In 1917, the exhibition of Independent Artists in New York, a white toilet sent by an artist has arrived. The toilet was sent by Marcel Duchamp, a rising artist at the time, and caused innumerable debates about the nature of contemporary art and art itself. He provided a new perspective on everyday objects and demonstrated that perceptions on the notion of art can be transformed completely.
A hundred years later, in 2021, there has been a significant change on those who insisted that only objects existing in the real world should be considered art. While digital data, which is created with 0 and 1 bits, was believed that it could be infinitely replicated, several artists who discovered that they could trade masses of data in the digital world by granting license to them, began to open a new ecosystem of art, with New York as a starting point. However, not many artists were able to fully understand the fundamental concepts and characteristics of these technologies, while conceptualizing the artwork as something coexisting within the realms of the digital and analog to implement them appropriately.
Artist Jeon Byeong Sam has created an innumerable number of artworks manifesting digital technology in the real world before the release of artworks based on NFT (Non-Fungible Token, a non-interchangeable asset of digital data), which many are interested in. This attempt has begun with digital media being represented by materialistic work such as connecting the TV screen to a computer, similar to Paik Nam June’s video art. Even renown artists such as Paik Nam June was only able to express the boundless digital world of infinite data into an analog prison. While artist Jeon Byeong Sam has developed a global reputation with large-scale installation art, he has also been creating wonderful works of art that represent the relationship between the seen and unseen within the realms of the analog and digital. He has even created works such as a nano-scale movie that cannot be seen with the human eye or capture the whole world or universe in a small space. Among his work, the <LOST> series, which was first presented in December 2016, he attempted to deconstruct the exterior of various objects and reconstruct them again in order to express the unconventional notion of ‘creating things that disappear’. While audiences were only presented with the name of the missing object and a one-minute striped loop video, it has been created by scanning the missing subject by scanning it for 30 seconds from top to bottom, and another 30 seconds from the bottom to the top, exhibiting the digital art on a canvas-like display. This was an attempt to express limitless reflection on the concept of existence. Nonetheless, it also had to vandalize the true meaning of the work because it had to be locked up inside a display, like the work of Paik Nam June, expressing a non-existent substance through digital technology. Since he was presented with a technology call NFT, which can grant license to intangible digital data, isn’t it the best environment to create a proper series?
I have observed Jeon Byeong Sam’s artistic world through his work but have never seen an artist who can accurately and distinctly identify and utilize the artistic and fundamental values of ‘technology’. NFT, the new technology he’s been provided with, can be used as a tool to effectively convey the notion of ‘creating things that disappear’, which is the core message of the <LOST> series. Sure enough, after he has revealed the <LOST> series through OpenSea, he was able to embody the work’s original meaning to the world perfectly. The new <LOST> series, exhibited in company with DeNations, has become extremely large in scale. Rather than simply making an embodied figure vanish, using the flags that symbolize 193 different countries to embody the numerous people and land, and the collective property of the tangible and intangible into the notion of the ‘disappearance of a nation’ with blockchain NFT technology. It created a very symbolic work which executed the notion of ‘everlasting beings’ onto the concept of a nation which did not exist in the digital world. Furthermore, it was an opportunity to have a thought about the true meaning of what we perceive as ‘art’, and the nature of what an ‘artwork’ is, in addition to the relationship between civilization and art which many nations create. This work proposes grand-scale questions on the existence and identity of nations, the role of nations in a world connected by interactions and digital technology, the creation of a virtual nation and new civilizations.
Moreover, DeNations, a blockchain based card civilization which seems to be completely unrelated to art, tells an attractive story of their new art universe, the DeNations Art Chain, being included in the first Genesis block which renders numerous artists to constantly upload their artworks to a virtual civilization.
By observing how the disparate concepts of art, digital technology, blockchain, nations, civilizations and games merge together harmoniously without any trouble, we are witnessing the beginning of another surrealistic world and civilization. This is the Genesis of a new digital world.