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  • Das Magazin
  • Kettle und Code
  • Hans Ulrich Obrist review of Robert Alice
  • 1 September 2021

Translation from German:

"A few weeks ago, I was introduced to Beeple, a so-called NFT artist. His digital works are freely accessible on the Internet, and when you buy one of them, you do not buy a physical picture that you can hang on your wall but a certificate of authenticity. This certificate is stored in the blockchain, a dazzling and omnipresent technology that seems relatively obscure and mysterious to most of us. For the community of insiders, Bitcoin investors, techies, and crypto artists, on the other hand, the blockchain is a promise and a philosophy that combines total transparency with total anonymity, albeit at the price of a problematic carbon footprint. A protagonist of the blockchain idea is also the NFT artist ... Robert Alice, [who] auctioned the first-ever NFT artwork at one of the major auction houses. The work is called Portraits of a Mind and the mind portrayed is that of the blockchain itself. The work has a physical part, consisting of forty round canvases painted with concentrically arranged columns of numbers and letters the 12.8 million digit original Bitcoin Code. This code was written and invented by Satoshi Nakamoto, a phantom whose true identity will probably remain a secret forever. [Alice] sees this code first and foremost as a text comparable to the tremendous social drafts, legal texts, and iconic writings of world history. This text, he says, is unreadable on the one hand but infinitely detailed on the other. Moreover, because the blockchain, like the World Wide Web, in the beginning, is all about decentralized, hierarchy-free operation, [Alice] has divided the code into forty blocks, which are distributed among collectors and institutions around the world. Finally, because the blockchain does not forget anything, [Alice] sees it as a history machine, a vast but fragile archive. The information, values, and certificates stored in it exist only digitally and will only exist in the system is supported and used. What will remain, also thanks to [Alice], is the code. Later generations will then decide whether this text stands in the same class as with Hobbes' Leviathan or the Declaration of the Rights of Man."