The downfall of Mt. Gox, the first Bitcoin exchange platform, may be old news, but it's still extremely problematic for the consumers who collectively lost 750,000+ Bitcoins (more than half a billion dollars) due to the company's collapse.
Both touched and fascinated by these events, Laturbo Avedon—an artist and self-described digital avatar who works with the virtual currency—suspended one of her current projects to build Sunset, an interactive and virtual monument to Mt.Gox. Avedon is hosting this project for one month on Webspace.gallery, an online gallery curated by Simon Bowerbank, creating a digital gravesite where online visitors can "mourn," in a sense.
The exhibition encourages the viewer to express himself anonymously by uploading images, objects or other material (as one would place flowers on a grave) that will be added to the gallery as a 3D rendering created using Cinema4D. Mourners can also add messages and notes, evolving the digital gravesite over Avedon's month-long residency.
A video of the final tomb will be available on April 14th, but we reached out to Laturbo to learn more about Sunset, and get her insight on the whole Bitcoin debacle.
The Creators Project: We know that you are familiar with Bitcoin, but what do you like best about it?
Laturbo Avedon: What I enjoy about Bitcoin is the decision being made to convert physically valuable assets into digital ones. You could say that my interest is more symbolic than it is economic. Since my exhibition at Transfer Gallery last July where I sold works [through Bitcoin exchanges], the value has risen far beyond the initial amounts they were originally worth. I think this adds an interesting variable to the purchase of artworks, especially those that are using a digital medium.
The future of Bitcoin is uncertain, especially following the collapse of Mt. Gox and the recent restrictions of its use in various countries. How do you see the future for this currency?
The collapse of Mt. Gox really was a disaster, it was a major part of Bitcoin trading. It is a big reminder that the currency will need to consider its scalability. The past year or so really inflated the interest of BTC, and I think it outgrew a lot of its original purpose. That doesn't necessarily mean Bitcoin is in danger, but it will have to get reconsidered severely after this sort of event.
Sunset considers the "death," so to speak, of Mt. Gox. Why did you use a strong symbol from real life to illustrate the death of a virtual phenomenon on an online platform? What message are you trying to convey with this?
It is a specific sort of panic that happens when a website is no longer accessible, for a lot of people it turned into a spam of page refreshing, emergency calls to withdraw their funds and get away. It is pretty difficult to visualize this sort of a digital loss. For the exhibition, I wanted to create a series of renders that could acknowledge a feeling of visitation—where people that were affected by Mt. Gox could contribute to, or change the appearance of the location.
I think it's interesting that you invited visitors to participate in this online piece. Can you talk about the interactive aspect? What do you find interesting in the virtual social sharing process of Sunset?
I had been working on creating Mt. Gox as a landscape before the site had closed. Initially, I was going to develop the environment according to the behaviors of the exchange itself. Before this could go public, the site shut down, leaving a lot of my work frozen and unable to continue. In this new stage, without the vitality and function of the site, I decided to turn the interactivity towards the public and allow them to change the space as they see fit.
Over the course of the four weeks that the exhibition is online, I imagine there will be a wide variety of opinions expressed towards the space. Viewers are encouraged to anonymously leave notes, 3D objects, and other files. Every two days there will be new renders added to the gallery, documenting the various things that will be left behind. In April a video will be released recapping the accumulation.
This video will probably allow us to see different types of reactions and various visuals. Do you have any expectations or ideas of what the project will look like after the month is over?
There are very loose parameters for what viewers can submit. Just as people carve their names into monuments or stack piles of rocks, on the internet people have a lot more options for what, and how much they could share—so we will see.
Images courtesy of the artist.
To read more on Laturbo check out some of our past coverage below: