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Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted: January 4, 2020

Artist Description: Timechain series | GIF | 1080 x 1080p | 1:1 Aspect ratio

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Genesis is a history lesson. It’s a record of a place and time at risk of being forgotten, despite that place being integral, and that time no less than historic. What is Crypto Art if not another unpredictable expression of blockchain technology, the necking stems of art and technology grown together in a strangely-attuned lockstep, each party desiring change but unable to acquire it alone, and finally crisscrossing each other, so art could evolve on the blockchain, and the blockchain could have a beautiful, visual representation to match it’s beautiful tech. Both blockchains and art needed each other to further evolve in this direction, and much of crypto art is concerned with highlighting this symbiosis, breaking it down into elements, examining it, representing it literally or symbolically, playing with its implications and consequences and sociocultural vibrations. What most Crypto Art does not do is allude to the first spark, the first block of the first blockchain, the very real Big Bang which ignited the technology which ignited the movement which ignited the marriage which ignited, well, all of this.

It is Genesis’ main aim to illuminate this moment in history, the creation of Bitcoin’s first block, on January 3rd, 2009 by the still-somehow-anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto. Let’s break down the piece into its two parts, the above and the below, separated from each other by the large green-and-black headline “Chancellor on Brink of Second Bailout for Banks.” Above it, the sequence of numbers and letters and symbols is verbatim the raw data of the very first Bitcoin block, the Genesis Block in its rawest, purest form (though I take this one on faith). Presented here, it seems a cypher. To the uninitiated, it’s gibberish, nonsense the way Egyptian hieroglyphics are nonsense. But it might be the most impactful sequence of numbers and letters since Hamlet was written. Notice in the right-most section of this Block Hash, a smaller version of the below headline. “Chancellor on Brink of Second Bailout for Banks” appears again. This is no typo. The headline was published also on January 3rd, 2009 in Great Britain’s The Times newspaper. It’s unclear still why this was included in the initial block: as some kind of code, maybe, or as a validating timestamp within the data itself. Some argue that there are symbolic implications as well.

January 3rd, 2009: The world very much still in the throes of the previous year’s financial crisis. Homes foreclosed upon. Huge amounts of personal wealth lost. Generational distrust of centralized banking systems becoming paramount. Enormous discord in international politics. Fear, anger, hatred. And all of it stirred by the emphasis Western Capitalist nations placed on bailing out failing businesses, many being those which had instigated the crisis in the first place. Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, AIG, Bank of America. The action, whether proper or not, whether helpful or not, sparked a massive backlash from a public which felt it had not received commensurate help, and weren’t they the ones starving, and weren’t they the ones with defaulted loans, declared bankruptcy, widespread homelessness? Another bail-out was like a slap in the face. Many argue now that it was this sequence of government-bank assistance which inspired Bitcoin’s creation in the first place. A system of wealth outside the banking system, outside any national government. Thus, “Chancellor on Brink of Second Bailout for Banks.” The theoretical, as well as the physical, jumping off point for Bitcoin’s creation.

And here we are, this many years later, and cryptocurrency has evolved into the mainstream, has evolved into arts and finance and literature, is slowly but surely merging with the technological foundation upon which most of the world’s systems (financial, telecommunications, medical) are run. Genesis pays homage to that in the simplest way possible: by recreating it integer-for-integer, line-by-line.

And it does so stylishly. The colors here are Cryptocurrency royalty: the black and green of early computer code; Bitcoin orange. From this piece, aesthetically as well, much early crypto art makes its bread. So much within the space deliberately or inadvertently pays homage to the technological backbones on which it is all built. Genesis is very clear about it, showcasing artist Julio Smitter’s admiration for the building blocks on which his art now sits. No other piece in his oeuvre displays this admiration so outwardly; all his other pieces are abstractions, beautiful but ultimately coy with their influences. Not so much Genesis. We could see this as both a paean and a prayer to Satoshi Nakamato, and the day in 2009 when the figurative Red Sea parted, allowing both art and technology passage through to a new land, both having sought and found escape from an oppressive old world. 

There’s also a sense of gatekeeping attached to this piece. Namely, whether someone knows what it is by sight or not. I think it can be argued that this physical block hash is as important a document as anything in the last 100 years of global history. Yet, the fact that it’s such an advanced piece of technological language makes it illegible and unknowable to the average person, even likely the average Crypto enthusiast. Genesis both introduces this hash to a new audience (like me!) and provides a kind of “in” for those who already know. It sets apart the serious from the casual. And all it takes is a wink, a nod, and an understanding. 

Where were you on January 3rd, 2009? Do you remember? Or did you wake and live and go to sleep without knowing that the very world upon which you stood had trembled, cracked open, and allowed something new, a beast of limitless dimension, to pass through? Yeah, me too.



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