In an unusual turn of events, I've caved to the wave of NFT production. Of course, I couldn't do this without putting my own spin on things. See here.
Recently, I've been in discussion with the curator João Vilela Geraldo about an exhibition here in Lisbon where I'd activate a space with installations and around 50 printed images that he curates from my Archive.
This conversation had me thinking about the possibilities of sharing work beyond the screen, enabling a platform for others to purchase my work and make something tangible.
That is how "Surviving the Odds" came to be. With this project, I am slowly releasing images from my archive in a re-edition as monochrome images. Each of the NFTs includes a hi-res print file and allows the owner of the contract to print and display the work however they choose.
Because NFTs can be resold, owners of these works can take agency in my work by purchasing, printing, then reselling the NFTs. It's a bit like the thesis of this Jonas Lund project.
The story behind the title came about back in 2019 while walking through Houston's Third Ward neighborhood. To the boy holding the mirror, I asked, "how are you?," to which he sternly replied, "surviving the odds." His siblings then immediately began parroting the phase. This family, like so many families in Third Ward and across the United States, presents a palpable resilience in the face of so much despair, poverty, dread, and social degradation—the "odds."
With Surviving the Odds, I want to exalt the meaning of this phrase. To survive the odds, as a product of the United States, is to reckon with a rouge, imperialist state who simultaneously undermines the lives of its own citizens and the lives of people abroad.
Surviving the odds in the case of j. bilhan, a gay POC artist, is to have grown up as a social Other only to have matured into an artist whose work challenge the narratives of imperialist states and their manifold projects. In the words of Mark Bradford, "I know how to be here. I know how to live in a dangerous world that doesn't want me."
Lastly, to address questions of carbon emissions, with each sale of my NFTs I will offset one tonne of CO2 using Wren. This is all very strange and new, but I'm excited especially by the prospect of having people print and display my photographs however they see fit. More to come.