Forkonomy() | 岔經濟()

"Dear Block Chen" @ Solid Art, by Sean Wang



NFT: One milliliter of the South China Sea (or here)

In collaboration with Taiwanese artist Lee Tzu-Tung

How to buy/own/mint one millilitre of the ocean from the South China Sea? Our on-going experimental project titled Forkonomy() is guided by such a speculative question that takes the figurative and pirated material— the South China Sea (Mandarin: 南海, Nan Hai)— as our object of study.

The northest Austronesians in Taiwan, the Tankas (Mandarin: 蜑家, Dang-Chia) in Hong Kong and many ocean peoples have viewed the world as “a sea of islands” rather than “places along the continent”, which reveals the fact that the sea is home to explore and to make world.

Despite the fact that Nan Hai is one of the world’s most heavily trafficked waterways for international trade, it is also one of the most disputable sea areas in the world over the territorial claims, spanning across Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, The Philippines and Vietnam. In addition, multiple Asian governments assert sovereignty over rocks, reefs, as well as other geographic features and undersea natural resources. This oceanic object is highly tangible and material, and yet significantly economical, military and political. If boundaries were not dotted lines on a map or “imaginary lines in the ocean” (Hau’ofa 1993) to compete for colonial power, but to think about them as making and maintaining kin connections to respect one another, including traditions and histories, then how might we queer the South China Sea otherwise? Building upon the first version of Forkonomy() in Lab Kill Lab exhibition in Taiwan, an invitation by artist-curator Shu Lea Cheang, we gathered diverse participants, including policymakers, scholars, Marine life conservators, cultural workers, artists and activists, to queering the ownership of the one millilitre of Nan Hai through discussion, auction, contract making, as well as code certificate performance. The second version puts the agreed and the co-owned one millilitre of the Nan Hai as an NFT (non-fungible token) on the blockchain network, which is a decentralized and distributed protocol that facilitates recording transactions of assets, with the aim to further explore the notion of ownership. What does it mean by mining and co-owning one millilitre of the ocean from the South China Sea?

In the project Forkonomy(), we are interested in rethinking the politics of our contemporary economic and technical-cultural systems. By employing free and open source software and decentralized protocols, we set the participatory project as a commoning ship for people of the pacific who want to queer and care the matters of hierarchies, ownership, gendered labour division, as well as to fight against the constant threats of maintaining a high degree of autonomy regarding the land and the sea. Forknomy() shall sail the economy and autonomy into a queer ocean of freedom and the sea of commonwealth.

「如何購買/擁有/採掘一毫升的南海?」 台灣藝術家李紫彤與香港藝術家孫詠怡共同提出了這個懸問,以此來探索「所有權」概念所牽涉的各式物質與制度議題。 許多以海維生的人們,包括台灣的南島語族、香港的蜑家等,並不視陸地為自己世界的中心點。他們的祖先探索廣袤海域、以海為家,甚至,學者郝歐法提出「群島之洋」一詞,形容這些族群在如大洋一般多的島嶼上生活,並養育著後代和建立對社會及世界的想像。然而,在南海這片區域,即便「群島之洋」的各個族群試圖維持相互尊重彼此傳統與歷史的關係,南海貿易頻繁的國際航道及多國環伺的地理位置,卻將其轉變成一塊領土爭議之地。汶萊、中國、馬來西亞、台灣、菲律賓、越南皆利用海上凸起的石島、礁岩等自然地物來延伸他們的主權範圍,它們憑藉海洋中有形的物質,來擴張政府在經濟、軍事與政治上的可用資源。那些地圖上的假想虛線,也代表著各政權在此殖民思維下的競爭邊界。有鑑於此,「南海」便成了兩位藝術家此次計畫重要的研究對象,他們以「酷兒化 」作為方法,解構以直系親緣作為基礎的國家系統,發展如原先海上住民所有的、跨越國家殖民臆想邊界的關係。

2020年12月,他們在鄭淑麗所在台灣文化實驗場所策的 Lab Kill Lab 展覽中,發展初版 《岔經濟()》計畫。他們邀請了政策制定者、海洋學學者、開源社群的推廣人、環境保護與原住民權益的倡議者與我們共組「另類議會」,在這個議會中,他們討論南海的所有權問題,接著針對討論結果,簽署合約、執行拍賣、並部署根據合約結果所構成的程式碼。而第二版的《岔經濟()》,他們則將「另類議會」決議共同持有的每一毫升「南海」製成區塊鏈上的非同質化代幣。藉由區塊鏈去中心經濟與安那其的特質,開發「擁有權」背後更深的政治意義。


酷兒化(queer up):由於大部分國家與家系發展建立在垂直式的血緣關係上,而酷兒在尋找自己身份認同時,往往必須超越自己的家族,找尋相同的群體,建立自己水平式的認同。酷兒化也代表著接納各種身份的流動性,使人們重新想像既有邊界、達到共融。


Video Documentation:

See the Sea video here


  • Year of Production: 2020(ver 1), 2021(ver 2), 2022(ver 3)
  • Medium: Installation, Participatory workshop, NFT, Codework
  • Acknowledgements: Shu Lea Cheang, Yukiko Shikata, 朱峯誼, Moon-Seok Yi and Eugene Hannah Park. The project has been supported by C-Lab, Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab, Solid Art / 本事藝術


Forkonomy() takes its name from the software development process of “forking,” which means to copy the original code and start working on it as a separate project with its own community of developers. This is a powerful strategy in situations of collaborative deadlock; it can be enacted without permission in the case of open-source software or by pirating proprietary software. As state-led governance calcifies over the South China Sea, Forkonomy() seeks an alternative path forward. - Zhang, 2023

Exhibition/Publishing Record(s):

  • 30 Sep 2023, Workshop @ esc medien kunst labor, Austria

  • 6 Dec 2022, Panel Presentation, Blockchain & DAOs, online (organized by TBA21–Academy)

  • 2 Dec 2022, Presentation, Groundings, Sweden

  • 28 Aug 2022, Workshop, Artlab Ban, South Korea, curated by Moon-Seok Yi and Eugene Hannah Park from the Against the Dragon Light, South Korea

  • 24-30 Aug 2022, Archival Exhibition, Philosopher's Stone, curated by Moon-Seok Yi and Eugene Hannah Park from the Against the Dragon Light, South Korea

  • 20 Nov 2021 – 15 Jan 2022, DEAR BLOCK CHEN, 本事藝術, Taiwan

  • 14-20 Dec 2020, LAB KILL LAB, FORKING PIRAGENE, Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab

Cite this work:

  • Soon, W., & Lee, TT. (2022). How to Buy/Own/Mint One Milliliter of the Ocean from the South China Sea. Interactions, 29, 4 (July – August 2022), pp 10–13. (Free online access version here)