Co-curated by ATISMIC founder Alice Chien and art advisor Tiffany Huang, Black Humour of Mine has been selected as ATISMIC’s first curatorial theme for the upcoming year-long NFT project starting this summer. Four sets of topics will be explored in sequence by artists crossed disciplines: ‘Birth and Death’, ‘Time and Space’, ‘Decentralisation and Tribalism’, ‘Hope and Fear’. Through their interpretation and imagination of this new technology, Black Humour of Mine seeks to piece together the meaning and possibilities of blockchain/NFT in contemporary art creation and real life.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, black humour is ‘writing that juxtaposes morbid or ghastly elements with comical ones that underscore the senselessness or futility of life. Black humour often uses farce and low comedy to make clear that individuals are helpless victims of fate and character.’[1]

Although satirical narrative used to metaphorise realistic predicaments is nothing new in the history of literature,[2] it was not until the 1930s that the term ‘black humour’ was coined by French writer and Surrealism founder André Breton. Following the flourish of postmodernism in the 1960s and 1970s, black humour as a literary genre also became widely known, perhaps reflecting global sentiment. It was a period when the two World Wars had already devastated the World economy and shaken global hierarchies, whilst ongoing conflicts during the Cold War and the rising antiwar sentiment caused continuous social and political unrest. Facing up to endless chaos in life, perhaps black humour is a way for powerless individuals to temporarily free themselves from the shackles of reality.

At the beginning of the 21st century, we face a different set of problems or are they? Perhaps some of the participants are new but the issues sound familiar - trade wars, currency crises and geopolitical conflict. What is clearly new is the new technological landscape. The advance in technology in the last thirty years has been thrilling but has brought with it challenges including safeguarding privacy, abuse of monopoly positions and governmental controls. Global debt has also accelerated since the 2008 global financial crisis and has been compounded by policies such as QE and spending programmes to mitigate the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This backdrop has seen technology-driven reactions in the form of Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies, blockchain, DeFi, NFTs, DAOs and the metaverse. All are seeing a global surge of interest, especially amongst the younger generation. The OG is, of course, Bitcoin, created to resolve the deficiencies in the traditional banking system.[3] The premise of Bitcoin is to create a system that is decentralised and unable to be manipulated by anyone—including governments by forever fixing supply at twenty-one million Bitcoins.

Whether this decentralised consensus mechanism represents a better future, it is undeniable that fiat currencies have resulted in a drastic reduction in purchasing power since the abandonment of the gold standard. The resulting problems, including several financial crises over the past century, accelerating inflation, real estate bubbles and inequality of wealth distribution, have all caused the global economy to fall into a vicious circle from which it is now difficult to escape.

Black Humour of Mine, which can be interpreted as ‘MY black humour’ or ‘MINE'S black humour’,[4] is an attempt to deconstruct the blockchain in a black humorous way. All of the artworks in the project address diverse perceptions of cryptocurrencies and NFTs in a provocative but stimulating manner with some irony and even absurdity. Black Humour of Mine aims to unravel the intricacies of the blockchain and inspire the audience to reflect upon the long-term value of NFTs.


[2] Earliest antecedents to black humour include the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi (c. 369 BC – c. 286 BC) and the Greek comic playwright Aristophanes (c. 446 BC – c. 386 BC), two of the most influential writers in the history of Eastern and Western literatures.

[3] Satoshi Nakamoto, the inventor of Bitcoin, wrote on the P2P Foundation forum in 2009: ‘The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that's required to make it work. The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust. Banks must be trusted to hold our money and transfer it electronically, but they lend it out in waves of credit bubbles with barely a fraction in reserve.’

[4] Mining is the process of using computer algorithms to validate each transaction and receive rewards. Each consensus mechanism has its own mining rules, which forms the basis of all blockchain technology.