Bitcoin Mining and Field Recordings of Ethnic Minorities
East Asia at the turn of the twentieth century, amidst the uproars of many different ethnic groups, the Qing Dynasty ruled by the Manchu people is about to collapse. As the last legacy of the imperial dynasty, a complete telegraph network was built on top of the foundations of ancient postal stops. On the one hand, this modernized information network was able to connect vast regions in the Qing Dynasty; on the other hand, it accelerated the internal collapse of the empire. This film takes as its departure point minute traces of the infrastructural building of these early information networks, weaving into one narrative seemingly unrelated subjects: bitcoin mining and field recordings of ethnic minorities. The origins of these two infrastructures are intimately interwoven with the history of modern nations: one is a technology of culture, using modern recording and photographic technologies, as well as museums and the archive to construct knowledge systems of modern nations; the other is a virtual currency technology existing on the internet, one that attempts to find a way out of centralized national currency systems—it shares certain similarities with the gift economy of ethnic minorities. The film not only scans concentrated areas of bitcoin mines with drones as a part of its field study, it also cites early archival footages, along with two renowned science-fiction films—Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, as well as Tarkovsky's Solaris, which was also made in the 1970s. The three-channel video analyzes the sources of the sounds and images of alien characters in the films, concluding that they are in fact taken from the audio and visual archives that early anthropologists accumulated of di_erent ethnic minorities during their field research. As the material memory of the earth, the energy residing at the geological surface is abstracted into a virtual currency that escapes the nation. Both participate in the construction of the larger other external to the earth.
About the Artist
Born in 1978, Hubei, China. He graduated from the Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in 2001, and is currently based in Shanghai. Most of Liu’s works are ready-mades, installations, videos, or performances, integrated with critiques on society and the system to further examine and explore the current social status and urban life. Liu’s works are often a mixture of crisp humor, delicately poetic and sentimental qualities, cool observations, and have been showcased in fine art museums and art biennales across the world. Notable solo exhibitions include Qiao Space and Antenne Space Joint Solo Exhibition (Shanghai, 2019), Magician Space Solo Exhibition (Beijing, 2015), Kunsthall Stavanger (Stavanger, 2014), and Salon94 Freemans (New York, 2014). Group exhibitions include Foundation Louis Vuitton (Paris, 2016), Para Site (Hong Kong , 2016), Social Factory: 10th Shanghai Biennale (Shanghai, 2014), Burning Down the House: 10th Gwangju Biennale (Gwangju, 2014), Tampa Museum of Art (Tampa, 2014), Rubell Family Collection (Miami, 2013), UCCA Center for Contemporary Art (Beijing , 2013), Whitechapel Gallery (London, 2012), Minsheng Art Museum (Shanghai, 2011), Pinacoteca Giovannie Marella Agnelli (Turin, 2010), New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York, 2009), and Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art (Oslo, 2007).