Digital Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility
Digital Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility (also referred to as Digital Zones, DZIPS, or IKB) is a conceptual art NFT project created on the Ethereum blockchain on August 29, 2017, by artist, Mitchell F Chan. Digital Zones are an exploration into the nature of artwork-as-a-token that pay homage to the French Artist, Yves Klein’s, Zone de Sensibilite Picturale Immaterielle. Digital Zones are not only significant for being one of the earliest NFT artworks to be exhibited and minted in a legacy art gallery, but also for being one of the first pieces of crypto art to explore smart contracts as a medium. Mitchell released a 34 page document alongside Digital Zones, called The Blue Paper, that articulated his thinking at the time.
With Digital Zones, Mitchell wanted to take the experience that Yves Klein’s had created half a century prior, with Zone de Sensibilite Picturale Immaterielle, and explore it further in digital form. He wanted to know how non-fungible tokens could advance the conceptualist project of separating the commodity form of an artwork from the experienced form. Digital Zones also explore the ways this separation changes a collector's relationship to art and tells a story about how different concepts of ownership are fundamental to the experience of an artwork. Most notably Digital Zones do not have a visual component (despite wrapper images being created later in 2021), which stands sharply in contrast to nearly every other crypto art project created to date. Despite having no visual component, Mitchell writes in the Blue Paper that he has "imbued" a specific color onto them and described this color as "The specific blue I will create in these digital zones is the hazy, muted blue of that horizon, on a clear day, roughly three hours before civil twilight."
The experience of minting a Digital Zone is part of the art itself and is an act of digital exhibition design. To mint Digital Zones buyers had to interface directly with the smart contract on Etherscan as there was no front-end dapp. This was intentional, as Mitchell deemed it important that there be some kind of ritual/friction in the purchasing of a Digital Zone. The several steps that had to occur during the act of buying could lead one to a possible moment of contemplation and reflection about one's actions. Placing the purchaser adjacent to the contract code, and having them close to the guts of it calling the functions themself, is a way of creating the opportunity for reflection and awareness.
A total of 101 tokens could be minted from the contract, however they had to be released sequentially in tranches that were coded into the smart contract. As soon as one series was minted out Mitchell had to manually release the next series. Tokens could only be purchased in the currency, ether, and were priced on a bonding curve that doubled each series the same as Klein had done with Zone de Sensibilite Picturale Immaterielle. Digital Zones were initially priced as follows:
- Series 0 (31 works): 0.1Ξ
- Series 1 (10 works): 0.2Ξ
- Series 2 (10 works): 0.4Ξ
- Series 3 (10 works): 0.8Ξ
- Series 4 (10 works): 1.6Ξ
- Series 5 (10 works): 3.2Ξ
- Series 6 (10 works): 6.4Ξ
- Series 7 (10 works): 12.8Ξ
Performing the Ritual is core to experiencing the art. Mitchell describes it in The Blue Paper as follows:
"The smart contract includes a function which reproduces the effects of Klein’s ritual, and can be executed by any holder of IKB. Upon calling the function, the user obtains the true immaterial value of the Digital Zone of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility... When the holder executes this function of the contract, their IKB token is destroyed and a quantity of ether equivalent to half the purchase price of that token is removed from my own account."
By performing the ritual, the artwork belongs intrinsically to the owner, and any financial form of ownership is transcended. Additionally when the holder executes the ritual function a quantity of ether equivalent to half the purchase price of that token is removed from a separate smart contract controlled by Mitchell's and given to the miner of the block on which the ritual function was executed.
Mitchell F Chan's early career
Mitchell F Chan has created innovative works about technology since 2006. He has created large-scale public works, gallery installations, and digital artworks. In 2009, he was awarded the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Trustee Scholarship in Art and Technology Studies. Mitchell has produced permanent large-scale public projects across North America. His works have been covered and discussed in numerous media outlets including Artforum, Art In America, VICE, Canadian Art, Slate, the Toronto Star, and Gizmodo.
The Blue Paper
Mitchell wrote The Blue Paper in summer 2017 during the development of Digital Zones, and it was released shortly before launch. It consists of 34 pages and is the definitive document on the artistic vision, goals, and cultural context of the Digital Zones project.
On August 30, 2017, the day after the Digital Zone smart contract was deployed, Mitchell presented Digital Zones to a room full of people at InterAccess in Toronto where he released the first series and minted the first token live on stage. Within ten minutes of the release, while Mitchell was still presenting, a collector minted a token and then proceeded to call the ritual function on it thus burning the token forever. The identity of this individual was a mystery for many years and then finally in 2022, Mitchell was able to make contact. This individual now go by the pseudonym "Receipt Burner" on twitter. Shortly after InterAccess, several more collectors minted tokens, however the initial series 0 release of 31 tokens did not mint out and the contract would lay dormant for several years.
In early 2021, interest around NFTs grew and several collectors including the founder of Art Blocks, Snowfro, minted the last few pieces in Series 0. Collectors then began reaching out to Mitchell wondering about if or when Series 1 would be released so Mitchell began doing his research on all of the recent events that had occured around the NFT art scene since he had release Digital Zones several years earlier. Eventually, he came to the conclusion to create a wrapper, which would modernize the collection to meet the ERC-721 standard. Shortly after the release of the wrapper, Mitchell proceed to release the seven remaining series.
IKB Cachet De Garantie wrapper
Mitchell released the official wrapper for Digital Zones, called IKB Cachet De Garantie, on May 18th, 2021. IKB Cachet De Garantie is also an original artwork in its own right, which can only be held by Digital Zones holders. Because Digital Zones predate the ERC-721 standard, The IKB Cachet de Garantie wrapper is needed to allow the original Digital Zones token to be traded on modern NFT exchanges like OpenSea. The IKB Wrapper also adds metadata which includes a holder's immutable ownership rights over the Digital Zones token. In this way, the Digital Zones wrapper is not only a functional tool which extends the original non-fungible Digital Zones token, but is also a receipt for the token. The IKB Cachet de Garantie token is represented by a PNG image, which is a depiction of the receipt created by Mitchell in 2021. Detailed instructions on how to wrap or unwrap a Digital Zones can be found here.
After the initial 31 Digital Zones in series 0 minted out in early 2021, Mitchell began releasing the seven remaining series consisting of ten tokens each several months later. When a series was released, all tokens in that series were then available simultaneously. After that series sold out, Digital Zones were not available again until Mitchell called a function to release the next series. Series 1 was released on April 28, 2021 and sold out in under six minutes. Every few weeks Mitchell released a new series which would quickly be minted out (some taking minutes and some taking days) leading up to the final two series which were both released on August 18th, 2021. Interest in Digital Zones increased dramatically in early August, which created a high demand for the Series 6 and Series 7 release. A group of roughly 50 individuals gathered in Mitchell's discord server for the event where they tried their luck minting with most of their transactions failing. Series 6 minted out in the same block that it was released in, and Series 7 minted out in roughly 1 minute.
The Blue Book
There are plans to be 101 physical copies of The Blue Paper, called The Blue Book, distributed to Digital Zones holders. A snapshot of holders was taken in 2022 and the physical copies were distributed shortly thereafter.
Sotheby's Natively Digital 1.2 auction
A Digital Zone was included in Natively Digital 1.2, the first auction in Sotheby’s Metaverse, which consisted of 53 lots of culturally significant NFT art from the vaults of 19 well known collectors. Digital Zone Series 0, Edition 10, was included as Lot #10 and was ultimately bought by the NFT fund Meta4 Capital for $1,532,500 USD on October 26, 2021.
Supply and rarity
Digital Zones have a max total supply of 101 however buyers can choose to call a ritual function on a token which burns it forever. Only one token has had the ritual function called on it to date, so the current supply stands at 100. The rarity of Digital Zones is primarily based on the the mint year of the token, the series of the token, or in some cases a specific token number may be more desirable to a specific collector.
- 2017: 25 (tokens 0-24)
- 2020: 1 (token 25)
- 2021: 75 (tokens 26-100)
- Series 0: 31 tokens (30 currently)
- Series 1: 10 tokens
- Series 2: 10 tokens
- Series 3: 10 tokens
- Series 4: 10 tokens
- Series 5: 10 tokens
- Series 6: 10 tokens
- Series 7: 10 tokens