Before we get to the main feature, let's start with silly, cartoon "short subject" film, which I like to call "New Work Tales #2020" by Weirdly C. Jerblanski! (Actually, it's by me, but that's not as funny...)
[Digital drawing. 2020.]
I might even make this mini-comic into an NFT someday... What's an NFT??? (Do I smell a transition???)
An NFT (or non-fungible token) is a magick voodoo spell done with powerful computer forces that create a little slice of digital reality as part of a "blockchain." (A blockchain is like a giant zombie computer centipede that just keeps growing and consuming souls and never dies---unless you kill every horcrux that holds a piece of the zombie centipede's soul...but that's not important right now.)
For artists and art lovers and collectors (it's surprising how often folks are ALL THREE of these), one of the neater little slices that NFTs can BE is an art-contract. Did I lose you? I hope not...
On the internet, thanks to the SPEED at which modern connections run, it is quick and simple to send even relatively large images across the world in just a few seconds. Images are everywhere, and they are easy to share or download or copy, and most of the time when people pass around a funny meme or a cat picture, they hardly ever ask, "Wow! Did you make this? It's great!" We just copy and share and download tons of images (and other files) without CARING WHO made them or whether or not they mind if we post their work on our favorite social media sites.
But when an artist mints an NFT, a contract is created saying things like who made the piece, how many editions there are (basically, how many official copies there are---often only one), where and when it was created, and if there are any "strings" attached, like a royalty to be paid to the creator whenever the piece changes hands (or changes wallets, I guess.) The CONTRACT is the NFT, which is permanent and stored in the zombie centipede, and the contract is associated with and represents the work of art.
Unlike a physical painting or print of a photo or any other PHYSICAL object, a digital image is just a mathematical formula, a recipe for a screen (whether on a phone or laptop or watch or giant 4k display) to redraw the image. When it's not being displayed on a screen, the image ceases to exist, until the recipe is called back up and the image recreated. We get the ILLUSION that our phones or online galleries are these vast, virtual expanses, but they're NOT. It's all conceptual, all code. Not SPACE, just SCRIPT---and the performances change from machine to machine.
But just as words on paper can bring entire worlds to life in our heads (by reading), so can vast quantities of code convince us that we own mountains of virtual materials, from digital game cards to tokens that represent money, online real-estate, or artistic works.
As a kid, I loved to collect things, bubblegum cards, View Master slides, Pez dispencers, books about ghosts and monsters and mythology... As I got older, my collecting switched to comic books, records and CDs, movies, and (eventually) works of art. A few of the problems that come with collecting art are these: 1. Finding new art to collect. (I live in a tiny logging towm where cool original art is pretty hard to come by.) 2. Storing the physical works once they're purchased (which can take up a lot of space, PLUS there's the fear that a piece might get damaged!) And 3. The COST of buying original art is often beyond what a poet / writing tutor can afford (even with a sugar momma bringing home OPTICIAN MONEY!)
Let's take these points one at a time. First is finding new works to collect. My wife and I enjoy going to comic conventions and galleries and Saturday markets, (mostly "out of town"), meeting folks, talking a bit, dropping some cash and knowing our money went to a good person. However, in our current pandemic situation, many of these activities are out. PLUS, you can only see work that's RIGHT THERE, directly in front of you.
However, with NFT marketplaces, like OpenSea or Rarible or MakersPlace or my favorite, NFT Showroom, it's possible to see art created by people (and computer programs) from all over the world. And believe me, there is a LOT of interesting work out there (which I'm not going to divulge, so you don't beat me to it and buy it all before I can!!!)
Another neat thing, with most NFT sales, the original creator is going to get some dough every time a work resells. (Not EVERY online NFT sales place does this, but all of the GOOD ones do, I think! I also know when I grab a work by @stellabelle or @clayboyn or @yanga or any of the other folks on the platforms I regularly use, my purchase is going to help the artists that I've paid to create and buy more art themselves! And I've chatted with them on Discord and Twitter, so I know they're good people. I like knowing that I'm helping support artists, who can then keep making new work (so I'll have more stuff to buy!!!)
And STORING all the artwork I'm buying is a breeze, since it's just code! Don't have to worry about the work getting wrinkled or water damaged or torn. The code is stored online (in the centipede), so you can see your digital collectibles however you want to log in! Easy.
Last is cost. Art is expensive, especially if you are buying a piece with provenance from a "reputable" gallery or auction house. These are BEYOND my budget, but RIGHT NOW, because NFT art collecting is SO NEW, you can get original, verifiably authentic artwork directly from the artist WITH PROVENANCE (from the smart contract baked into the NFT when it was created) for less than $10 or $20 bucks (USD.) Plus, if you have cryptocurrency already, it's easy to swap it for the stuff you need to pay for your new art (usually ETH or WAX or now SWAP.HIVE.)
These are brilliant days. Making art, "gifting" pieces to people, selling some to pay for more minting, coming up with new concepts and gimmicks, chatting with folks about the work they are making and the processes they are using...and collecting a MASSIVE amount of art for very little money... It's hard not to see this as a Golden Era (as long as you don't look OUTSIDE of the NFT Collection Zombie Centipede...and I wouldn't recommend it---seems to be raining shit out there)!
Agree? Disagree? Think I'm a nut job? Let me know!
So what do you get when you buy an NFT? You get a slice of zombie centipede voodoo magick, and the knowledge that feeding your addiction is helping others to feed theirs, as well. With baked in PROVENANCE, if you are into art speculation gambling. I'm not really into that, but go ahead and try it, if you've got cash that you can afford to lose. I'll stick with buying work that I actually like for now!
---Richard F. Yates (Holy Fool)