pizzascrub NFTs whole pitch is antithetical to what i like about art.
i want the things i make to be shared. most of the art or entertainment that has spoken to me in my life has been art that is replicated. film, books, music, games, videos,
From an artistic perspective this becomes quite an interesting thing to question, and I think what you’ve said made something settle in place for me too.
Uh, incoming what turned out to be a lengthy meditation on art, and novelty, and other shit.
To be clear upfront, I also believe that anything that can be easily replicated, should be, and something being unique doesn’t give it intrinsic value. I mean, I’m not one for the concept of ownership in any sense, much like my comrade Don Rumata over here.
I will say, though, there is something kinda special feeling about something being totally unique, even fleeting. The feeling of, say, a piece of performance art that depends on being done at a particular individual moment, or seeing a piece you’ve read about in a history book in person. I once was at the National Gallery of Canada, and upon turning a corner, not expecting to see it, saw Duchamp’s Fountain, and inaudibly gasped (I was alone but I know if I hadn’t been I would have audibly gasped, you know?). However upon closer inspection, I was more than a little let down by finding out it was a replica. I mean, I don’t know what I was thinking, thinking it would be on permanent display in Ottawa anyway, but you know (Editor’s note: it had also currently slipped my mind that the original has been lost and that that must have been one of the replicas commissioned and approved by Duchamp, let me circle back around to this though, and let’s pretend the original is in the Louvre or something). Nevertheless, there was some kind of feeling brought upon thinking I was in the presence of the very same exact object I had read about, knowing it has been the exact specific physical object that was imbued with that artistic intent.
I think this is also part of the power of art, partly because it’s about personalizing that communicative exchange. In my opinion I did not see Fountain but I did see perhaps a more tangible explanation of its message than seeing a picture of it or reading its wikipedia page. I mean, funnily enough, maybe this was still in its own way a pretty authentic experience to have with regards to Fountain, instead of seeing the actual toilet that was masquerading as a piece of art, I was seeing a hunk of plaster masquerading as a toilet masquerading as a piece of art. Ce n’était pas Fountain, vrai? But it conveys its message perhaps better than most other replica or reproduction of a work of art because it really did prove if you put a toilet behind a pane of glass and put up a plaque it becomes art, so much so that even plaster in the shape of it a hundred or so years later will be considered art too. Wait, I got sidetracked from my initial point. Yes, what’s missing there, though, is that feeling of personal exchange, even if it is ultimately indirect by both time and through a long chain of historical circumstances I am not privy to. I feel like I was deriving some sort of meaningful experience from seeing that hunk of plaster, but I don’t feel like I was being shown or told something connected to Marcel Duchamp himself. And, lest I momentarily forget the whole point of that gesture was to de-deify the artist, it’s not that placing myself in that chain of exchanges is all that important, it’s not an interaction between myself and him, rather that it’s just an interaction that hasn’t been interrupted by artifice or abstraction, just, well, time and historical circumstance. Hypothetically, if the original piece had not been lost and it was for whatever reason in Ottawa in 2012 or whenever it was, I can still imagine the original fool coming upon it, lugging it somewhere, painting a fake signature on it, surely laughing his damn fool head off submitting it knowing that they essentially had an intractable pay-to-display policy, hopefully continuing to laugh when figuring out the Society of Independent Artists technically accepted it into the gallery but purposefully did not exhibit it in the showing area, and then a long chain of human hands moving it from place to place, until I come to see it. Even, I think, if the reproductions were under the supervision of Duchamp, there is something lost if it is not that exact hunk of plaster which was accepted on technicality only into the gallery as a piece of art but kept from being exhibited in New York in 1917. I mean, arguably, perhaps the Society of Independent Artists understood this maybe better than anyone, passive aggressively not displaying it in the showing area is an admission that exact hunk of plaster now had importance. Perhaps if they were more hip they would have realized in trying to avoid being played they played themselves even harder.
That connection between human beings is, I think, certainly in cases less idiosyncratic than Fountain where a reproduction makes more sense, is perhaps the juice that makes even something that has been replicated or reproduced or reiterated into something that still maintains that art’s real meaning is derived from having a personal connection. Being communicated to from the hearts and minds of the creators or creator, and interpreters or archivists or performance standards can be in between that so long as it isn’t just about trying to repackage, and thus commodify, that connection. I mean, this is why we like and attach value to having even mass produced things with a signature from the original creator, it’s not a scribble of someone’s name, it’s evidence that our connection to them through their work was physical (their hands) as well as conceptual. But I also think that individual people can also instill a personal connection to even a mass produced piece of art through their own interaction with it. A mass produced paperback of your favourite book is only a mass produced pile of paper, glue, cardboard, and ink, until the feeling of the wrinkles in the spine feel familiar, or the dogear on one page reminds you of where you were at when you stopped reading on that page and made that dogear, or it having been a gift from someone means you think of that person when you read it, etc. These are also authentic and unique experiences with a mass produced piece of art, or rather, authentic experiences with art that has been placed within a mass produced vessel. And none of that even has to be individually personal either… I haven’t seen the show in any other form, but I feel that when the high school I graduated from put on Hairspray a year or two after I graduated, and my old high school band director asked me to come and play in the pit band, that was surely one of the best versions of that show put on, like, on an all time basis, at least for me, and every night was a little different too, of course. The little microdifferences and small blunders that aren’t reproducible are part of that human connection too after all.
And so I come to NFTs. I think maybe the real irony about NFTs as I have seen them executed is that they’re a laughably feeble attempt at simply mass producing that feeling of authentic uniqueness, and while it’s sad ultimately that it’s just a grift trying to create speculative value, it’s also just pathetic how transparent the shared delusion really is. There was of course initially so much grand talk about how this would be about becoming a tentpole for the creation of unique art and more direct support for said creators, and I guess there’s even irony in that because just ignoring the ecological drawbacks of NFTs to make a point on this specifically, there’s probably plenty of artists who would perhaps be interested in the idea of being micro-patrons to some sort of investment scheme wherein attaching some digital certificate of authenticity to market fluctuations in order to become entitled to a cut of the exchange of said digital certificate of authenticity would make sense (even if, yes, to reiterate, in practice it would still be unethical given the ecological impact). However, of course, the sort of people getting in on this racket showed their hand with a shocking quickness by betraying even the one fleeting and totally compromised hypothetical benefit of this by losing sight of the idea of attaching this to the sincere creation of art when their actual physical eyes morphed into big cartoon dollar signs, and now the idea of an NFT is most prominently associated with algorithmically generated picrew avatars, with the most telling-on-yourself names possible of Bored Ape and Lazy Lion, specifically in order to ensure that there would be less fatcats with which to divvy up the spoils with. They couldn’t even stick to the flimsy pretext of the support of the expansion of what sort of creative endeavors were possible to derive a revenue stream from for more than a few months which is hilariously pathetic.
Apologies to you if you like this game but this also makes me think of what I’ll call the No Man’s Sky Paradox. It doesn’t matter for how many results you choose to run an algorithm, a number of permutations being effectively indistinguishable from being infinite, but still within a set number of parameters that are still possible to comprehend, will result in something that our human brains, having evolved over millennia to recognize patterns, recognizes the everliving shit out of those patterns. We don’t yet and almost certainly won’t have in our lifetime (if it is indeed somehow even possible) computing power possible to actually generate something as complex as a realistic expression of lifeforms and biomes on other planets could look like, so the actually uniqueness of each permutation is completely overshadowed by those pattern recognition skills. It’s like trying to pretend that by adding numerals to the right of its decimal place, you are making that number larger in a meaningful way, and while, yes, technically 3.141592 is a numerical value that is mathmetically more than 3.14159, even if that distinction is subtle and beautiful in some application somewhere our particular psychological structure will never appreciate that distinction more than Johnny giving Sarah 4 apples instead of Johnny giving Sarah 3 apples. Another way to put it is that it’s like trying to make a point that a linear gradient between 255 Red 0 Green and 0 Blue, and 0 Red 0 Green and 255 Blue, is actually hundreds of different mixtures of red and blue. That’s obviously completely correct on a light spectrum analysis level, these wonderful brains of ours obviously don’t necessarily comprehend the distinction between all of those shades individually. As far as the human psyche is concerned, it’s really only 4 paramaters: Red (or Absolute Value 1), Blue (or Absolute Value -1), Purple (Absolute Value 0), and Gradient, the precise details created by a transitory process between said absolute values. Now, you’ll never hear me say something so damn foolish as that there somehow isn’t a difference between Carmine, Burgundy, and Maroon, I mean, assuming you have the monitor settings and precise enough color vision to determine said differences anyway, but what I mean to express is simply that, psychologically speaking, we appreciate the effect of minute difference more than individual minute differences.
The direction that NFTs went in, of course, is based on the absolutely absurd premise that we do in fact appreciate individual minute differences, so much so in fact that there is actual material value to be generated from a spritz of electricity somewhere telling someone that they’ve secured vast tracts of prime real estate between what might as well be the eyedropper tool results for Shocking Pink and Purple Pizzazz. While, again, there is a difference between Shocking Pink and Purple Pizzazz, it’s only in application, or human curation, or in artistic intent attaching some significance to their use, it’s not the nudges in precise RGB or hex values between hues of solid Shocking Pink and Purple Pizzazz that have artistic or creative value. Attaching value to those microscopic differences really is about as ridiculous as the real life NFT examples of there somehow being able to determine a value in the difference between an ugly drawing of a cartoon lion wearing a coconut halves bra and spongebob squarepants skin textured fur and anime eyes and…
Oh my god I thought I was being facetious here but in a fit of morbid curiousity I was poking around on some NFT marketplace, I found what I would more or less say is basically just that:
You too can experience the thrill of the abstraction of ownership of an asset in a game (the game is owned by someone else of course), and know that you OWN the abstraction of digital ownership of the pale mauve crystal horse intangible trading card representation of a game asset and not the pale maroon crystal horse intangible trading card representation of a game asset. WOOF.
In a way I too right now am just trying to rephrase in my own words and thoughts what everyone in this thread and in pieces I’ve read in order to feel I’ve created an authentic point here, but in the NFT marketplace so quickly tripping over itself to mass produce novelty, it was totally showing its hand on how little anyone involved in any of it cared to follow even that (it always bears repeating that I think this was compromised out the gate by the ecological impact and my God can we just create social conditions where people can create art without justifying their continued existence by being able to commercially distribute it) initial premise of setting up micro-patronages and creating intangible value out of the novelty of artistic creation.
Like, I know ultimately it always was just grifters jerking each other off to attract marks but it is still somehow a little bit surprising to me how rapidly it became more honest about what the fart of a facade of value was being derived from. Like, it’s so painfully obvious that’s what was attempted at with those Bored Lion and Lazy Ape stuff or whatever. It’s a cartoon, those are handcrafted, and personable, right? People like picrew right? It’s not that NFTs derive value from some sort of personal connection to something novel and unique if nothing about the novelty of the novelties are novel except in the most cold and lifeless sense, the value is at least metaphorically if not literally to be found in excluding everyone else from that relationship. If something like an original work of art from the hands of its creators makes its way along to galleries and into eyeballs and ears by way of a long chain of human hands, and maybe a recreation does too even while still I think being unable to totally escape the idea that it began along that chain from a place that was fundamentally artificial. However, since an NFT is already conceptually incentivized to get as few people involved as possible at their points of origin (to increase the stake for individual shareholders naturally) the obvious path of least resistance is going to be algorithmic mass production with as thin of a paint of coat of actual unique novelty as possible. It’s a deliberate severing and minimizing of the human connection in the exchange of creative works, even worse than just saying only you get to say you have had a unique relationship to a unique-by-default thing, it’s just a show to be able to take from others and bar access, to pretend that “exclusivity” isn’t a very dirty word when you start to think about it.
So, maybe my ultimate point here is that an algorithm cannot hope to replicate the feeling of exchanging something of meaning or value with another human being, and so, NFTs to me are not just economically and ecologically evil, as well as creatively degrading. I’ll use a spicy word here with lots of different implications–they’re a particularly embarrassing symptom of a society-wide spiritual toxicity.