Proof of Work
generated images, 2021
software, keypresses
Proof of Work probes the idea of “effort over time” as the key indicator of value for an NFT. Images are created where the effort required to produce a work is directly correlated with visual density. It is a series of manually generated images where physical gesture is directly correlated with visual density.

Each series begins with a 1x1px canvas, which doubles each day of production. This doubling allows the series 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.

Research in keystroke dynamics demonstrates that the rhythm and pattern of keypresses can be used as a biometric identifier. The images in Proof of Work are not just documents of effort but are unique records of the artist’s hand where the patterns arising are the digital equivalent of that essential element in a physical artwork—the signature.

Sold as non-fungible tokens, the series is both an enactment of the experience of being an artist in NFTism and a challenge to the metrics NFT markets use to determine the value of 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 rationale 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 an NFT. Dominant NFT aesthetics also reflect this understanding; intricate 3D scenes signal that creative and computational effort was expended to create and render a scene.

The images in Proof of Work are generated in a custom application where one keystroke or tap produces one graphic pixel. Each gesture requires a physiologically bounded amount of time, and so the visual density of pixels in the image correlates directly to a fixed amount of expended effort. As the scale of the task increases, the challenge of consistency becomes overwhelming, with patterns and flaws appearing in the generated images.

Read more: Proof of Work Origins
Project site: 
Secondary market: