Project: this is my body (of work), 2019
For his new work, artist Lans King has surgically implanted an NFC microchip into his body. The chip is the key element of his conceptual artwork entitled “This is my body (of work)”. It contains a private cryptographic blockchain code which represents the work itself. It is perhaps the first artwork ever to be fully integrated within the body of an artist.
The code is the blockchain address given to this specific work on the Codex Protocol, a platform which tracks the origin and provenance of artworks on the Ethereum blockchain.
A blockchain is, in the simplest of terms, a time-stamped series of unchangeable record of data. The data is managed by decentralised network of computers not owned by any single entity. Each of these blocks of data are secured and bound to each other using a cryptographic code. Blockchain technology is expected to revolutionise everything from finance to art. Recent blockchain artworks have sold for as much as $1,000,000.
The encoded chip was implanted by Jowan Österlund of BioHax, a startup in Helsingborg, Sweden that has already implanted them into a number of people for use as keys and even bank cards. The work is conceptual (only represented by a code on a chip ) yet physically connected to the artist.
A conceptual artwork is one in which the idea or concept presented by the artist is considered more important than the finished product, if any such exists. Much like the artist Marcel Duchamp created the idea of readymade by signing a urinal and re-contextualising it as art, this work is a kind of “digital readymade”. In this case, the readymade is the chip; it is the artefact of the conceptual artwork.
The chip is the artefact and can even be acquired by a collector. The chip will be removed from Lans King’s body; it will be transferred to the collector at that point.
The blockchain code will be used to track the transfer of the work from the artist to the collector via its registry on Codex Protocol. This will establish the provenance for future authentication. The code will also be embedded in all of Lans King’s future artworks - so there will be a link between this work and his entire body of work.
This artwork poses a number of questions: First, what is the connection between the artist (the body), the artwork, and his complete body of work? Furthermore, how do we determine the value (and ownership) of an artwork which does not have a physical form? Can a work which exist in a virtual space be considered as real? What are the implications of inserting digital devices into our bodies? How will this effect humanity itself?
We have become used to and even dependent on the technology that we carry in our pockets. The really big question is, are we ready to go even further by integrating technology into our own bodies?
This work is part of his ongoing art practice which examines how we live between real and virtual, analog and digital, physical and conceptual. Lans King paintings combine algorithms, code and digital printing with manual painting techniques. Code has always been a part of his work as a way of making us aware of the extent to which our society is driven by numbers and data.
Furthermore, Lans’ paintings and sculptures are often hybrid with videos as a way of dealing with the subject of reality and hyperreality. Often he uses “reality tv” style videos that feature the prodigious artist Anaïs de Lÿs.
Lans has documented the development of this work and will make many of the elements available online in the coming weeks…