“History in the Present Progressive” . Surfing with Satoshi review on Outland


Brian Droitcour, one of my favorite art writers ever, honored me with a review of my book Surfing with Satoshi. Art, Blockchain and NFTs (a few copies are still available here). It’s criticism, so don’t expect only kind words, but some of them really make me proud as they confirm the value and durability of all the work I put in this book (with the priceless support of my publishers, Postmedia Books and Aksioma). A few quotes:

“Quaranta’s account, which addresses the rise of NFTs and the connections between artists’ recent use of blockchains and historical interventions into art markets, sets a high bar for others that will follow.

So far Surfing with Satoshi is the only book of its kind: an attempt by a single author to weave a motley array of histories—of art movements, markets, technologies, and critiques—into a coherent narrative.”

“His book’s greatest strength is the persuasiveness of his links between blockchain-based art and twentieth-century conceptualism. The historical orientation of Surfing with Satoshi is what makes it durable, despite being written in response to—and during—a specific moment.”

Of course, I publicly apologize with artist and theorist Rhea Myers if I inadvertedly misgendered her. Her work, ethos and life embody so much of what this book is taking stance for. A new run of print will come out soon, and these and other mistakes that readers helped me to detect will be amended.

Brian Droitcour, “History in the Present Progressive”, in Outland, July 19, 2022,

“How Can Art Exist on a Distributed Ledger?” in The Book of X


The Book of X. 10 Years of Computation, Communication, Aesthetics & X, an anthology of texts and images celebrating the 10th anniversary of the international conference xCoAx, is now available for free download and in printed form (free – you pay only the postage. Among many relevant contributions by authors and artists I admire (Philip Galanter, Andreas Broeckmann, Frieder Nake, Amy Alexander, Alessandro Ludovico, Olia Lialina just to name a few), the book includes a short essay in which I try to address how can art exist on a distributed ledger without simply using it as a system for blowing up prices and documenting ownership and provenance. Included are examples of projects focused on artists and art workers rights, on-chain generative works, and artists turning DAOs into an art form. The effort is to “show how art and blockchain should “X”: at the crossroads between these two fields, art shouldn’t just peruse the blockchain as a given, an immutable, existing substrate, but actively, creatively implement, criticize or correct its infrastructure, nurture and manipulate this substrate to make it evolve in ways not yet envisioned.” Have a nice reading!

Domenico Quaranta, “How Can Art Exist on a Distributed Ledger?”, pp. 207 – 219. Published in Miguel Carvalhais, André Rangel, Luísa Ribas, Mario Verdicchio (Eds.), The Book of X. 10 Years of Computation, Communication, Aesthetics & X, i2ADS: Research Institute in Art, Design and Society, Porto 2022. ISBN: 978-989-9049-25-3 (Paperback), DOI: https://doi.org/10.24840/978-989-9049-26-0.

The Byzantine Generals Problem: an online group exhibition opening on July 4, 2022 at distant.gallery!


An alternative to capitalism, or capitalism at its worst? An emancipatory network economy where everyone has a stake, or a dystopian panopticon where only the best man wins? An opportunity for democracy, or a techno-libertarian wet dream? A new creative economy or a pyramid scheme? A planet saver or a planet burner? Rarely has the debate around a technology been so polarised as with blockchains, Web3 and NFTs. We are facing a problem of consensus, trapped within a Byzantine Generals Problem.
A group of generals is besieging Byzantium. In order to avoid catastrophic failure, they must agree on a concerted strategy, but some of them are unreliable. Used to illustrate how consensus is reached within distributed systems, this allegory can be applied to blockchains as well as societies. Yet, in a peer-to-peer debate with no central authority, consensus is hard to reach for a reason; and the disagreeing general, the unreliable actor, may be our best resource against the common sense of the crypto-yuppies.
The Byzantine Generals Problem is an online exhibition focused on artworks which do not avoid an engagement with blockchains and crypto culture, but do so in a critically constructive way: questioning dominant narratives, raising problems and sometimes proposing alternative solutions.
Featuring works by Anna Ridler, Ben Grosser, Constant Dullaart, DIS, Face or Factory, Kyle McDonald, LaTurbo Avedon, Moxie Marlinspike, Nascent, Rhea Myers, Sarah Friend, Sarah Meyohas, Simon Denny / Guile Twardowski / Cosmographia, Sterling Crispin, The Miha Artnak.
Curated by Domenico Quaranta and produced by Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, The Byzantine Generals Problem is hosted by distant.gallery,a not for profit organization making an innovative independent and noncommercial online platform available for partners to reach their audience online. During the opening, on July 04, 2022 at 1 PM CEST, the platform will host a short guided tour with the curator and the available artists.

Better (not to) Call Mark


I wrote a short essay for the exhibition Better Call Mark, on view since June 9 at Galeria Fran Reus, Palma de Mallorca. Featuring works by Albrecht / Wilke, Arno Beck, Johannes Bendzulla, Pierre Clement, Olga Fedorova, Marian Garrido, Joan Heemskerk, Eva & Franco Mattes, Mario Santamaria, Bartomeu Sastre, Mathew Zefeldt, Better Call Mark focuses on the dissolution between the purely physical and online. My take on it is available online as pdf, and in this post, right after the break.

Mark is, of course, Zuch. The image above is a screenshot from Joan Heemskerk’s contribution to the show: the website and installation Aquay (2022)

Interview | Arshake

Rafaël Rozendaal, Observation, 2022. Navy Officer’s Club, Venice Meeting Point. Photo courtesy Domenico Quaranta

Elena Giulia Rossi asked me a few questions about the topics of my book Surfing with Satoshi, one year after the first Italian edition, and in the days when cryptocurrencies are falling free and the new English edition of the book is coming out. The interview is now available on Arshake, in Italian and English (translated by the magazine). We discuss about the countercultural aspects of net-based art, the new challenges to the preservation of digital media, the blockchains environmental impact, speculative bubbles and utopian promises. Check it out!

Surfing with Satoshi. Art, Blockchain and NFTs now available in English!

Surfing with Satoshi, Texts

I’m happy and proud to announce that my book Surfing with Satoshi. Art, Blockchain and NFTs is now available in English! Scheduled for release on May 25, the book can be pre-ordered on Aksioma’s online store with free shipping, alone or in a special combo with Hyperemployment. Post-work, Online Labour and Automation (2019), funnily named “Combo 40”.

Produced and published by Aksioma, Ljubljana, Surfing with Satoshi. Art, Blockchain and NFTs is the English version of my book Surfing con Satoshi. Arte, blockchain e NFT, published in Italian by Postmedia Books in June 2021. Printed in a limited release of 300 copies, this English version features a new design by Superness, color plates and a “Foreword to the English Edition” that offers a major update of the book, and that can be downloaded for free from this link.

Collezionisti e valore dell’arte in Italia


Sollecitato da Alberto Fiz, ho contribuito al libro Collezionisti e valore dell’arte in Italia 2022, prodotto da Intesa San Paolo in collaborazione con Skira, con un breve saggio su collezionismo e arte digitale. Di prossima uscita, il volume è stato presentato oggi con un video in streaming presentato da Luca Beatrice, che ospita anche (dal minuto 35.30) una breve conversazione tra me e Alberto sul tema degli NFT. Non sono mai fiero delle mie performance verbali, ma lo splendido sfondo delle Gallerie d’Italia e il logo dell’Ansa valgono ben una condivisione.

L’ignoranza non mi preoccupa, l’economia sì


Un breve testo sugli NFT che mi sono divertito a scrivere per un altro Domenico. Lunghezza, contesto e compagnia sollecitavano una forma – manifesto, non mi sono fatto pregare. Pubblicato in AAVV, Disordinary Beauty. The Torn Sense of Beauty, catalogo della mostra, Biffi Arte – Fuori Visioni, Piacenza 2021, pp. 29 – 30.

L’introduzione degli NFT ha portato il mercato dell’arte nata digitale a un salto di scala. Quello che ieri veniva considerato un mercato di nicchia, per collezionisti raffinati e coraggiosi, oggi ha un volume che supera il miliardo di dollari; opere che ieri venivano considerate invendibili sono oggi trattate come beni di investimento. Oggi, un file .jpg è la terza opera d’artista vivente più pagata al mondo, dopo un quadro e una scultura. Che esista un prima e un dopo Beeple non è una vanteria, è un dato di fatto.

Ma quelli economici non sono gli unici equilibri ad essere stati scombussolati. Creatori fino a ieri sconosciuti al mondo dell’arte fanno scomparire artisti con una lunga storia, una solida reputazione critica e un inattaccabile pedigree istituzionale. Il mondo dell’arte contemporanea boccheggia, e arranca per stare al passo. Attorno agli NFT si è costituito un altro mondo dell’arte, con tre attori principali: i creatori, le piattaforme, i collezionisti. Se le seconde assorbono, all’occasione, una porzione della funzione curatoriale (selezionando gli artisti, categorizzando le opere) sono i collezionisti i veri curatori di questo spazio. Sono loro, con i loro portafogli che grondano cripto, che decidono chi sale in cima alla piramide e chi è destinato a consolidarne la base, comprando criptovaluta e pagando gas fee. Se guardiamo alle opere dei 100 artisti più quotati, vediamo i loro collezionisti: il loro background culturale, i loro gusti estetici, la loro agenda politica, le loro passioni, la loro voglia di cambiare il mondo, la loro ignoranza in fatto di arte.

Non deridiamo l’ignoranza: è uno straordinario fattore di cambiamento e di innovazione. Sull’eccesso di conoscenza, sull’adesione incondizionata a un codice si costruisce un’Accademia, non un’Avanguardia. In fondo, è l’ignoranza che ha generato Beeple: l’ignoranza e l’economia, il desiderio di rendere visibile al mondo, attraverso un’immagine, come criptovalute e blockchain lo abbiano cambiato nei 13 anni della loro esistenza, e come potrebbero cambiarlo in futuro.

L’ignoranza non mi preoccupa, l’economia sì. Gli NFT sono il prodotto di un mondo dove, per ora, conti solo per quello che hai nel portafogli (trasparente, pubblico, accessibile a tutti). Qualsiasi cosa tu voglia dire, è il tuo wallet che ti da la voce per dirlo. Qualsiasi cosa tu voglia fare, implica una transazione. Accedi col wallet. Firma col wallet. Vota col wallet. Minta col wallet. Compra col wallet.

Gli NFT sono molto giovani. La loro rivoluzione è ancora pura, grezza, immatura. Il futuro dell’arte su blockchain dipenderà, in gran parte, da quanto questo mondo dell’arte resterà uguale a se stesso e da quanto si rivelerà in grado di cambiare, di ibridarsi, di attenersi o di rinunciare alle proprie istanze native.

Domenico Quaranta, 15.11.2021

Il metaverso come spazio espositivo (sort of)


Sull’ultimo numero di Artribune, Valentina Tanni ha curato un bello speciale sul metaverso, invitando artisti e autori (Marco Cadioli, Miltos Manetas, Matteo Lupetti, Auriea Harvey) a dire la loro. Io dico la mia a pagina 75.

Domenico Quaranta, “Il metaverso come spazio espositivo”, in Artribune, n. 64, gennaio – febbraio 2022, p. 75

Truthless Trust

Francoise Gamma, Fractura, 2021. Animated GIF, 488 × 584 pixels, 301 frames

On the website of Spike Magazine you can now read an edited excerpt from my book Surfing con Satoshi. Arte, blockchain e NFT, translated into English by Anna Rosemary Carruthers. The excerpt offers a good chance to announce the upcoming English version of the book, that will be made available in spring by Postmedia Books and, in a limited edition designed by Superness, by Aksioma, Ljubljana. Meanwhile, enjoy Truthless Trust!

Domenico Quaranta, “Truthless Trust”, in Spike Magazine, February 1, 2022