Jonathan Chomko (b. 1988, Canada) is an artist working with and against technology. His works examine the seam between physical and digital worlds, exploring how digital forces translate into and act upon the physical world, and how physical phenomena and expression are modulated as they enter the digital.  

Recent News
  • Proof of Work - Network Difficulty (NFT Series)
  • Shadowing Southwark (near Tate Modern), London (UK). 
         Dec 23 2020 - ongoing
  • (video), Networked Bodies,, Singapore 
        Jan 21 - Feb 7 2021
  • Relative Clocks, We The Curious, Bristol (UK) 
        Nov 5 2020 - 2028
  • Relative Clocks, CUBE Design Museum, Kerkrade (NL) 
        Jun 5 2020 - Oct 5 2020
  • Shadowing, Theatre du Chatelet, Paris (FR) 
        Nov 28 2019 - Feb 1 2020  
Proof of Work - Network Difficulty 
digital images, 2021

Beeple’s ‘The First 5000 Days’ sold for $69,346,250 on March 12, 2021. In a statement released by Christies after the sale, buyer MetaKovan explained his rationale for the purchase:

When you think of high-valued NFTs, this one is going to be pretty hard to beat. And here’s why — it represents 13 years of everyday work. Techniques are replicable and skill is surpassable, but the only thing you can’t hack digitally is time. — MetaKovan, Christies Press Release

With this statement, MetaKovan characterizes the time an artist spends on a work as a key driver of its value. The dominant NFT aesthetics also reflect this sensibility; intricate 3D scenes signal that creative and computational effort was expended to create the image.

Art is proof of work, whether Whistler’s “Nocturne” or an Abstract Expressionist act of heroism. There must be something to own, a parsable product of labour that represents the potential to exponentially multiply the value of an investment of time by the artist and cryptocurrency of the collector. — Rhea Myers

Myers affirms MetaKovan’s point from another perspective; NFTs have become financial instruments, the artist merely performing an alternate form of mining to unlock value. 

In Proof of Work — Network Difficulty, I embody this idea of artist as miner, creating images where visual complexity correlates directly with the labour of creation. The series reduces the image to a record of effort, transforming artistic work into rote labour.

Each image in the series is generated through a custom software,  which receives keypresses and converts them to colour values; 0 for black, 1 for white.

The pixel canvas doubles each day, starting at 1x1 px, ending when one image cannot be completed in a day. This incremental increase in difficulty reflects the increasing complexity of cryptocurrency mining, as well as ensuring scarcity of the completed works. 

During the generation process I aim to enter random values in a process similar to surrealist automatism, or automatic writing. True randomness is difficult even for computers to generate, with the image inevitibly bearing traces of its manual construction.

The rhythm and pattern of keypresses can be used as a biometric identifier, for tracking or authentication. The images generated in this series are not just records of effort, but unique records of the hand of the artist. The patterns that arise are the digital equivalent of that essential element in the value of an physical artistic work; the signature. 

When the series concludes, the images will be placed on sale simultaneously, allowing collectors to decide where the value lies in the artwork. 

Proof of Work
generated images, 2021
software, keypresses

Transactions on the Ethereum network are verified by a system called proof of work, which involves forcing computers to solve meaningless, difficult equations before data can be written to the blockchain.
The most popular series of NFT collectibles are algorithmically generated. Most culture now has the feeling of having been made by algorithm; and the reason for this, is that humans have begun to act like algorithms.

Each image in Proof of Work is generated by manually entering thousands of random values into a bespoke application. The application converts each keypress into a color value, and sets a single pixel to that value.

As the artist will inevitably fail to enter true random values, patterns arise in each image which encode their affective state into the image. 

Buy here:

A Heart from Space
participative performance, 2020
website, phone, GPS

A Heart from Space is a website that enables a group of people to draw shapes together using their GPS positions.

Performing the work requires the participants to negotiate the dynamics of group collaboration through the website, adjusting their position in response to the movements of the group to collectively create a heart.

The project originated from a conversation with Yo-Yo Ma around a performance of a previous work, (GUA). GUA explores the topic of networked action by providing each participant specific gestural instructions, which create synchronized movement in the group. Upon learning about the functions of GUA, Mr. Ma asked if the system might be used to arrange hundreds of thousands of people across the midwestern United States, to form a heart that would be visible from space.

This project grew from that optimistic vision, but places a focus on emergent collaboration, rather than coordinating movements at scale. In doing so, the project raises a question of how the affordances of a platform shape what is possible; how design decisions necessarily exclude certain possibilities while making others readily accessible.

The ‘space’ of the title speaks both of the physical ground participants cover in engaging with the work, as well as the top-down shared perspective that allows them to see the product of their efforts. These dual meanings point toward the key message of the work; that the ways we see ourselves online can shape what is possible in the physical world.

Visit the website here: 

Inspiration: Yo-Yo Ma
Video: Isaac Vallentin
participative performance, 2020
website, phone, participants leads participants in choreographed performance via their phone. Accessing the website via smartphone, participants are guided in series of gestures and actions. Viewed together, these movements create a cohesive and synchronized performance.

The name concatenates three digital services that choreograph bodies, vehicles and real estate from a digital vantage, with the top level domain .exposed playfully promising to reveal the nefarious acts of these entities.

While condensing an image of networked control, the project aims also to present a vision of a group of atomized actors acting as one; raising the possibility of the network as a tool for large-scale collective action.