Sixteen male workers plucked one rose petal at a time. They photographed each petal, creating an archive of 100,000 images. They formed their own lexicons on beauty, selecting just one petal from each rose as the most beautiful to be pressed. The setting was the former Bell Labs in New Jersey where such innovations as the transistor, silicon solar cell, and numerous programming languages underwent critical developments. This labor, staged in 2016, may be viewed as a physical manifestation of the proof-of-work mechanism.
Today, each of the chosen physical petals is linked to one of 3,291 Bitchcoins on the Ethereum blockchain, backed by a unique rose petal like the one below. These tokens converge two influential projects, Bitchcoin and the aptly named Cloud of Petals, and contribute the voice of an important artist to the blockchain and NFT communities.
Few artists embody the principles and interest of FingerprintsDAO better than Sarah Meyohas: a fine artist whose first blockchain artwork predates the launch of Ethereum. She created Bitchcoin in 2015, linking each token to 25 square inches of her photography. This was an exercise in commodity and financialization where an investment in Bitchcoin was apropos to speculating the valuation of the art and the artist. Her interest in the technology converged with an interest in relational aesthetics, where a social interaction between participants, facilitated by an artist, is the artwork itself.
Meyohas is distinct among contemporary artists. She double majored in Finance and International Relations in her undergraduate studies at University of Pennsylvania, and, soon after, pursued an MFA at Yale. Well-respected in the upper echelons of the fine art community, her foray into crypto in 2014–15 demonstrates her pulse on the changing art market in the presence of social media, memeification of the artist, and her foresight in communicating the potential of blockchain.
Now, we post images online which we soon lose control of, personal images we are deeply entangled with. Meyohas used photos of her own body in the original works, and the petals could be interpreted as standing in for her body. The acquisition of a Bitchcoin might be seen as giving the purchaser a stake in her, while relinquishing and maintaining control over her image in separate respects.
In the 1960s, fluxus emerged as an art movement adjacent to the activism and counterculture of the period. While the work was intrinsically political, the movement sought to blend art and life through, at first, happenings. Fluxus saw this broadening of the boundaries of art to make art both ubiquitous and obsolete, catalyzed by the likes of Joseph Beuys, Yayoi Kusama, and Yoko Ono.
While FingerprintsDAO is an art collection, it is governed by an exchangeable asset. This is the same existence embodied by some of the great artworks we have acquired, such as Autoglyphs, where the ownership and exchange is contained on the blockchain. This is a strong conceptual gesture to say that it is not just about the JPEG minted into infinitum, but to say there is creative merit to the existence of the blockchain.
While these conceptual gestures resonate strongly with our creative thesis, we believe in a poetics intrinsic to these exchanges. They’re happenings shed of the physical boundaries, focusing on social boundaries.
Seminal examples of the works of relational aesthetics include Rikrit Tiravanija’s Untitled (Free) (1992), performed at 303 Gallery in New York City, now acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. For this work, the artist exhibited the contents of the gallery’s backroom, a symbolic gesture exposing the art business in the white cube gallery space. In the gallery’s newly vacant office, he prepared and served Thai curry free to visitors to the exhibition.
There is a political gesture in exposing that which a gallery works hard to keep private, but also a poetic gesture in repurposing the space for dining, conversation, and the interactions which might emerge. One might argue that the art is the social relations generated by the artist’s creation.
Twenty-four years later, at her 2016 solo exhibition at the very same 303 Gallery, Meyohas traded small cap stocks while seated at the center of the gallery. She then took an oil stick to wall-mounted canvases, recording her direct influence to market capitalization in real-time. This process of mark making produces evidence of her movement in the gallery, resembling her ownership, evidencing a social relation of financialization which had emerged.
This was a natural development in the art historical canon, with exceptional relevance to FingerprintsDAO. Proselytizing the idea of smart contract art, we see the social relation of financialization as indicative of our time. Blockchain art creates a social relation in the canon of relational aesthetics, while a simple NFT does not.
With this in mind, the marketplace which emerges through the exchange of Bitchcoin — now reborn in Ethereum — one of Meyohas’s great works.
She has turned the social experience of markets, a multi-millennia old phenomenon, into one distinctly of the present: utilizing a technology that exists on its own, eliminating the need for in-person interaction, reflecting the media reality we exist in, and satirizing the commercial art world. In 2014, Meyohas imagined Bitcoin not exclusively as a decentralized currency, but for its potential as a participatory artwork.