In which Abi mints a Bobblehaus NFT and Wen explains what the hell that means.
Waking up to an entirely new Twitterverse every morning is not a unique experience; in the 3-10 hours I’m asleep every night, the world spins and pivots into continuous chatter, though largely with the same base language. Lately, though, a new dawn has broken (depending on who you ask), and it involves… a lot of acronyms.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m significantly out of touch with the tech world, and I needed a ‘for dummies’ definition of NFT and ETH Best explained in the article literally named NFTs, explained, non-fungible tokens are “NFTs.” Non-fungible refers to the unique and irreplaceable nature of the token; each token is unique and can not be duplicated, and is designed to include certified ownership of a digital asset, such as artwork. Artworks are ‘minted’ in a process of turning digital objects into NFTs, and pricing for such minting varies between platforms. There is little to no regulation on requiring the copyright ownership to mint something thus far, so there have been cases of art being minted and sold without their actual creator’s permission and knowledge.
On the other hand, ETH (for “Ethereum”) is a cryptocurrency, kind of like Bitcoin, but different in the fact that its blockchain stores NFTs.
A popular argument that has been used to discredit NFT creation and collection is that people could just “take a screenshot,” but just like how you can take a photo of the Mona Lisa when you’re at the Louvre, you don’t actually own the Mona Lisa in doing so. (Does that matter? Again… depends on who you ask.)
How big has NFT gotten? Apart from artists, it has caught the attention of many YouTubers, namely the controversial YouTuber Ian Carter (known as iDubbbz) and commentary YouTuber Ethan Klein (known as h3h3productions and host of the H3 Podcast). Carter sold a photo of his testicles for almost $2,000 and Klein sold tailored gifs of his podcast hosts and crew members, and the ownership of his infamous ‘VAPE NATION’ video. Klein ended the auction last week in a live stream, and it sold for almost $60,000.
While I have seen a range of talented artists transforming their art into NFTs, many of my artist friends were adamant against it. Hannah Kang, a Korean-American artist, finds the downsides of NFT and ETH to outweigh any of its certification or financial prospects. In particular, Kang comments that “it is more impactful to just commission small artists directly.” Apart from that, Kang does not want to partake in the potential money-laundering scheme: “It is no secret that rich people launder money through art, and the same thing could be done through NFTs.”
“At the end of the day, you’re just paying for a fancy URL.”
Many artists who are creating NFTs took to Twitter to advertise their latest creations. Every second, there are new tweets under the hashtag #NFT, linking users to Mintable, OpenSea, SuperRare, or any other NFT marketplace.
I talked to two NFT artists, Genki Hagata and Brittni Bell; we talked about their humble beginnings with NFTs, the pros and cons, and the evolution of the art market happening right in front of our eyes.
Genki Hagata is a Japanese artist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Hagata has an extensive background in arts, in particular, digital media art. He currently works as a career developer.
Hagata has been making and selling his own NFTs for a while, as “it was simple enough to take the same kind of art I was already making, and ‘mint’ it as an NFT on OpenSea.” Hagata's art style translated well into NFTs, since 2D, 3D, and animations in particular are fairly popular right now in the NFT scene. My personal style of illustration worked very well when translated into a combination of 2D illustration and 3D animated ‘additions.’”
It was the hype surrounding NFTs in the past few weeks that prompted Hakata to take it a step further. Hagata’s current project, the NFTChef, is a collection of 2D NFT art with a narrative around a chef who runs a kitchen in the ‘cryptoverse.’
Non-fungible tokens are changing art curation and valuation. “It's great to see that art and artists are becoming more seen and that art has another viable market, “Hagata adds, “[but ] it's hard to tell exactly where it's going. Though different [art] styles are going up in value in the digital space, traditional art galleries and art markets may not have had the same tastes or interests.”
Non-fungible tokens are changing art curation and valuation.
But for the general trajectory of NFTs, Hagata is hopeful. “We're only seeing the beginning of the NFT platform 'race' right now, and there are lots of uses of NFTs that aren’t being targeted yet. As the popularity, use, and users grow — of course, Etherium (and other blockchains), will grow as well.” For Hagata, fostering an art community is essential to him and the growth of NFTs: “I would love to see the art community [...] continue building momentum and see NFTs being used in other ways, for example, with music: album releases, events.” Hagata’s vision for the art community is to have its own allocated platform. “At some point, I'm sure we'll see a platform where people can show off their collections in their wallets, and we can follow and like other people’s collections in the same way we like photos on Instagram.”
Brittni Bell, the 26-year-old from Dallas, is now based in Illinois.
Bell started making and selling NFTs when she saw different Clubhouse clubs and rooms talking about it. ”I have been talking about getting royalties for my artwork from my secondary market since [the start of] my art career. It just makes sense. Once I [further] understood the concept of NFTs, the possibilities with blockchains, and the longevity of it, it took [me] no time [...] to turn one of my artworks into an NFT.”
Like Hagata, Bell’s own art style translated with ease into the cryptoverse. Though Bell had always been a physical artist (she’s a painter, using traditional canvas and acrylic), she was commissioned by an interior designer to make a digital piece instead. She had never done a digital piece before then, but with some practice and “a few YouTube videos” she figured it out, and now all she creates is digital work.
To Bell, her introduction to digital art opened her eyes. “I realized that for the kind of [art] that I wanted to create, digital [art] allowed me to really express myself.”
NFTs disruption of the longtime heritage of art curation and valuation was particularly notable to Bell: “NFTs can allow entities like galleries, curators, [and] critics to be cut out of the picture or redefine their role in their relationship to an artist and the value of their art.” She adds, “in the traditional art market, the value of a piece and the chances of it being curated are less out of the artist’s hand. [This shift] is game-changing and allows artists to go mainstream and bring more people into the art world. Look at all the non-collectors that are involved in the art world now, thanks to NFTs.”
I also talked to both Hagata and Bell about the environmental impacts of NFT and ETH; though it is open knowledge that both NFTs and ETHs are environmentally destructive (it has been accused of being an “ecological pyramid scheme”), Hagata is optimistic: “As blockchain [technology] matures and computing power becomes energy-efficient — combined with sustainable clean energy, there could [eventually] be a net-zero impact on the environment. As it stands, like with other industries, it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”
Ethereum, like other cryptocurrencies, requires a lot of energy to validate transactions and to mine further cryptocurrencies. Ethereum only uses a quarter to a half of what Bitcoin uses, though, and it is worth noting that that the energy consumption behind Ethereum is fixed: no matter how many transactions there are, it does not affect the energy consumption. The energy consumption is instead reliant on Ethereum and energy prices.
To put things better in perspective, each Ethereum transaction is equivalent to the energy consumption of two American households a day, and the Ethereum-sphere uses the energy consumption equivalent of Panama in a year.
While I recognize the environmental impacts of Ethereum, not only is Bitcoin more environmentally damaging, the public discourse around Ethereum feels more critical, and I couldn’t help but think it is because of its artistic nature. It seems hard for many to justify environmental damages for the sake of art, instead of the more socially acceptable incentive of filthy, filthy cash.
Unlike its predecessors, the Ethereum and non-fungible tokens community recognizes the problem and has been in the works to solve it, though they know they have a long road ahead.
In the Medium piece, “HERE IS THE ARTICLE YOU CAN SEND TO PEOPLE WHEN THEY SAY “BUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES WITH CRYPTOART WILL BE SOLVED SOON, RIGHT?”, author Pipkin debunks the common misconceptions that are dismissive of long-lasting environmental impacts, and tells the audience that “cryptocurrency is never going to be ecologically just.” Pipkin labels NFT, “the gleeful wastefulness” as a crime against humanity.
Pipkin acknowledges how artists can be excited by the aspect of monetization — seeing their hard work come to fruition, but there is no concrete basis for legal ownership with NFTs, and more people are “horrified to see artificial scarcity imposed on digital objects.”
I had reached out to Everest Pipkin for further comments, but they are not available to comment. You can keep up with Everest Pipkin on Twitter, or read “HERE IS THE ARTICLE YOU CAN SEND TO PEOPLE WHEN THEY SAY “BUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES WITH CRYPTOART WILL BE SOLVED SOON, RIGHT?” for yourself.