Rhea Myers

A visualization of brainwaves evoking the waves of the sea

The Ego, And It’s 0wned (2023). EEG data, Ethereum DApp.

Identity and intimate experience quantified, commodified, and exploited, in hypercapitalist exchange.The NFTs of The Ego, and It’s 0wned combine EEG brain wave recordings of intense experiences with smooth data visualization aesthetics to produce a critical encounter with subjectivity, representation, and capitalism.

NFTs allow the commodification of previously unenclosed phenomena from the commons of our shared experience. By doing so they expand the reach of the capitalist regime of property and ownership. The recognition of new labouring subjects also ultimately has this effect. Affective labour, cognitive surpluses, minority experience — whatever the critical impetus for formalizing each of these concepts may have originally been it ultimately renders them tractable to capital over time.

The application of NFTs to performance art in lieu of an expansion of copyright to cover ephemeral phenomena is another example of this process. Why should performance art or body art be subject to a kind of art historical Cartesian dualism in which the content of the mind and the form of the body are kept carefully separate? The brain is also part of the body. It performs subjectivity. Recognising the immanence of subjectivity in the brain produces a new artistic object of representation. It also extends the reach of cognitive capitalism from the quantitatively extensive to the qualitatively intensive. This can be both embraced and critiqued through art.

Trans people are currently seeing wider social awareness and attention, for good and for ill. Transgender experience is both dismissed and fetishised in the media. This is done by denying trans subjectivity, reducing being trans to a mere performance by an object. Rendering the subjectivity of that experience opaque will allow it to be further commodified. This is the dilemma of representation, in both the social and art historical senses. Taking ownership of this dilemma, ironically intensified via the blockchain, is both a reflection of and a critique of the capitalist logic of property.

This is the diagram of The Ego, and It’s 0wned. Each token presents a recording of the artist’s brainwaves filtered through the ghost of “quantified self” data visualizations to evoke the subject (and subjects) of modernist art. In doing this, it performs a mutually problematic series of enclosures and objectifications that frustrate simple readings. This is what it is like now. If there is no space for us in technocapital’s imagination as subjects rather than as objects then we must détourné its forms to make the same assertion made by every piece of art since Lascaux: I am here.