Who is Satoshi Nakamoto? It’s a question that seems to be on everyone’s lips, with much speculation surrounding the true identity of crypto-currency Bitcoin’s founder. Writing in the London Review of Books, Andrew O’Hagan’s ‘The Satoshi Affair’ accounts his search for the enigmatic Nakamoto (a name most believe to be a pseudonym). O’Hagan’s long and gripping article – a whodunit for the internet age – gets to the heart of what so many find fascinating about modern technology: the people at its helm.
Regularly describing his own work as a form of fan art, Simon Denny’s practice revolves around these narratives: from Kim Dotcom to the NSA. In ‘Blockchain Future States’, he takes on the enigmatic Nakamoto as his subject. Denny rounds up each of the likely suspects, listing the reasons why they could be Nakamoto. The details of each candidate are displayed on Perspex vitrines, inside of which is the packaging and parts of ‘Dreambox’, a DIY kit used by the tech industry. ‘The only limitation is your imagination!’ - we are told.
The irony is not lost on the viewer, and Denny seems to further allude to the mythologizing of Bitcoin’s founder with a series of sculptures based around Pokémon (Satoshi, incidentally, is the Japanese name of the central character of the franchise). These works also make reference to Tominaga Nakamoto, an 18th century Japanese philosopher who was staunchly opposed to conventional philosophical and religious doctrines of his time; or as Denny puts it, “Japanese Iconoclast Merchant Philosopher.” One work shows a phoenix-like Pokemon character, rising above one of Nakamoto’s titles, ‘A Critical Discrimination of Doctrines’. The parallels drawn here are clever, but Denny seems so keen to spell them out to the viewer that he ultimately loses the drama at the crux of the Nakamoto narrative.
The second part of the show develops on work previously shown at this year’s Berlin Biennial. Resembling booths at a trade fair, Denny presents three financial companies’ uses of the Blockchain, the database system that is the skeleton (and, many argue, the true innovative legacy) of Bitcoin. Don’t worry if you aren’t sure what the Blockchain is, as Denny provides a helpful video explanation for the viewer. Denny has added more elements to this installation since Berlin, most notably customized editions of the Risk. Using this classic game of global strategy, Denny cleverly articulates the immense potential of the Blockchain: from Digital Asset and the end to global financial disruption, to 21 Inc’s dissolution of geographical borders, and Ethereum’s decentralized form of governance.
It is the Blockchain, not Nakamoto, that is the phoenix rising from the ashes. Denny may be a fan of the story surrounding Bitcoin’s founding, but he realizes that the more remarkable story is the revolutionary potential of the Blockchain. However, he is also aware of the risks at stake, and everywhere in this exhibition is Risk. Whilst
Denny is also coming to terms with the complex and somewhat contradictory nature of the Blockchain, he does so with work that imaginatively conveys this debate to the viewer.
 Andrew O’Hagan, ‘The Satoshi Affair’, in London Review of Books, Vol. 38 No. 13 · 30 June 2016 (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n13/andrew-ohagan/the-satoshi-affair)