*BONK* refers to the sound of hitting something with a baseball bat, deriving from a Doge meme in which a big shiba inu is hitting a small one and ordering it “BONK! Go to ______ jail!”______ The blank could be filled in with any word you like.
In order to discuss how the technologies of reproduction and encryption transform our imagination of cultural production, Liu Chia-Ming and Chen Pin-Hua are invited to develop five new pieces for this exhibition, focusing on the topics of meme, metadata and hash algorithm. *BONK* aims to create a humorous context like the Doge meme. The audiences are welcome to bonk their heads with the ideas behind the works. Through understanding the mechanisms, one could avoid being confused by the buzzwords.
Liu Chia-Ming, who is a cybersecurity engineer, sees memes as an encoding system. Encoding, for example by encrypting and compression, makes data being transmitted better and faster. Memes possess a tendency of self-replication since they are able to compress contexts. There is no need to defend the influence of memes, though they are not aiming at high resolution or quality and usually being spread in the form of “poor image” named by Hito Steyerl. Memes themselves function in the background. The artist builds a database of context with meme templates. New memes are constantly created by a program which fills new contents into the templates automatically.
American conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth used to question the meaning of “nothing” with dictionary definitions in six different languages. He claimed that “nothing” became “something” when one had to describe it with words. Same paradox appears in the digital world. Chen Ping-Hua’s Null looks for a way to describe “null” on blockchains. Different encoding systems and hash algorithms produce different versions of “null”, then which is the real “null”? Perhaps it is not even a problem to the operation of the digital world.
The two artists collaborate on The Original Copy and Binding. Chen has published his photographic works with “CC0 public domain” license, reserving no rights to his own photographs; in 2021, he created an NFT work entitled NF0, based on his previous CC0 practices. While institutions dedicated to preserving digital archives keep writing the metadata of their archives and entries, Chen erases all the metadata of his works when releasing them, in pursuance of the possibility to create more connections among the works and other entries. Each time we create a new document in software, we always get a blank one. Technically, every digital image comes from a blank, and every image can also be transformed into another one or back to a blank. What is presented in The Original Copy is the freedom to connect among digital images.
Binding extends the meaning of the blank in The Original Copy. It further describes the specific condition that a physical object interlink with an NFT. We invite the audience to bring over their own objects, wrap or band the objects on site and leave their wallet address. The whole process is linked to NFTs created by the artists for this exhibition.
Finally, The Cave by Chen Pin-Hua shows a reflection on the infrastructure of blockchains. Quoting from Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, the artist compares blockchains as the cave, and hash algorithm, the shadows projected on the walls. The basement of The Digital Arts Center, Taipei is built into a cave where computers installed there are executing encryption. The audience can not enter the cave but glance through a window on the floor
Chia-Lin Lee was born 1994 in Yilan, Taiwan. She received her undergraduate degree form Department of Foreign Language and Literature, National Taiwan University. After that she visited Hangzhou for graduate studies of contemporary art and curating at China Academy of Art. Her research interests focus on contemporary visual culture and sociology of the Internet. Lee is the founder of Zimu Culture Ltd., a company publishing books of cultural studies and media theories.
Chen keeps enrolling at different majors for creating multi-disciplinary artworks. He loves to reflect on social issues by making archives through daily life experiments. His early artistic practices focused on large-scale images of social landscapes. Since 2016, Chen has published his works with CC0 license and further extended his practices towards aspects including copyright, freedom of speech, economics, finance and trading. He recently held a solo exhibition “A Trader’s Story” at VT Artsalon, Taipei, Taiwan. He often publishes new works online. (www.chenpinhua.com)
Lawrence Liu was born in Macau in 1994. Graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from National Taiwan University. Current day job as a software engineer, specializing in Machine Learning and Cyber security.
He mainly uses photography and programming language in his artistic practices. He works on projects exploring the interaction and coexistence between technology and the society, utilizing the transformation of data and information, seeking to reflect self-existence.
Recently he focuses on exploring and experimenting methods to interpret the relationship between the original and the copy of a digital object in the digital era.
Lawrence now lives and works in Taipei.
CHEN Pin-Hua《The Cave》
Programming language, real-time generated image. Dimension variable. 2022
In Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, a group of people who never leave the cave recognize the outside world via the shadows projected on the wall, and believe those are the reality of the world. In Chen Pin-Hua’s work, blockchain serves right as the cave and hash functions are like the shadows that make people trust the legitimacy of the cave.
Hash functions are usually used to encrypt passwords since one can not trace back to the original password through hash values. Besides, high-security hash functions perform better in terms of collision avoidance, which means whatever value is input into the hash functions, the output values will be different.
Dictionary attack is a way to crack hash values. A dictionary contains a list of words with their meanings; hash functions turn certain contents into values that do not carry literal meanings. However, if we input every possible word people may use as passwords into hash functions, theoretically we will find all corresponding hash values——then, just like words in a dictionary, each password is listed with its hash value that can be searched for.
The Cave proposes a future where people live on the operation of blockchains considerably. Thus, the security of our daily life will be highly related to our imagination: we have to keep coming up with special passwords in order to resist dictionary attacks. The artist turned a large number of known texts into hash values, and then projected the values on the walls of an underground space randomly. The audience cannot go into the space but peek from a hole on the floor.
Mixed media. Dimension variable. 2022
Titled (Art as Idea as Idea), the conceptual work created in the 1960s by American artist Joseph Kosuth, revealed a logic trap of language with dictionary definitions of “nothing” in Danish, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Null could be regarded as an extension of this work.
How to describe “null” in the digital world? A character must be applied to represent the condition of not having any character. For example, in ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange), an encoding system that most programming languages use to deal with strings, “null” is represented as “\0”.
Then, how to describe “null” on blockchains? Chen Pin-Hua investigates in SHA-256 hash function, which is the mathematical algorithm Bitcoin and Ethereum adopt, searching for its hash value for “null”.
LIU Chia-Ming《Meme Teller Machine》
Programming language, printer, real-time generated image, Mac mini. Dimension variable. 2022
Memes, as a gene of culture, present contexts that can be recognized beforehand; as a tool of communication, memes possess a tendency of reproduction which is the reason why they spread virally. Each reproduction or derivative of memes is meaningful. The originals merely set contexts, while the derivatives produce new meanings through the contexts. The nature of memes is an encoding system, just like the joke “Joke Number” reveals:
Once upon a time, there was a group of exiled prisoners on an abandoned island. They told jokes to kill time. However, the jokes were always the same which bored them gradually. One day, one suggested: “Hey guys, I came up with a way of joke-telling. We should give every joke a number so that we don’t need to tell from the beginning ever since.” They all thought this was a good idea.
On another boring day, prisoners gathered together again to share jokes. First came Prisoner A: “Buddies, you all remember Joke No.87, right?” the prisoners thought for a second then started giggling. The next turned to Prisoner B: “The joke I am going to tell you is Joke No.55!” All of them immediately burst into laughter. Prisoner C stood up and said: “Everybody listen to me, Joke No.101 is the best!” They thought about the joke and laughed. Among them, Prisoner D was the one who laughed most crazily. When asked what drove him so crazy, “Cuz I never heard this joke before! HAHAHAHAHAHA!” said D.
The artist first collects a lot of meme templates and then fills contents into the templates with a program, creating new memes constantly. A Twitter account is connected to the program, tweeting each newly-generated meme. The printer in the exhibition works as a fortune teller machine, continuously providing the audience with fortune memes.
LIU Chia-Ming & CHEN Pin-Hua《The Original Copy》
Programming language, paper, stamp. Dimension variable. 2022
Each time we create a new document or new file in graphics software, we always get a blank. Endless creativity and imaginations thrive on the blank. The Original Copy questions where the blank comes from. This work was published as an NFT on Ethereum with CC0 license. Besides, the hash value of the blank file and the icon of CC0 were engraved on a stamp. The audience can stamp them on the empty papers provided by the artists and collect the “encrypted blank files” for free.
LIU Chia-Ming & CHEN Pin-Hua《Binding》
Programming language, banding machine, banding/wrapping materials. Dimension variable. 2022
Taipei City Government
Department of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government
Digital Art Center, Taipei
Digital Art Center, Taipei
No. 180, Fuhua Rd., Shilin Dist., Taipei City
Opening & Guide Tour
Artist Talk：Bonk is Sè, Sè is Bonk
Speaker：LEE Chia-Lin x CHEN Pin-Hua x LIU Chia-Ming x CHU Feng-Yi