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Miner 1010 #06/10

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Date Minted:  July 11, 2020

Artist Description: Limited digital edition collectible #06/10 of "Miner 1010" - Bitcoin's 10th Anniversary by Nelly Baksht

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

The deification of Bitcoin is nothing new. The phenomenon —partly following the quintessentially-American current of exalting and lusting after financial might— continues to this day. It’s relatively easy, especially on crypto and crypto art Twitter, to find large circles of Bitcoin maxies, spreading the singular gospel of Bitcoin today just as many did at the cryptocurrency’s inception. There’s no denying that the various symbology associated with Bitcoin —most notably, the pronged “B” which represents it colloquially— has an almost religious significance in that it inspires certain powerful feelings, binds together certain groups of people, and lords over a host of other associated imageries. Still, even amongst the Bitcoin-centric work of artists like Trevor Jones, the symbology of Bitcoin is rarely bestowed such a hyper-aggrandizing setting as in Nelly Baksht’s Miner 1010, a painting harkening back to Renaissance-era artwork, though instead of depicting Christ or the various Archangels of Christian lore, Baksht chooses Bitcoin as her patron saint. The effect is immediate and palpable, and even more so the more exposure or knowledge of Renaissance art one has. So much of that epoch’s style has infected our larger societal preconceptions about artistry, and the result is that Miner 1010 has a universality to it, remains open to any observer in terms of what it’s trying to do, and doesn’t sacrifice an iota of fine artistry to do so. Quite a tall task, but one that Baksht seems to have accomplished with aplomb, having crafted a fascinating and highly-effective piece of artwork —knowing and creative to boot— that still encourages one to get lost in the brush-strokes, the color palette, and all the small side-images tucked throughout this piece like candies in an Advent Calendar. 

It’s interesting how this piece presents itself, with the implicated but tangled relationship between the object of artistic deification —Bitcoin— and its recipient —the Bitcoin miner— centrally depicted. Along the right edge of the image, a shimmering key bears the Bitcoin logo on its head. The key is the deepest and most-saturated representation of the two primary colors in this piece: yellow and blue, though again, they’re much more vivid and luscious in the key than elsewhere in the composition, where they’re more muted, used as building-blocks for other hues rather than starring in their own right. But the color of the key is an extension of the light which emerges from further up the piece, a circular spotlight bulging out from a large, grey cloud. The light is an extension of the kind of Mining Hard Hat worn by miners in the public imagination, though we can’t see the outline of the actual hat itself, the whole of the thing lost in the enormous cloud. What we can see, however, is the head that wears the suspected hat, an oily and grey and dirty and genderless face —devoid of eyes, or really any defining features other than a smudge of mouth. It’s this figure that looms physically largest within the piece, its skin an unsettling mix of red and blue and black and grey colors that seems almost a bastardization of the sunsetting sky that makes up Miner 1010’s background. The Miner wears a shirt bearing the numerals “1010.” Down and to its right, the Miner’s hand rises up from nowhere like an obelisk, its fingers reflecting the background’s red light so it appears to be wielding fire. The Bitcoin key hovers magically in the air above the fingers, just barely keeping from touching each other. I’m reminded of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, with just the slightest sliver of space between the creator and the created. Peppered throughout the piece are small symbols related to blockchain and Bitcoin: locks, lines of computer code, a framework of ethereal nodes.

There’s an irony inherent in this piece that is built into its dual-subject composition. The interplay between “creator” and “created” is much more muddled than I think it appears at first. Baksht is asking us to answer her question, and that question is: Who created who? Did Bitcoin as a concept and a currency create and uplift and amplify the miners who rely on it and who subsequently serve the network by running nodes? (One can certainly see why Baksht would elevate the symbol —the object of affection— over the symbol’s wielder. Men do oft fall into subservience by nature.) The other reading, however, seems equally appropriate: In this one, the Miner is the deific figure, for it is the Miner’s actions that allow a blockchain network to function, and so the resultant Bitcoin that emerges from a Miner’s validated transactions is indeed some sacred trophy that they would wield, because that trophy required their actions in the first place. We could then assume that the Miner is not capturing Bitcoin as the cryptocurrency descends from on-high, but that the Miner is actively creating it, and all those aforementioned small symbols are reflections of the Miner’s elevated being, the tools in its workshop, so to speak, and the Bitcoin a fruit of its labor.

There’s simply no way to know which reading is correct, with the dichotomy so subtly realized. Or perhaps I’m not Bitcoin-literate enough, and it’s very clear. Maybe Miner 1010 refers to Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto. That would certainly seem to clear up a bit of confusion, but, actually, it reminds me of a philosophical question posed to me in high school. A geometry teacher asked the class: “Was math invented or discovered?” And I still find myself turning that one over in my head. Well, it’s basically the same question here: Was the blockchain invented or discovered? Whose altar should we genuflect at? To whom should we address our prayers? 

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