Technosolutionism and Broken Promises: The Rise and Fall of NFT Art at Moneylab #13


Technosolutionism and Broken Promises: The Rise and Fall of NFT Art

Sales of NFTs drastically slumped after peaking in January 2022, leaving many of the promises made about cryptocurrency’s capacity to democratize the art market unmet. The idea that using NFTs as “smart contracts” could solve the difficulties of monetizing digital artworks appealed to many, and platforms for brokering such sales presented creators with new avenues to make money from their work. But now that daily sales have fallen to a fraction of what they were in previous years, the revolutionary potential of NFTs for art has largely failed to materialize. Considering this phenomenon from a historical perspective, this presentation looks at the role of technosolutionism in the rise and fall of crypto art. There is a long history of proposing technologies to solve the problems created by technologies, a cycle that may help to enrich our understanding of the genuine potential that new economic models for art that blockchain technology may have but that may not be likely to be achieved. Examining the recent craze around NFTs in relation to notable instances from the past, this talk explores how artists have responded to the challenges of changing technological conditions concerning the sale of art.


Moneylab #13  @ NeMe, Limmasol/Cyprus

Sustaining its interest in presenting insightful new critical ideas on the developments of the digital domain and how that is affecting our society and economy, NeMe, and the Institute of Network Cultures, present the 13th edition of MoneyLab. The overall aim of MoneyLab is to deconstruct, and reveal the hidden machinations of the ever-evolving digital economies, and speculate on radical alternatives.

The 2023, post-Covid, MoneyLab edition at NeMe will concentrate on the precarious financial existence of artists and it will investigate and interrogate the so-called decentralised opportunities that sprang in 2020 in the blockchain Crypto sphere, that includes but is not limited to NFTs.


Until Facebook’s failed launch of its own blockchain currency Libra in 2019, ‘crypto’ and ‘social media’ remained separate universes. Yet in the week, Homer Pepe sold for $320,000, Barry Threw cheered that “[t]he art world is a software problem now.” For this Limassol edition of MoneyLab, it is inevitable to return to the 2021 ‘crypto art’ NFT wave that coincided with the Game-Stop short squeeze, orchestrated on Reddit at the height of the crypto boom when Bitcoin reached a $66K valuation. The newly created ‘assets,’ financed in the trade by superfluous cash that can be spent on trivial ventures, is the easy explanation for the sudden 2021 Non-Fungible Token boom. Before we rush to the Next Big Thing, it is important to reflect on the crypto art condition as the ‘digital money’ question is here to stay.

David Gerard explained how the hype started: “Tell artists there’s a gusher of free money! They need to buy into crypto to get the gusher of free money. They become crypto advocates and make excuses for proof-of-work. Few artists are really making life-changing money from this! You probably won’t be one of them.” And, as Brett Scott, author of 2022 bestseller Cloudmoney, and a keynote speaker at the conference, explains, the hype can only take off if we’re in it together, driven by males, destined for market greatness. “If anything, GameStop could be a reaction against the zero-sum futility of day trading. Far from saving you from bullshit jobs, trading is a bullshit job, and the only way to temporarily win at it is not to throw yourself into battle against ‘the market.’ It’s to collaborate in swarms.”


One of the MoneyLab network premises is the assumption that a critique of social media should also have a financial-economic solution for content creators and not just get stuck in fake news or privacy complaints. We need new internet aka social media models in which peer-to-peer payments are an integral part. The attention economy as we know it has resulted in an army of influencers struggling to make a living. Most artists and designers are earning far less than a minimum wage—a situation that only got worse during the Corona pandemic. If the aim is to cancel the Silicon Valley ‘social contract’ (data extraction in exchange for free services), we will need another financial infrastructure that will be situated ‘underneath’ digital services—with or without blockchain, Bitcoin, Ethereum tokens or ‘proof of work.’

Moneylab#13: Krypto: Decrypting the Artist, in Limassol, consists of a 2 day conference and an exhibition.


3-4 Nov 2023, 10:00-12:30, 15:30-18:00
MAD Lab, 3rd Floor, Potamitis Building, 8 Kitiou Kyprianou st
Opening: 3 Nov 2023, 19:30-21:30
Duration: 7 Nov – 1 Dec 2023
Opening days/times: Tue-Fri / 17:30-20:30
Venue: NeMe Arts Centre, Corner of Ellados and Enoseos streets, Limassol

Participating artists:

Rodrigo Azaola, César Escudero Andaluz, Austin Houldsworth, Karima Klasen, Rosemary Lee, Agoston Nagy, Paul O’ Neill, Dipo Olaosun

Conference Programme:

Friday 3 November, 2023
10:00-10:10: Yiannis Colakides: Welcome/Housekeeping
10:10-10:30: Geert Lovink: Introduction
10:30-11:30: Barbara Cueto
11:45-12:30: Rosemary Lee
12:30-15:30: Lunch break
15:30-16:15: Joshua Davila
16:15-17:00: Inari
19:30-21:30: Exhibition Opening

Saturday 4 November, 2023
10:20-10:30: Yiannis Colakides: Housekeeping
10:30-11:30: Tara Merk
11:45-12:30: Stefan Heidenreich
12:30-15:30: Lunch break
15:30-16:15: Adam Brown
16:15-17:00: Austin Houldsworth
17:00-17:20: BREAK
17:20-18:20: Brett Scott

More info: