Mitchell F Chan Artist Talk | School of Art | Kent State University

Mitchell F Chan Artist Talk

Room 165, Center for the Visual Arts

Mitchell F Chan: Yves Klein & Ethereum; Cryptocurrency & Conceptual Art

Join us for our First Friday Lecture Series with visiting artist Mitchell Chan on November 3, 2017 at noon in room 165 at the Center for the Visual Arts. All artist lectures are free and open to the public. 

Mitchell F Chan is a Toronto-based artist who recently debuted his latest artwork, Digital Zones Of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility. Continuing Chan's practice of creating large-scale, intangible artworks, this piece is a series of empty digital spaces -- a blank web page -- distributed across an unknown number of computers in an unknown number of locations. The artworks are bought and sold as a cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin, which the artist coded and uploaded to the Ethereum blockchain.

In 1958, Yves Klein challenged how notions of value, transaction, and ownership related to art and material. His conceptual work Zone de Sensibilité Picturale Immatérielle was an empty space, sold for a quantity of pure gold. For Klein, this immaterial art was the apotheosis of a years-long quest to free his art from the constraints of representation and physical form. For some of the collectors who bought them, they were these artworks were more "real" than any oil painting or marble sculpture.

Entering 2018, the immaterial world is big business. Cryptocurrencies -- digital monies with no tether to any real-world asset -- are now valued at cumulative $130 billion dollars. While some are laughing all the way to the virtual bank, others are bewildered. And few really understand the repercussions of these blockchain networks, on either a technical level or or a philosophical one.

This lecture draws parallels between notions of immaterial artistic value developed in conceptual art over 50 years ago, and notions of immaterial monetary value, currently dominating financial markets. The artist explains a brief history of both Yves Klein's pursuit of the immaterial, and the development of blockchain like Bitcoin. He explains how and why he used the Ethereum blockchain to create a contemporary reproduction of Yves Klein's infamous work, and what we can learn from it.

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