What’s the I.M.N. series?

I.M.N., which stands for In My Name, is part of Pantheon, an experimental art project with the intention of exploring and studying the nascent yet robust space birthed by a looming decentralized Internet, high-level connectivity technologies, such as IoT, and the data-driven digital age, in general.

Throughout human history, art has always reflected scientific progress. We don’t even have to invoke the almighty da Vinci to make our case here — just think about how light has been captured, understood and expressed in artworks over time, from Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro, to Renoir’s dappled light, to Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light fixtures, or, even more fittingly, the history of photography and how it established itself as a fine art genre. Art is like a mirror that also mirrors itself, helping humankind see what it was like, what it is now and, more importantly, why. This reflection thus goes deeper than being simply a medium, a significant one as you can tell, for science and technologies; it embodies what’s underlying these developments of civilization — humanity’s fundamental desire to understand as well as imagine life, the world and ourselves. In some way, we can argue that art is scientific progress.

Caravaggio – Supper at Emmaus, 1606

It has been decades since we entered this new Age of Information. Yet, I constantly feel like the art world is still stranded in the late 80s/early 90s. While information technology has indeed transformed the industry in terms of business practices, such as online auctions, viewing rooms and various platforms, it struggles to find its place in art itself. There have been numerous attempts in this field, of course; in the end, who can turn a blind eye to the new wealth from the tech industry? The lofty artists might not care as much, but their dealers sure need more revenues to cover their overheads. However, nothing comes to mind if I have to name one that has successfully found a way to encapsulate the essence of information technology in art. Richard Prince did the Instagram series years ago, but it depended heavily, if not solely, on interpretation. My statement could mean a number of things, but the bottom line was — those screen shots pasted on canvases were less than symbolic. It was the same case with Beeple’s collage, which, based on my understanding, was designed as the featured event of a well-funded market-making campaign. Meanwhile, other new media artists have approached it in their own ways, from data manipulation to visualizing human-machine interaction. I vividly remember about five or six years ago half of Art Miami was occupied by tech-related art. It was also around the same time that Art Silicon Valley was introduced. People had cautiously high expectations for this potential new mega market following the logic we inherited from the Medici era — rich and powerful people would be instant art collectors. Because tech bros were rich and becoming powerful, they would automatically collect art to diversify their portfolio and elevate lifestyle, especially art with a tech theme, which could set themselves apart from the older generations they were going against. Right, nobody was expecting Mark Zuckerberg to be a Cezanne collector, but many were betting that those empty walls in the expensive San Francisco buildings could use some better decorations. Art X technology was what the market thought what the market desperately needed; years later, we find ourselves drowned in the seas of NFTs.

Is it necessary to incorporate new technologies into art, at all, then, other than the market demand reasoning? One might wonder. I cannot answer that since such questioning assumes that we have to have a set of necessary things for art. I don’t accept such assumptions; art deserves absolute and unconditional freedom, and is thus safe from debates like this. 

However, necessity is not the only criterion for being valuable and meaningful. In my case, information technology rather deserves to be represented in art as it has become an inseparable part of our collective societal psyche and identity. Unlike anything that we’ve had before, it, arguably, has and continues to redefine human boundaries, between one person and another, one person and machines, and, most revolutionarily of all, life and death. This shift in the concept of our “selves” or, in other words, what is me and what is not, challenges us to rethink what it means to be a human being and is just too important to be left out of art, which, as I mentioned earlier, is a mirror of and for humanity. While the rest of the project will address other issues as well, e.g., time, space, etc., In My Name sets its own specific focus on human identity.

Life line

If I have to name one unique thing that information technology can bring, it has to be the mechanism that resembles energy and life. Of course, it won’t be a real life, at least, not at the moment, but with a constant live data stream which is analogous to blood and pulses in a digital world, we might be able to make that modified Turing test argument. To be clear, I am not making a robot or an algorithm that draws — the outcome will always be technology instead of art; on the contrary, I am trying to make art that consumes and justifies technologies. In all fairness, the latter is significantly harder than the former, as the former challenge follows traditional machine learning patterns while the latter one doesn’t and won’t have a pattern. Why and how can I be so certain? Because (fine) art can’t have a pattern and the second it does it turns into craft; the value of art perishes like a man loses his soul. Who can’t paint the canvas completely white like Robert Ryman? But there’s only one Ryman and only his white canvas could fetch 20 million. It’s never about the white paint on a canvas; it’s everything but. Art can be really bad, but, oxymoronically, can’t have a “creative” pattern (algorithm), no matter how exquisite it is. 


NFT was brought up earlier and the tone was quite apocalyptic. I wasn’t negative about the platform, however. My issue was that it was packed with power that was yet to be unlocked. So far, it has mostly been used as a traditional marketplace that accepts cryptos. To be frank, NFT was built as a measure to enrich the crypto ecosystem and solidify the value of the fragile cryptocurrencies. Therefore, content-wise, it is understandably bleak as most professional artists don’t consider it a legitimate platform for advancing their careers. It is flooded with Tumblr/Deviant Art-ish graphic designs and celebrity merchandise. While the authenticity and provenance tracking feature provided by NFT is valuable, it’s only valuable, in a meaningful way, for art that enters the secondary market. Graphic designs and (digital) collectibles, each having their importance in our life, have yet to prove that they can have significant secondary market value. Instead of buying this jpeg file of a monkey for this resale price, why can’t I just order a new one for 30% off? Moreover, why am I paying for a jpeg file in the first place if anyone can make a copy of it easily? See, the problem is that we are still creating traditional art for a completely new medium and using the same old marketing model that made Impressionism over a hundred years ago. If NFT was born in and out of this new digital dimension of our world, how could we fully and faithfully represent that in a digital object that we now call art? I think, at the very least, it should go far beyond 3D modeling software and wallpapers in Metaverse.

Pantheon was created as an attempt to answer this challenge. 


The In My Name series focuses on the evolving concept of identity as the world transforms digitally day by day. It has two representational layers within: what it looks like to people (the external world) and what people look like to it. The second layer significantly outweighs the first despite being almost invisible to the public. Vaguely comparable to a dualist view of substance, it is intentionally structured so to investigate the meanings of the “life” that I am building into the art objects. Across the Pantheon project, such life would take different forms; for I.M.N., “life” is in the form of names.

I’ll explain the artistic aspects of I.M.N. in a different note and, here, let’s briefly look at the construction of an I.M.N. piece.

Series cover: Albrecht Dürer – Praying Hands, c. 1508

An image. 

Every I.M.N. piece contains a portion of The Children’s Games by Pieter Bruegel. It’s my favorite painting of all time, by my favorite painter of all time. However, the main reason to use this image is because of the contrast it brings — what kids would do for fun back in 1560 and what kids do today. There are many contributing factors, but, for the most part, this contrast is a product of technological advancements.

Pieter Bruegel – Children’s Games, 1560


Next, an acronym will be juxtaposed on the Children’s Game image. The acronym stands for a full Latin name. Joe Biden is therefore represented as J.B.. I initially thought about using first names or last names instead, but, eventually, went with initials for simplicity and inclusivity. It has also become quite a trend and accepted practice in recent years to sign emails or digital messages with initials, even in serious business settings. As you can tell, initials are non-exclusive; Justin Bieber and Joe Biden are both mapped to J.B. However, names, while admittedly being key to our identity, have no actual inherent meaning to start with anyways. They are arbitrarily assigned to us as non-unique identifiers to make social life easier and enhance our self-awareness. It is the people that actually assign meanings back to those letters — Justin Bieber is no longer an empty word grouping that sounds like a white boy from a typical middle-class family but a pop star that we all have our own opinions about.

I do have a hidden agenda here, which is to reveal the systemic suppression of the “systems” that build their power by reducing individuals to functional tokens. It is, in fact, tied to an important tech project that I am working on, which investigates the possible solutions to the problem of universal unique representation. I hope that somehow Pantheon could offer certain insights and inspirations to that ambitious project. I’ll honestly need lots of them.


Each I.M.N. piece comes with a life, which is represented as a constantly developing data stream object. The data comprises the occurrences of the corresponding initials that appear in headline news. For example, if the art piece is J.D., then J.D.’s life is all the names with initials J.D. mentioned, as the subjects (playing a main role in the story), in the news (e.g., Johnny Depp, Jason Derulo, etc.). The data stream object is accessible on the Internet, with its own URL. While everyone can view the content development, only the owner of the piece can have further interaction with it, which goes into the next point.

Hash and signature

When you mint or buy an NFT, the transaction is logged by the chain and, technically, immutable. That’s what the platform does. For the I.M.N. series, every piece is also equipped with its own little identity mechanism that can be used for reference independently. There is a hash built into the meta section of the original file. In addition, there’s also a hash-based signature that can be generated based on the file’s “life”; only the owner can request to have them stamped and keep their copy unique at all times. I’ll explain the technical details in a separate post.

At the moment, there are four active I.M.N. pieces. Obviously, more will be launched in the near future to complete a 26 by 26 matrix as soon as I finalize the visual representation of their life development. To save time, the website is temporarily using a WordPress framework and I feel utterly limited (shoutout to all the spammers that tell me that I urgently need a web designer to help with my miserable site). 

527 thoughts on “What’s the I.M.N. series?

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