So This Happened: The First Artwork Created on the Blockchain Is a Penis

If you ask a hyper-contemporary conceptual artist who specializes in influencer culture and internet trends commentary to use the blockchain as their canvas, don’t be surprised if they cockblock it. After all, in a world where everything we can think of is put on the block, why not a boner? And so, welcome the latest member of the blockchain brigade.

Don’t Snapchat Dicks, Blockchain Them

New York-based Swedish artist duo Ida Jonsson and Simon Saarinen have collaborated with big brands such as IKEA, Instagram, and H&M. They’ve been featured in the who’s who of the magazine world, including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, and Fortune. But when blockchain came along, it fascinated them. Something had to immortalized, immutably recorded for all time.

Naturally, what came to mind was one of the oldest symbols known to man. We might live in a post-modern society where being cool means being blasé. But if you think dick pics are a hyper-modern phenomenon exclusive to a digital age where socialization happens online, think again. According to Power Thesaurus, the word “penis” has 415 synonyms. That’s like the Eskimos that supposedly have 50 different words for “snow” (FYI, the Scots have 421). Clearly, the English language has its priorities straight.

The Evolution of Penis Culture

From Roman toilet graffiti (done in mosaic, cos panache), ancient temples featuring a lingam stage centre, and an 11,000-year-old Neolithic statue, humans have loved phallic symbols since time immemorial. While there’s a fascinatingly long relationship history between society and penis art, contemporary society has taken it to a whole new level. We’re knitting them, critiquing them, dressing them up, turning our (enemies’) logos into them, and using them (the unsolicited ones, anyway) to host art exhibitions. We even add them to 35,000-year-old cave paintings because if art is going to be noteworthy, it has to be realistic, right? So putting a willy on the blockchain is, actually, no surprise. After all, blockchain is nothing if not a record of human interest. Yes, it tends to be business and money, but who’d ever dare to separate dollars from dongs?

With the help of developer Lavi Malik, Ida-Simon was quick to pair high tech with everyone’s favorite preoccupation, explaining to It’s Nice That:

“…as new technologies, such as the blockchain, emerge the society move forward in directions we can’t even imagine. However, some things never change, and people’s interest in penis-art seems to be one of them. Maintaining this important piece of culture just felt like the right thing to do.”

While smart contracts might have saved a business partner from turning into a dick, the latest is that a smart contract itself can be a prick.

Boner on the Block

View the ASCII artwork, entitled Permanent Phallus, on-chain (yes, there’s now an ETH transaction shaped like a love muscle). You can also view the other two artworks in the series, Permanent Meme and Permanent Tag, both on the blockchain.

If you’re not particularly into a serious technology erecting a piece of bulging manhood for immortal display, that’s just the point. As Jonsson told Vice:

“We could have developed a webpage with our art that is connected to the blockchain, but then the art wouldn’t have been permanent enough for us. The idea was to create ‘doodles’ similar to those millions of kids (and adults) are drawings on toilets with sharpies, and spraying on walls with paint but this time forever on the blockchain. Sort of creating internet graffiti that is impossible to remove.”

After a brutal 2018, perhaps this is the lighten-up moment the blockchain industry has needed.