Meyohas transformed the Where gallery into a cryptocurrency mine, viewable through a live-streamed webcam. Coin buyers received a certificate with key number encryption allowing them access to the BitchCoin software program. Through this custom platform, currency could be sent and received.
Meyohas guaranteed each individual Bitchcoin with a five-inch by five-inch segment of one of the associated, available editions of Speculation. The corresponding print was placed in a bank vault. A collector who acquired 25 Bitchcoins (at a total price of $2,500) controlled 625 square inches of one Meyohas photograph—just enough for the entirety of the work. The coin holder could then decide to trade in their Bitchcoin for ownership of the physical photograph, or wait to redeem for another print at a future date.
“It is perhaps indicative of the shifts in the fundamental dynamic of capital accumulation that have occurred in the last fifty years, foregrounding speculation over production, that, while Andy Warhol opened a Factory in 1962, Sarah Meyohas designed a financial instrument in 2015.” - Nathan Eisenberg, Hypocrite Reader # 58
MINTING A MARVEL
When she originally released Bitchcoin, Meyohas was a recent graduate of the prestigious Wharton School completing her MFA at Yale University. Thinking deeply about art, markets, and her own agency in the art world, Meyohas considered the speculative value of cryptocurrency in relation to the subjective value of art; by minting artworks as cryptocurrency to create cryptocurrency as art, Meyohas reclaimed agency over her own market, a feminist appropriation of a male-dominated technology. Thus, Bitchcoin was born. The blockchain-verified nature of the coin, moreover, ensured the uniqueness of each part—coin as well as artwork—and established essentially the proto-NFT, a distinctive artwork registered on the blockchain, even before the advent of Ethereum. Those who invested in Bitchcoin could hold them, sell them, or trade them in for work by the artist, at which point the surrendered Bitchcoin would be burned.
Although pioneering in every sense, Meyohas’ innovation exists in the grand tradition of conceptual art. Bitchcoin recalls Yves Klein’s Zone de Sensibilité Picturale Immatérielle, performances involving the sale of documentation of ownership of empty space for gold where Klein produced receipts of sale verifying that the transfer of the intangible had taken place. The purchaser acquired an ethereal asset, and, more importantly, acquired verification that the transfer had occurred.
Klein’s “Ritual Rules,” however, dictated that each purchaser had two options following the sale: If they only paid the stipulatory amount of gold, Klein kept all of the bullion and the buyer did not acquire the full "authentic immaterial value" of the work; conversely, if the buyer purchased the immaterial zone and burned the receipt in an elaborate ritual on the Seine, Klein would throw half of the gold away into the river and full immateriality was achieved. Trading one absurd commodity for another—gold, valued for its ostensible preciousness, and imaginary space, intangible to both buyer and seller—Klein illuminated the inarticulable value of art and probed the merits of objective value.