HOW ART CAN CHANGE THE NFT SPACE BY PLAYING THE TRAITOR IN THE 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 traitor, the disagreeing general, the unreliable actor, may be our best resource against the common sense of corporations and crypto-yuppies.
Art does not need to have a function; but in a techno-social context that has yet to be designed, and that recognized to art and unprecedented status, it can and should play out an important social function. This lecture will focus on a selection of artworks from recent and past history, 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. By means of forensic research, criticism, ironic scepticism, blatant provocation or subversive affirmation, art can help spreading awareness around contested topics, technological and social bias, actively delaying a general consensus around blockchain and participating in its evolution.
Domenico Quaranta is an art critic, curator and professor at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, Milan. He lectures in Net Art and is co-founder of the Link Art Center (2011–2019).