Last February, the New York Times reported a cadre of crypto high rollers had left the continental United States for Puerto Rico to start a crypto-utopia—that is, a settlement where their money, air- and yacht-ports all run on the blockchain. The founder, Brock Pierce, saw an opportunity in the unincorporated organized territory, whose physical infrastructure was destroyed during Hurricane Maria, and proposed that they could use blockchain technology to repair the damage.
More importantly, U.S. citizens who move to Puerto Rico don’t have to pay federal taxes on income sourced there, and they pay zero in capital gains. Pierce, a former child star who made a fortune off Bitcoin, wanted to name his utopia “Puertopia.” When informed that this translates to “eternal boy playground” in Latin, he changed the name to “Sol.” And so, impervious to logistics and planning, these men have descended upon the hotels and Children’s Museum of Old San Juan to "rebuild" a region still reeling from environmental and economic distress.
It’s hard to get excited about a nascent technology whose strongest proponents seem completely divorced from reality. At San Francisco’s Telematic Gallery, the exhibition Eternal Boy Playground, created by the artist collective Anxious To Make (Liat Berdugo and Emily Martinez), captures the maddening frustration among those of us who haven’t bought into crypto-mania.
The exhibit opens with the video, The Insufferable Whiteness of Being, on the tensions between Bitcoin true believers and those who argue that the utopia project is nothing more than disaster capitalism. Text culled from YouTube videos and Twitter conversations either with or about Brock Pierce display against backdrops that include paintings of Spanish colonizers, the interior of a mansion in Puerto Rico and storm-demolished roads.
From the pile-up of dialogue, desperation emerges on both sides. Arguments fail for lack of knowledge, or because of the emotional exhaustion that accompanies fighting in online comment sections. Consider this bot-like exchange: “A billionaire is someone who has positively impacted a billion lives.” “A billionaire is someone who has stolen from billions of people.”