Max Dovey is an artist, researcher and lecturer whose performances explore how the human experience is affected by data and algorithms. The volume of breath that is exhaled dictates the total amount of financial profit accumulated through mining. A student pilot at the aviation school blows air through the glass mouthpiece of a Spirometer. The installation uses spirometry, a medical technique for measuring lung capacity and bitcoin mining suggested difficulty in breathing conditions that affect breathing.
The piece is presented as part of an imagined narrative where the body has become a biological system for producing capital and breath becomes a universal currency. The narrative tells the story of how breathing became a globally recognised currency and how bio-economics combined markets and the body to create a new homo-economicus. Turning lung exhalations into mining on the blockchain network not only hypothesizes that the body might one day play a more direct role in the financial systems but it also suggests that there might be more sustainable methods to maintain blockchains. Why did you choose human respiration to mine crypto-currencies? Using Breath as currency is where this idea originated from. I wrote a short story in which breath became a universally recognized currency.
In the story breathing becomes a fluid unit of value, that cannot be stored or accumulated, and is encrypted through microbes in each respiration. It leads to a rise in bio-economic hardware that enable every living species to become an economic agent, a hybrid homo economicus. The black lung was an acute condition diagnosed in people exposed to coal over long periods of time and was prevalent in many miners through the industrial age. I am using a spirometer to perform crypto-mining through lung exhalation, a device that was used to measure the harmful effects of coal mining on the human body.
When considering how to perform the computational labour required to mine crypto-currencies the spirometer has a history of registering the health and well-being of the industrial miner and felt relevant for connecting computational mining back to the human condition. Does it only depend on the power of the individual’s lung? What are the other variables that control its movements? The hashing rate of the micro-computer is determined by the lung capacity of the people breathing into the spirometer.
So the computer is only mining when people are exerting air into the spirometer and the air pressure of the spirometer determines the rate at which the computer mines at. The traditional process of mining crypto-currencies requires a computer dedicated to validating transactions made on a digital network known as a blockchain. For Breath I use a small raspberry pi 3 micro computer with a 1. There is a lot of discussion about the costs of securing bitcoin transactions and the environmental damage that current proof-of-work protocol is doing to the environment.
00000408 BTC at an average rate of 36 mega puffs a second. To monitor the mining you can visit the project website respiration. Could you explain what you mean by that? In this earlier prototype audience members inflated the price of a currency through breathing to increase the value on the stock market. So the piece relied on people physically inflating the value of the currency through breathing and materialized the financial bubbles that occasionally erupt in the crypto-currency market. Facilitating people to inflate the value of a currency represented the unexpected volatility within the crpyto-market that is caused by lucrative investments, paranoia and frenzied traders.
The text anchored the BH into very mundane gestures, emotions and arrangements. Could you tell us a few words about the potential of the blockchain to bypass traditional civic infrastructures? What are the advantages of using this type of alternative? There is something poetic about a secret message encrypted into hex code but when I looked a bit closer the weddings were highly orchestrated performances of bitcoin propaganda. The desire to program and replicate legal and civic arrangements has significantly advanced from these bitcoin weddings. People are writing code into smart contracts, this is programmed code that uses the decentralized blockchain to store and execute scripts that imitate and enforce both corporate and civic law. The work has also been featured at Generator Projects in Dundee, Scotland as part of Neon Festival and exhibited as part of After Money at Alt-w LAB in Edinburgh.