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What's the Most Basic Part of Your Life Worth? An Installation Intends to Find Out...


Cryptocurrencies force us to think differently about our relationships with money. Artist Max Dovey takes the questioning to an even more fundamental level.

In the last couple of years, cryptocurrencies have gained relevance in public debate, largely because one of them, Bitcoin, has been particularly successful (although many still eye it with suspicion and mistrust).

Be that as it may, cryptocurrencies are one of the most notable attempts to introduce a change into money, that human invention which, though it’s replete with fantasy and imagination, is usually considered absolutely real, like the ground we walk on or the light that shines before us.

Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies are mostly earned through “mining.” It’s a technique consisting roughly in solving mathematical or programming problems to receive a payment in return. Such problems tend to be solved only by computational processes, which lend a further level of difficulty to each task.

Somehow, this “virtual” money presents several points for reflection on money: How is it earned? What’s sustained in it? What is its value? What happens when we stop considering it important or when we do some other activity for achieving it?

Partially following this line of questioning, artist Max Dovey presented a work in which the task of generating cryptocurrencies is carried out through that most fundamental of human activities, namely, in breathing.


In Breath (BRH), Dovey connected a spirometer (a medical instrument which measures lung capacity) to a computer system programmed for currency mining. Depending on the quality of the user’s breathing, the breath was translated into a certain amount of cryptocurrency.

The resulting work is somewhat dystopian. Even when the amount of money generated by breathing is minimal, the image evokes a human body connected to a machine which takes its life energy and turns it into something completely immaterial, inert and even superfluous.

At other times, particularly in the India of the Vedas, breathing has been considered one of the most sacred acts of the human being and of living beings in general. It’s the most elementary evidence that being alive amounts to taking something from a mute environment and then transforming it, with no other purpose than for the preservation of life.

Interestingly, Dovey’s installation forces us to wonder at something similar: just what is that we’re converting our life energy into in this day and age?

Also in Faena Aleph: Do What You Love and You’ll Never Have to Work: The Inspiring Perspective of “workisnotajob”

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