Virtual currency and blockchain technology are expanding, but they remain elusive subjects to much of the public at large. When new concepts emerge, it isn’t unusual for artists to find ways to help people conceptualize them.
The fact that modern artists are exploring blockchain signifies the level of cultural significance it has achieved.
Petzel Gallery in New York City is presenting an exhibition of works by Berlin-based New Zealand artist Simon Denny entitled, “Blockchain Future States,” running from Sept. 8 through Oct. 22. A similar exhibition, “Blockchain Visionaries,” is on display at the Berlin Biennale through Sept. 18.
Denny, 33, has devised a visual scenario in which three blockchain technology companies have different visions for a new world: Digital Asset Holdings, Ethereum and 21 Inc. He sees them representing three different ways to utilize blockchain, based on what he sees as their political and ideological differences, according to an overview of the exhibit on the Petzel Gallery website.
The artist uses diagrams and sculptural infographics to depict each blockchain company’s geo-political ecosystem. Denny uses everyday objects like postage stamps, Pokeman and a board game to depict the way technology is shaping the world.
Denny borrows heavily from the hardware of competitive gaming – including oversized special editions of the board game “Risk,” personal computer cases turned corporate “deal toys,” and cartoonish entrepreneurial “players” bidding for the encrypted infrastructure of self-governing future worlds.
According to a The Wall Street Journal article, large images of the leaders of the three blockchain companies are shown standing near massive structures intending to portray how the cryptocurrency systems could challenge traditional governance structures.
Denny told The Wall Street Journal that an art exhibition can help people comprehend something that has been obscure. It also addresses the questions about how technology shapes society.
Positioning the technology in the context of everyday objects presents a “cultural entryway” of the technical subject that would otherwise be boring. Everyone who attends the exhibit will have some relationship to the Risk board game, Denny noted.
Denny said he became interested in cryptocurrency last year when he learned how people with different agendas were investing in it.
The Risk board game representing Digital Asset Holdings replaces countries with financial centers. This reflects the fact that the company, which is led by Blythe Masters, a former JP Morgan Chase executive, is developing a platform geared toward financial markets.
The board for 21 Inc. focuses more on bitcoin. It eschews traditional geography for technologist clouds and nationalist lands. Ethereum, an open software platform, is positioned in outer space.
Pokemon protagonist Ash and a big game box are mixed with Satoshi Nakamoto mythology.
The Berlin show is located in a former East German state building, a space that highlights a physical meeting of different governance systems.
Denny noted that he isn’t attempting to present a preference among the three blockchain futures, but to flush out their obstacles and opportunities. He claims he is a fan and an optimist, and not a “blind publicist” about the new technology.
Images from Shutterstock and Petzel Gallery.
Last modified: October 13, 2019 23:09 UTC