Lans King is a British-American contemporary interdisciplinary artist who is blurring the lines between what’s real and virtual. His most recent series, The Hyperreality Show, combines visual aesthetic elements that are organic and synthetic, offline and online, analog and digital. His NFTs, called digital capsules, are based on and connected to an NFC microchip chip that was surgically implanted in his hand. King recently participated in a successful curated NFT Sale called Proof of Sovereignty at Christie’s in collaboration with Lady PheOnix. His artworks are now featured on Institut, the first art world-led platform for NFTs—accompanied by a physical exhibition in London, and a virtual exhibition on Arium entitled, NFTism: No Fear in Trying, curated by Kenny Schachter.
“I’ve been following Joe Kennedy and Jonny Burt for a while. Unit London itself is kind of a forward-thinking sort of gallery, and with Institut connected to that, it’s going to be quite disruptive,” King said. “Working with Kenny Schachter, my expectations are that it will make some waves and really show what a well-curated NFT exhibition can be.”
King grew up in Saint Vincent (Antilles) until he was 8 years old, when he moved to Long Island, NY, and attended one of the first schools with a mainframe computer. Although his art has always been partially digital, King has always been interested in combining physical and digital techniques. He once referred to his hybrid aesthetic concepts as “the new synthesis” to create something unique and compelling to advance our way of thinking. His focus on human and machine interactions and artificial intelligence reflects our daily lives and experiences in a provocative way.
Raised in a strict West Indian family where art wasn’t considered a career option, exactly how does a creative visionary with a background in physics and cognitive science become an innovator in the art world?
King’s artistic process begins with numbers:
“I start with an image, which I then use an old algorithm—part of which is stored on the microchip on my hand,” King explains. “I transform the visual elements—a person, for example, into numbers that are printed on a canvas with a background color. Then, I attempt to find at least part of the original image on my canvas.”
This process is visually reflected in King’s early work. More recently, King has been focused on creating abstraction using glitches he often refers to as “fantastic accidents,” which harken to his early days as a coder. King began programming with ASCII code at the age of 10; his first rendering was a coin flip.
“I’ve been obsessed with whether or not one can truly produce things that are completely random and the accident,” King muses. “Things that are less in my control. I find that it’s really great source material and content to work with. In some of my work, you’ll see a painting, digital printing, and screen printing, which is also kind of a joke because I’m printing screens.” King’s process is distinctly different in creating each work of art, using apps like Photoshop and Illustrator to bleed or define lines or accentuate zones of color in the preparatory stages.
King’s professional career began 20 years ago with early internet agencies. Those early tech startups were quickly usurped by communications agencies, which leaned heavily toward advertising. Back then, King was convincing luxury brands to pursue e-commerce on the internet and establish a social media presence. Once King discovered that sitting in front of a computer all day wasn’t cathartically gratifying, he began to strategize his transition to becoming a full-time artist, with the help of patrons who believed in his talent and were willing to financially support his ambitions.
King became interested in the blockchain as early as 2017 when he began to explore the development of ICOs as a way to circumvent traditional arts funding sources and practices. He discovered how to create a coin, and was inspired to put himself on the stock exchange as an experiment until regulations discouraged him from pursuing it. However, King was able to make a few noteworthy connections in the crypto space, like Jess Houlgrave, the creator of Codex Protocol, and Sascha Bailey, founder of Blockchain Art Exchange. King was convinced that the blockchain was changing the world around the same time he stumbled upon the concept of microchips being implanted in people’s hands. The idea to create crypto art utilizing a microchip, Codex Protocol, and the Blockchain Art Exchange came together in a serendipitous way; King promptly traveled to Sweden to have the microcapsule procedure performed.
Preceded by artists like Kevin Abosch and Simon Denny, King was inspired to push the limits of blockchain technology even further. Initially entitled, This is My Body, his seminal project was embedded into his hand and onto the blockchain. Rather than register a single work of art, King Aspired to register his person, as an artist, instead. All of King’s NFTs are connected to the glass capsule in his hand; they all carry its code. His physical and virtual exhibition attracted the attention of Tyler Winklevoss, who invited King to mint his seed project on Nifty Gateway.
The crypto market’s response to the concept of King tokenizing himself was unexpectedly receptive; his NFT sold within the first minute. This seed project has since evolved to become The Network Self, to reflect the many iterations of our being: civic, physical, financial, digital, etc. This project is often associated with data and data sovereignty because it now includes capture devices to collect King’s physical data. Viewers can see where King is currently located anywhere in the world while monitoring his vital signs, which are displayed in perpetuity as an NFT. Moving forward, King is interested in incorporating interactive brainwave patterns from his thoughts in collaboration with Institut, and an emotion detector to communicate how he’s feeling at any given moment.
“I want to capture data that is physical, emotional, and maybe eventually somehow spiritual, and feed it all into this capsule that will perhaps become a collection of the rest of my life. Every data point I can possibly offer.” – Lans King