhibited internationally and is currently working with innovative CGI software on a new series of digital paintings called ‘Evolve’, where each new painting will be built on top of the previous version.
By Sally Rhudy
Sally is a contemporary abstract artist and curator of NFT Fine Art (instagram.com/nft_fineart)
Gordon Berger: instagram.com/gordon.berger.art (gordonberger.com) (twitter.com/Gordon_Berger_) Video: youtube.com/watch?v=sWUa6Jn_Veo