Others are more ambivalent about the technology.
is another Berlin-based artist who also works with blockchain—not as a tool but as a creative concept. When we met, Denny’s studio in Berlin looked like something out of a sci-fi experiment, filled with technological detritus, sculptures of video game characters, and three giant replicas of the boardgame Risk. “Each [sculpture] offers a different perspective on the future of blockchain,” he explained. Denny, who earlier this year presented a blockchain-themed work at the Berlin Biennale
, had created these works for his solo exhibition, “Blockchain Future States
,” which was on display at New York’s Petzel Gallery
this fall. “I want to make blockchain accessible,” he told me. “But I also want to ask questions. I’m a fan of critical art.”
For curators like McConaghy and artists like van den Dorpel, blockchain offers a kind of utopia: Open sourced, freely available and totally decentralized, it’s an escape from the traditional financial world. But for Denny, many of the firms that are utilizing blockchain technology are starting from a neoliberal, right-wing view of the economy: “All of the futures of blockchain end up there,” says Denny. “I want to make a caricature of these companies and what they represent, of a world where power is increasingly defined by private companies.” Still, Denny is not entirely critical. By utilizing things like board games and videogames, his work remains playful, allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions about the technology.
Denny is skeptical about the application of blockchain to the art world itself. For him, provenance and verification of artworks isn’t an issue. “The art world is too small,” he says. “Things move too slowly. Art sales are very personal; everyone knows where a work came from. The art world can’t be disrupted from the outside in.” Even Servais admits the technology has its limitations. “Is it the grail and the final solution? No, of course we need to keep improving,” he says. “But it is a fantastic base that we can continue.”
As for McConaghy, blockchain has always been just one of many technologies that will continue to change and improve the art world. For her, technology is about creating many possible answers to a problem, not a single solution. “People think it’s a magic bullet, but it’s not. Blockchain is one vehicle, a tool where you don’t have to trust just one institution,” she says. “ I grew up in the Soviet Union, I like having choices.”