Why Is It So Difficult To Buy Digital Zones?

Mitchell F. Chan
4 min readAug 16, 2021

Because it’s supposed to be.

Very soon, the final twenty IKB tokens from the original Digital Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility contract, Klein.sol, deployed August 29, 2017, will be available for purchase. There will be no click-to-purchase button on my website, or on OpenSea, or on any other platform. Instead, twenty collectors will scroll through the contract interaction functions on Etherscan, and walk through the mildly cumbersome, slightly janky, and sometimes nerve-wracking process of buying and wrapping these artworks. They’ll be the last-ever art collectors to do this, and so now seems like a good time to answer the question that a few people have asked me: Why is it so fucking annoying to buy a Digital Zone of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility?

On my old website, under a section providing resources about how to purchase IKB, I proudly stated:

There is NO front-end DApp for purchasing IKB!!! And there probably never will be. To purchase IKB, buyers had to interface with the contract through the methods outlined in the original FAQ. This is/was intentional, as it is important that there be some kind of ritual/friction in the purchasing of the Zones.

The way you purchase an IKB token is an important part of the artwork and an act of digital exhibition design.

https://youtu.be/yg_7NMxYnCE

Outside of crypto-art, I mostly create large-scale installations and public artworks, like the one above.

When I design a piece like this, I always think not just about the moment of being inside or adjacent to the work, but the moment before that. And the moment before that. In the exhibition above, there is a large kneeling wall right in front of the gallery entrance that blocks sightlines to the exhibition space proper. I want to make sure that visitors can hear the soundtrack and the boom of machines before they enter the gallery space. The exhibition has a big, noisy presence in the viewer’s mind before they’ve even seen the artwork. When they finally circumnavigate the kneeling wall, that maximalist soundscape is a dramatic contrast to the light, ethereal visuals which are revealed.

That moment before the viewer enters the gallery is an important prelude which sets up the point I’m trying to make in the artwork: All this noise is actually nothing at all.

One of the major challenges in presenting and curating digital artwork is the difficulty in creating this kind of procession into the artwork, or providing contemplative space around the artwork. That’s exhibition design, and for a good artist it’s also straight-up a part of the artwork.

The Digital Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility are, broadly, artworks about buying artworks. They’re about which aspects of an artwork you can and can’t buy. So it’s important to me that when you buy it, you really fucking buy it. You don’t click a button, because that’s so easy that it’s barely an experience at all. Instead, you go through these steps so that the act of buying is deliberate and slow: There is at least the possibility of a moment of contemplation and reflection about what you’re doing.

And because the Digital Zones are also, specifically, about how blockchain affects the dynamics of buying artworks, sending buyers to Etherscan (or some other cumbersome wallet that allows contract interactions) is also an attempt at exhibition design. It plots out the moment before the artwork is released to the viewer, and makes sure that’s a moment that’s relevant to the content and concept of the artwork. Placing the purchaser adjacent to the contract code, and having them close to the guts of it and calling the functions themselves, is a way of creating the opportunity for reflection and awareness about what we’re all doing here.

This part of the artwork is important to me, and I’m excited for the collectors who will participate in this process. Due to some (very welcome) increased interest in the project, and major price movement for IKB tokens on the secondary market, I’ve been a bit worried that this experience could be lost to bots watching the contract.

For this reason, I’ve decided to release the final twenty tokens earlier than I previously announced.

I had planned on releasing these last tokens on August 30, to mark the 4-year anniversary of the project. Instead, the ten tokens in Series 6, editions 81–90 (price: 6.4Ξ), will be released on Wednesday August 18 at 23:59 GMT (7:59pm EDT), and the final ten tokens in Series 7, editions 91–100 (price: 12.8Ξ) will be released shortly afterwards if Series 6 sells out. You can find instructions on how to buy Digital Zones, and wrap them in their ERC-721 wrapper, on chan.gallery/ikb, under the headings “Collector FAQ” and “How To Wrap Now.”

Finally, I would humbly ask collectors: Please purchase no more than one token each for the first hour after minting starts. The IKB holders club is a small one, and it’s better for everyone if we spread it around. Thanks!

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Mitchell F. Chan

Conceptual art & videogames. Created Boys of Summer, 2023; Winslow Homer's Croquet Challenge, 2022; Digital Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility, 2017