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Visiting Artist Talk: Paul Chan

Artist Talk:
Friday, October 29
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2:30-3:30 p.m.

“The Radical Legacy of Tominaga Nakamoto, the 18th century Japanese philosopher who inspired Bitcoin”

Members of the MCAD community are welcome to attend this talk by Paul Chan. In this presentation he will introduce the life and ideas of Tominaga Nakamoto (1715–1746) and speculate on the relationship between Tominaga's philosophical and aesthetic outlook and how Bitcoin works as a technology and cultural phenomenon. Paul will also discuss the history of Badlands Unlimited (his press) in the crypto space, which began in 2011, when Badlands became the first art book publisher at the New York Art Book Fair to accept crypto as payment for books and artworks.

On October 31, 2008, a person named Satoshi Nakamoto published a technical paper detailing how a new decentralized digital cash payment system he or she or they called "Bitcoin" would work. In January 2009, Satoshi released the source code for Bitcoin, to anyone to download to test and develop. The rest is history.

The identity of who (or what) Satoshi is remains a mystery to this day. But there is evidence from cryptographers and programmers who interacted with Satoshi online during those early days of Bitcoin's development that suggests Satoshi was inspired in part by an obscure and largely forgotten "merchant" philosopher from the Edo period in Japan named Tominaga Nakamoto. 

Tominaga's philosophical and aesthetic ideas are radical even by today's standards. And it is not hard to see how his most vital insights—about the need to decentralize authority among them—echo in how Bitcoin functions as a cryptocurrency.

About the Artist:

Paul Chan is an artist and publisher based in New York. His exhibition Breathers, opens at the Walker Art Center in November 2022. Chan's press, Badlands Unlimited, has published over 50 titles and works by artists and writers, including Marcel Duchamp, Yvonne Rainer, Craig Owens, Aruna D'Souza, Dread Scott, Etel Adnan, Petra Cortright, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Martine Syms, and Carroll Dunham. Badlands has also been a platform for Chan's enduring interest in philosophy. The press has published new translations of works by Plato, Parmenides, and most recently, Ludwig Wittgenstein.