The stratospheric rise of Bitcoin over the last decade has left the world struggling to keep up, breaking records, spawning rivals, and forcing us to face the epic challenges posed by a volatile crypto-universe.
Now, one LA-based artist is having his say on our obsession with cryptocurrencies, and he's putting his money where his mouth is – embedding thousands of dollars' worth of Bitcoin in his artworks, which are actually visual representations of his cryptocurrency wallet codes.
In other words, these colourful mosaics aren't just something you can hang on your wall: they're basically encrypted passwords hiding in plain sight, and if you can figure out how to crack the code, you could unlock an estimated US$10,000 worth of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
"I am attempting to help those without computer science backgrounds visualise and understand the rather abstract concept of cryptocurrencies and simultaneous democratising the potential and volatility that comes along with them," artist Andy Bauch explains.
Using LEGO bricks as his medium, Bauch's newest show – New Money – was exhibited last week at Castelli Art Space in Los Angeles, comprising some 100,000 bricks that elaborately reveal (if you're persistent) the secret keys to his wallets for various Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Litecoin, and Cannabiscoin investments.
In a nod to the rapidly shifting value of these cryptocurrencies, the title of each work is a reference to Bauch's original sum invested: Bitcoin initially valued at $20, $50, $90, and so on.
Those sums might not sound like that much, but the incredible ascent in Bitcoin's fortunes since Bauch dabbled in cryptocurrencies means the current financial value of each artwork – aside from its artistic value, of course – is worth way more now (provided you're handy with ciphers, that is).
To figure out how to pictorially display his crypto-keys in LEGO brick form, Bauch used a "combination of human and algorithmic input", and as an enticement to any art investors, he says he'll provide a clue to any investors who purchase his art, to give them a helping hand in cracking the code.
Not that such assistance is actually required, with New Money's exhibition listing pointing out that anyone can basically "steal the cryptocurrency from the art" by decoding the patterns for themselves.
To ensure the artworks were decipherable, Bauch tested each via reverse extrapolation, confirming that anyone who figures out each wallet code will be able to claim its contents.
As amazing as it all sounds, it's not the first time somebody has done something like this, but it might be the first time an artist is doing it while having such a pointed say on the negative effects things like AI are doing to our culture, and specifically, our workforce.
In a related work, called COG, from a series called Museum of Human Obsolescence, Bauch depicts a Best Buy employee slowly fading away into nothingness.
Hidden inside the LEGO bricks, another Bitcoin wallet code is stashed, somewhere. Its original value: $13.07, a reference to the average retail wage.