Krista Kim Is Bringing Humanity Back to the Metaverse, One Digital Heartbeat at a Time

We're on the precipice of a paradigm shift with Web3, Kim said.

Krista Kim. Photo: Joel Esposito.

Okay, imagine this: In the not-so-distant future, we’ll authenticate everything we do with a unique heartbeat algorithm on the blockchain. It will be like a signature that can’t be forged—a stamp that says, this is a genuine product of me, not some AI-generated facsimile.   

“If you see a YouTube video of me conducting an interview, I can verify that it is my likeness using my heartbeat,” said Krista Kim, a prominent creative voice in the world of digital art. “Going forward, whatever I create, whether it is an essay or a website or my art, I can sign it with my heartbeat.”  

Kim proffered this scenario as an example of how blockchain technology can be used to counteract the many pernicious forms of data extraction and manipulation we now know to be commonplace in the era of surveillance capitalism. But it’s also a perfect metaphor for the overarching goal that unites her many projects: recentering the human in the digital world. 

If Kim isn’t a household name in mainstream culture, she is within the circles of Web3 art and development. There she wears a lot of hats: author, businessperson, globetrotting proselytizer for the metaverse. But when asked how she describes what she does, Kim only needed one descriptor: “I’m an artist,” she said plainly. She was speaking from an office in Los Angeles, where she lives full-time now, following stints in Seoul, Singapore, and Toronto.  

She means this literally—she’s a prominent maker of NFTs and other forms of digital art—but also figuratively, in that she brings an artistic approach to everything she does. At conferences, where she’s frequently featured as a speaker, or in business meetings for her company [0] (pronounced zero), the value of that perspective clear: “I’m usually the only artist in the room,” she explained. 

In the early 2010s, Kim created a manifesto for what she calls “Techism”—a movement built around the idea that technological advancements should be calibrated to human enlightenment, not the accrual of capital. She was in grad school at the LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore at the time and reading a lot of philosophy, particularly Marshall McLuhan. The “medium is the message” theorist’s ideas influenced her own. 

“Techism does not mean how it sounds,” she wrote. “It does not put technology before art but rather sees art and technology as companions meeting the next wave of human expression—digital humanism. We are the masters of technology, and creating art is the expression of digital humanism.”   

A “Zenpod” designed by Krista Kim for meditating in the metaverse. Courtesy of the artist.

This text arrived roughly a dozen years ago, but in the amphetaminic world of corporate technology, it might as well have been a different epoch. This was a time of Snaps and Pins and Vines, when social media apps still seemed somewhat quaint, even if their companies were quietly building empires out of users’ data. Kim put her finger on something that then seemed incidental, but is now a foregone conclusion: these new apps aren’t just the source of addiction, they’re engineered to breed it.   

As our relationship to, and knowledge of, these products has evolved since then, Kim has continually updated her Techism manifesto. In 2020 and 2021, amid the NFT boom and the rapid growth of the metaverse, the revolutionary rhetoric she espouses seemed increasingly relevant. It was during this time that she created Mars House, the first virtual property offered as an NFT, and sold it for 288 Ether, or roughly $512,000. 

Today, in late 2023, the NFT market is nowhere near the highs it hit just two years ago, and while the metaverse remains a robust industry, it has faded from public discourse. But Kim remains resolute in her belief that, with the growth of Web3, humanity is on the precipice of a paradigm shift—and we need to establish sustainable structures now, lest we repeat the mistakes of Web2. 

“It’s only through art and the humanities that you’re going to create these systems in a way that serves everyone as an enterprise solution,” she said, “not a commercialized one that’s used to exploit us.”  

The metaverse, Kim said in a 2022 TEDx talk, is the “greatest art project, the greatest creative renaissance, in human history—a huge opportunity for us to make our lives better in the real world.” She delivered that speech in New York’s Times Square, where she had just debuted Continuum, a slow-moving gradated colorscape that played across the site’s 90 electronic billboards at midnight for the month of February.

The gradient has become the artist’s signature. She’s applied it to NFTs, meditation spaces in the metaverse, even Louis Vuitton trunks. She’s writing a book about it now too. It is, for her, both a form and an ethos—a metaphor for the fluidity of modern life, as the boundaries of gender, geography, and the IRL world have become more porous than ever.  

“Fluidity is the future,” Kim said. “The gradient represents the new digital human, where everyone will express themselves as a continuum, constantly changing. You are not expected to be one thing. You are multiple colors and you can express yourself the way you are.” 

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