Alchemic Infrastructures: Making blockchain in Iceland

30/10/20 10:00

Director of Alchemical Infrastructures Exhibition

Zane Cooper

Director of Alchemical Infrastructures Exhibition

The permanent home of the virtual exhibit is:

Alchemical Infrastructures: Making Blockchain in Iceland is a multi-modal, multi-sensory exhibit that explores the social and material practices of cryptocurrency mining in Iceland. Blockchain and cryptocurrency are complex ideas, often conveyed abstractly, through code, or through metaphors (such as “mining”). As a result, the various groups of people and processes working to build and maintain blockchain infrastructures are often left out of the conversation. This exhibit, produced with the generous participation of the Icelandic Blockchain Foundation, highlights not how cryptocurrency is technically mined, but rather how it is made and supported by diverse collaborations of people, infrastructures, and environments across Iceland. 

The physical exhibit was first installed at the Annenberg School for Communication in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, and ran from September, 2019 to May, 2020. A highly collaborative endeavor, it included a VR short film by Zane Cooper, conceptual sound work by Katie Gressitt-Diaz, a portrait series by Kyle Cassidy, as well as a fully-functional Antminer S7 (which mined Auroracoin for the duration of the exhibit). The setup of the Antminer (spearheaded by Annenberg IT specialist Etienne Jacquot) was also assisted generously by members of the Icelandic Blockchain Foundation (specifically Daniel Jonsson and Michael Hannes). Configuring the rig for solo-mining Auroracoin through a campus internet connection was no easy feat! The exhibit enjoyed a tremendously positive reception, and was featured in the local news here and here. The overall intent of the exhibit was to give blockchain and cryptocurrency a more immediately relatable face, by focusing on the people and material processes involved. I think we achieved that. Visitors walked away from the experience with a newfound understanding and appreciation of the technology, and all the folks involved in its maintenance

The virtual version of the exhibit premiered this month at the Association of Internet Researchers Annual Conference, and will live indefinitely at In addition to this virtual home, both the VR film and the conceptual sound piece have been commissioned for an exhibition that will run at an art gallery in Los Angeles throughout the Summer of 2021. The VR film was also a finalist at the 2020 Cannes XR Development Showcase.

This exhibit is only the beginning of a much larger research project. I am passionate about exploring the social and material nuances of Iceland’s blockchain ecosystem, and hope to return to Iceland to continue this work as soon as COVID allows! I want to thank everyone at the Icelandic Blockchain Foundation for their help in making this, and future projects, possible!