International Festival
of Computer Arts

I Said In Minecraft


I Said In Minecraft

  • 29th MFRU
  • Installation
Artists Brad Downey, Jan Vormann
I Said In Minecraft

Part One: Thought Crime

In February 2022, a headline read, "Russian Teenager Gets Five Years in Prison for 'Minecraft Terrorism'."

Investigators in Russia confiscated a 16-year-old's phone and found chats that "proved" he had planned to add the FSB building to the popular Minecraft game and destroy it there. Consequently, a court in Siberia sentenced the 16-year-old boy to five years in prison in what they called "a high-profile terrorism case."

At that time, Jan Vormann and Brad Downey were wrapping up a long-term project in Minecraft, having played around in the game for more than a year.

The notion that a government had turned a teenage gamer into a political prisoner (for thought-crime) and labeled him a terrorist seemed like an extreme form of mental gymnastics.

In response to this story, Jan Vormann and Brad Downey simply carried out the teenager's plans, hoping to illustrate how absurd the entire situation would appear, especially within the childish and blocky aesthetics of Minecraft.

Shortly after, the "But I Said In Minecraft" memes emerged. This moment corresponded with Russia starting the war with Ukraine, infusing these seemingly trivial gestures with deeper layers of meaning. The lighthearted images created by Jan Vormann and Brad Downey, initially meant as a humorous protest against an unjust sentence, took on an entirely different significance in the face of Ukraine's devastation.

Weeks into the war, Jan Vormann and Brad Downey transformed the performance into an NFT. After the work was sold, they contacted the lawyer of the 16-year-old on Telegram. Part of the proceeds were donated to the 16-year-old boy's mother, and the remaining part was contributed to Metalab, an organization in Ivano Frankivsk, Ukraine, focused on building apartments for families relocating from war-torn regions.

Part Two: Surveillance Capitalism

One year later, amidst the collapses of Signature Bank and Silicon Valley Bank, as well as the closure of the crypto-heavy Silvergate Bank, the current state of cryptocurrency remains ambiguous.

A CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) is a digital form of a national currency issued or coordinated by a nation's central bank. Unlike paper money or private decentralized digital currencies, a CBDC leaves an electronic trail of purchases and sales within a government digital ledger. The control of such information lies in the hands of governments that, in many cases, have a dark history of civil liberties abuses.

The Federal Reserve is taking steps toward the potential rollout of a CBDC, disregarding serious concerns about consumer privacy and heavy-handed government control in the U.S. and abroad. Opponents of CBDCs raise worries about potential government surveillance and control. They fear that if digital currency transactions are monitored, governments may develop social credit scores, cancel the funds of targeted individuals, and exert greater control over society. Various countries are actively developing CBDCs, and some have already implemented them. As the world moves towards digital currencies, it becomes crucial to comprehend their implications for society. While CBDCs share similarities with cryptocurrencies, they might not necessarily rely on blockchain technology or consensus mechanisms.

In a tongue-in-cheek performance inspired by the "But I Said In Minecraft" memes, artists Brad Downey and Jan Vormann have digitally reconstructed a replica of the Federal Reserve building in Minecraft. This performance teeters between a bold act of sensationalism and a statement that might be viewed as a call to reshape the financial system by some. Others, however, will see their beliefs reinforced, thinking that the Federal Reserve has long been outdated, and digital currencies represent initial steps towards de- or re-regulating the financial sector.

Part Three: Narrative Washing

On September 26, 2022, a series of explosions occurred on the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines at the bottom of the Baltic Sea near Denmark. These bombings severed the underwater pipelines, which had been constructed to transport a direct supply of natural gas from Russia to Western Europe. One year later, the mystery of who targeted the pipelines remains unsolved.

Who Blew Up the Nord Stream Pipeline? Suspects and Theories:

Was it a false-flag operation? Why not Russia? Did Ukraine allegedly plan a covert attack? Could the saboteurs have been based in Poland or even Germany? Or perhaps it was the United States all along? Or was it Norway in collaboration with the USA?

To this day, the enigma surrounding the Nord Stream pipeline remains unsolved, as no individual or group has stepped forward to take responsibility for the explosion. Brad Downey and Jan Vormann have once more created an explosion ...In Minecraft.