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Bitchcoin #13.019

Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted:  May 22, 2021 (I believe)

Artist Description: This Bitchcoin is backed by Petal #13.019

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

The following explanation four passages are excerpts from Sarah Meyohas’ website to explain the fundamentals of the Bitchcoin project:

“Predating the launch of Ethereum by five months, in February 2015 conceptual artist Sarah Meyohas released the first tokenization of art on the blockchain: Bitchcoin. Six years later, the artist migrated Bitchcoin from its native chain to Ethereum, releasing reserved Bitchcoins backed by art from her seminal Cloud of Petals exhibition at Red Bull Arts New York. For this release, the artist chose to back each Bitchcoin with a unique pressed rose petal.

Bitchcoin proposed three ideas that are only now being seriously considered: using blockchain to track ownership of artwork, public fractional ownership of artwork, and blockchain itself as a medium.

“This series of Bitchcoins is backed by the artist’s 2017 Cloud of Petals project… [wherein] Meyohas employed 16 male workers [who]...meticulously plucked, preserved, and photographed 100,000 rose petals to amass a dataset for artificial intelligence… The workers set aside the one petal per rose they considered most beautiful, creating a taxonomy of individual aesthetic value. The 3,291 chosen petals…are the documentation of the performance; materially limited and unique, they are the proof-of-work of Cloud of Petals.

“If one chooses to redeem their Bitchcoin for a physical relic, their coin will be destroyed, or ‘burned’...As each Bitchcoin is backed by a relic from this project, the value of the cryptocurrency is tied to the inarticulable value of art, continuing the symbiotic call and response that established Bitchcoin as one of the world’s earliest NFTs.”

It’s hard to quantify just how revolutionary the concept of Bitchcoin was. I’m not saying that because we are somehow insufficient, I’m saying that because, in order to quantify such a thing, we have to transport ourselves back 7 years, unlearning all we now know about crypto art. Perhaps the first project to tie the concept of blockchain to artistry (or certainly one of the earliest examples), Bitchcoin is conceptual art at its finest, the kind of piece that encourages us to examine the relationship between disparate concepts or items, but one that enriches both with the relationship. Like that famous image of an iceberg with only its scalp poking up out of the water, its great girth submerged, the physical representation of Mehoya’s Bitchcoins only represents a fragmentation of the artistry and the beauty of the project. In Bitchcoins, Meyohas throws together antithetical elements: the indestructible and the fragile, the eternal and the momentary, the automatic and the manual. With the two extreme examples demonstrated, we can understand the full span of the chasm between them, and mark where we ourselves stand therein. Don’t worry, it’s an automatic process.

But, of course, it requires a bit of research. There is no conceptual art without context, and while Meyohas has provided us (thankfully) with the motivation, intention, and immediate reception of her Bitchcoin project, what we ourselves must adjudicate is how almost 8 years of cryptocurrency, NFT, and crypto art development have shifted our relationship to her work, as they must. The petal —peach and yellow, veiny and scabbed with brown blotches, smooth on one edge and jagged, like an ogre’s teeth, on the other— sits ambiently in an off-white void, but with a quiet menace, as if threatening us should we get too close. I suspect this is an effect of the shape and color, not necessarily of the flower itself. MOCA’s Bitchcoin, Bitchcoin #13.019, can be clicked (on Opensea), as I suppose all can, to reveal a spinning, golden coin, marked on one side by a pair of golden lips and the word “BITCH COIN” and on the other side by markings akin to a computer chip accompanied by a small square, “Backed by Petal #13.019.”

In 2022, of course, the minting of art —and for all variety of purposes— on the blockchain is no great feat of invention or moxie. Because of this, we are generally more concerned with the nature of the art itself than the manner of its creation or the medium in which we find it, and certainly few pieces can rival the largesse and vision that Mahoyas employed for the building of Bitchcoin. We may look back at this piece with nostalgia, sure, for a time when minting art was uncommon. We may look back with awe at the scope of the project in the first place. For me, however, I feel more than anything a pain of loss. It’s the loss of something which never existed, and I know some may feel comfortable calling that nostalgia, but for me it’s something else. Nostalgia is rooted in reality, and what I’m feeling is something I know is a trick, is false, and yet I feel anyways, a kind of memory-related self-deception. I long for a time I did not experience and did not know, when the careful creation of every art piece on the blockchain spawned intense interest in the very manner and process of its creation, a reality that is simply impossible when the enormous everyday deluge of artistry simply outmans what our brains and eyeballs are able to consider about background. Would that we could sink into every piece minted each day as deeply as Bitchcoin demands we sink into it, and as deeply as many have! We are not today so lucky. And we suffer. And the artists working today suffer. And their art suffers. And suffering is a part of this world —all parts of all worlds— just as it was in Bitchcoin’s day. So we (I) idealize that time as a moment when crypto art —preceding that name by years. Preceding Ethereum altogether!— was emerging as an unnamed, formless concept, and we affix to it all the complaints we have about the space today, now that it has evolved into a shape, grown edges and fingernails and a forehead. In Bitchcoin is all we want this space to be but know it can never. It represents a spiritual amorphousness as much as the 3000+ petals represent a physical one. Because of its age, its high-mindedness, and its novelty, Bitchcoin gets imbued with all the quiet wishes of the unsatisfied present.

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