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
  • longlisted for the Lumen Prize
  • Proof of Work Blue Duration
  • 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
generated images, 2021
software, keypresses

Proof of Work is a series of manually generated images, where physical gesture is directly correlated with visual density. Sold as non-fungible tokens, the series is both an enactment of the experience of being an artist in the NFTism, as well as a challenge to the metrics the NFT markets use to determine where value lies in an artwork.

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

Beeple’s ‘The First 5000 Days’ sold for $69,346,250 on March 12, 2021. Buyer MetaKovan explained his rational behind the purchase as such:  

When you think of high-valued NFTs, this one is going to be pretty hard to beat. And here’s whyit 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

MetaKovan identifies effort over time as the key indicator of value for a NFT. Dominant NFT aesthetics also reflect this sensibility; intricate 3D scenes signal that creative and computational effort were expended to create and render a scene.

In Proof of Work I probe this understanding of value, creating images where the visual is directly correlated with the effort required for production. Each series begins with a 1x1px canvas, which doubles each day of production. This doubling allows the images to reflect distinguishably different degrees of effort, and provides a mechanism which ensures scarcity; each series ends when one image cannot be completed in one day.

The images are generated in a custom software, wherein one keystroke produces one graphic pixel. This manual gesture requires a physiologically bounded amount of time, and so the visual density of pixels in the image correlates directly to effort and time expended.

Each series uses a separate generation application, which converts user behaviour into graphic output. In Binary Random, the application accepts the entry of values 0 or 1, and represents these keypresses with black and white pixels. Through this interface, the artist attempts to create a random distribution of black and white pixels.

With Blue Duration, the application monitors time elapsed between keystrokes, and uses this value to set the intensity of a colour. The artist attempts to create an image of solid colour, by maintaining consistent timing between keystrokes.

The task of random generation and consistent timing are highly challenging for humans to accurately perform, and so the images produced inevitably bear patterns which attest to their manual process of generation.  

The patterns that appear in the the images can be seen as unique records of the hand of the artist; security researchers have demonstrated that the rhythm and pattern of keypresses can be used as a unique biometric identifier with adequate specificity to replace passwords as a login mechanism.

Seen through these findings, the images in Proof of Work are not just documents of effort, but are unique records of the artist’s hand; the patterns arising the digital equivalent of that essential element in the value of a physical artwork; the signature.

Human / Computer
manually generated images, 2021
software, keypresses

Human / Computer is a series of manually generated portraits. Each sitter enters 10,000 digits between 0 and 9 into a custom software, each keypress setting the gray value of an single pixel in a 100x100 grid. 

The sitter is given the aim of entering random values, but inevitably fails to enter true random values, resulting in visible and unique patterns in each image; a record of their labor and affective state during the process of production. 

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 
networked movement instructions, 2020
website, phone presents the user with an alternating text; left, right, left, right. The words are synchronized across all browsers, ensuring that each visitor sees the same text at the same time.

The text can be used as a script for movement, left foot right foot left foot right foot. Following these instructions, online visitors walk in sync with each other, echoing the synchronization that occurs when friends and lovers walk together side-by-side.

Visit the website here: