Lisa Barnard

An Act of Faith: Bitcoin and the speculative Bubble


Cryptocurrencies are an ‘act of faith’, lacking tangible evidence of any physical presence. There are just over 19.4 million (2024) Bitcoins in circulation. Of the total supply of 21 million Bitcoin tokens, 92.44% are already in circulation.
Often labelled as a ‘speculative bubble’, Bitcoin is a high-risk digital asset that can circulate without the centralised authority of a bank or government. It continues to endure a consistent lack of support from mainstream economic dialogue.

2017 was a watershed year for ‘virtual currencies’, as Japan was the first country to support Bitcoin, allowing it to become a legal form of payment. Despite Western doubt, in Tokyo, a cult-like following of believers were at the forefront of creating both a social and aesthetic element to Bitcoin, bridging the void of human experience that continues, contributing to its erratic market behaviour. When this project was completed in 2017, Bitcoin was worth around $900; by the following year, it had risen to over $13,000. At its peak in November 2021, one Bitcoin was worth over $60,000.

Although an act once possible by committed and capable individuals, the process of mining Bitcoin became ever more complex and energy-consuming as its market life continued. The result was an increasing influence of dedicated businesses and corporate powers, whose collective resources allowed the production process to be expanded, often relocating into purpose-built mining farms. One such company in 2012, Genesis Mining (which is no longer trading), chose to house their facilities in Iceland, which, much like Bitcoin, has a dynamic and highly volatile landscape, containing an invaluable abundance of cheap, geothermal energy that can support the hugely consumptive process of mining.

Lisa Barnard (*1967) is a British artist, researcher and teacher whose photographic practice focuses on actual events using polymorphic strategies. Her projects use traditional documentary techniques, such as photography, audio, video, and text, as well as more contemporary visual techniques and computer forms. Barnard combines her interest in aesthetics and current debates around the materiality of photography with the political climate as part of within critical projects centred on new ecologies, new technologies, science and the military-industrial complex.


Barnard describes herself as a photographic artist, but her work appears unmistakably political. It pays homage to the tropes of documentary realism while sabotaging them. – Sean O Hagan, The Guardian, reviewer for Chateau Despair.


Barnard is Associate Professor and Head of the Master’s Programme in Documentary Photography at the University of South Wales. In addition to regularly exhibiting her projects, Barnard has published three monographs, including two with GOST (Chateau Despair, supported by the Arts Council; Hyenas of the Battlefield, and Machines in the Garden, supported by the Albert Renger-Patzsch Prize), while and, The Canary and the Hammer was published by MACK in 2019.


H 15

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