Portrait of the artist as a bitcoin: When cryptocurrency meets conceptual art

The Independant | Sophie Haigney

Kevin Abosch wanted to turn himself into a coin. Why? Because he sold a photograph of a potato. Let’s back up. Abosch, 48, is an Irish conceptual artist and photographer who lives in New York. He is also interested in the blockchain, the technology best known for its use in virtual currencies like bitcoin and ether. The strange culture surrounding these cryptocurrencies is increasingly making its way into art, in works that explore value, decentralization and the buzz around digital money. Which brings us back to Potato #345, a photo that made headlines around the world after Abosch said it was purchased by a European businessman in 2015 for 1 million euros. On the one hand, the attention generated by the sale was exciting, he said. “On the other hand, the focus shifts from the artistic value to monetary value of the work, and for most artists the art is an extension of the artist, so you yourself start to feel commodified,” Abosch said. “In order to sort of control that, I began to think of myself as a coin.”

Abosch turned to the blockchain, which essentially records a series of transactions across a large, open network of computers. The Ethereum blockchain allows coders to create virtual tokens, which can be transferred between users. They are not always currencies, exactly, but something like them. Abosch created 10 million tokens in January. “But I didn’t want to just make these 10 million pieces of virtual art,” he said. “I wanted them to be connected to my body.” So, he had six vials of his blood drawn. He stamped the contract address — a long string of numbers and letters indicating where the tokens effectively live on the blockchain — onto 100 pieces of paper, in blood. And he called the project IAMA Coin. He said he believes that he has “successfully connected my physical body to the virtual works” in such a way that he sees the art “as pieces of me.”…read more

Image: Kevin Abosch with his ‘Personal Effects’ installation