Before They Delete This

Online exhibition made with artist Letta Shtohryn.
Letta Shtohryn


The online exhibition made with artist Letta Shtohryn is an iteration of her project Cryptoheaven – a speculation about the mysterious death and digital afterlife of Gerrald Cotten, the founder of Quadriga CX. The second chapter of the Cryptoheaven will look at Cotten through a bespoke methodological framework inspired by conspiracy theories.

On 9th December 2018, Gerald Cotten, the CEO of Quadriga CX, a popular cryptocurrency exchange, dies. Cotten personally held the passwords to every customer's digital wallet, thereby rendering $190 million lost or missing. The mysterious death sparked a series of conspiracy theories and marked the beginning of an online hunt for the Truth.

Interrogative Conspiracy Theories

A methodological framework which I created while working on Before They Delete This exhibition in collaboration with artist Letta Shtohryn. The online exhibition is a space where speculative interrogation, the method characteristic for Shtohryn’s practice, meets conspiracy theories. When we look closer at those phenomena, we will see their inner interplays – every conspiracy is a form of speculation, but not every speculation is a conspiracy. What makes speculation a conspiracy is the promise of fulfilling enlightenment after ‘connecting all the dots’. But just as in a convincing conspiracy, even in the wildest speculation there has to be a grain of Truth – a solid logical argument which can bed it in its universe (Dunne, Raby, 2013).

Complexity is the key feature of conspiracy theories (Lukić, 2020), which makes it useful as a framework when we want to analyse multilayered issues with various actants involved. A controversy often sparks a conspiracy flame. It can be an intellectual stimulus while working on problematic issues. Another advantage of this method is that it constitutes an already appealing form of thought experiment to an even more engaging type of narrative.

On the other hand, accusing something of being a big conspiracy lie, when in fact it is not, constitutes the phenomena, persons or objects and rises their rank. Philip K Dick’s letter to the FBI claiming that ‘Stanisław Lem’ is a communist conspiracy (Davies, 2015) is a compliment on Lem’s impressive body of work. The plot that Reza Negarestani does not exist made (Gironi, 2018) him a cultural symbol even after he emerged on Twitter and IRL.

Applying the conspiracy theory structure to speculative research is an intriguing transmission from folk-science and beliefs to the academic world. It helps to research complicated phenomena which slip away from academic rigour. If you want to examine a particular concept, put on your tinfoil hat and create a conspiracy about it. 

Davies, M. (2015, Apr 29 ). Philip K. Dick: Stanisław Lem is a Communist Committee.          
Retrieved from

Dunne, Raby. (2013). Speculative everything : design, fiction, and social dreaming.              
Cambridge, Massachusetts ; London: The MIT Press.

Fiona Raby, A. D. ( 2013). Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social                        
Dreaming. Cambridge, Massachusetts ; London: The MIT Press.        

Gironi, F. (2018). ENGINEERING THE WORLD, CRAFTING THE MIND. Retrieved from          

Lukić, P. (2020). Idudi između dve paradigme – Sociokulturalni pristup izučavanjuteorija zavere. Sociologija 62(2), 193-216.

Shtohryn, L. (2019). Crypto H(e)aven. Retrieved from is this it?: