The global NFT market is hugely problematic and unstable. NFTs are used by criminals to store their crypto millions and the markets are riddled with scams, get-rich-quick schemes, money laundering, instability, and nefarious shenanigans. There are fake viral trends that can give NFTs false valuations, naive people are being duped into buying things that aren’t worth anything, and crooks use NFTs to show off their crypto wealth. To be 100% clear: NFTs are not a good place to invest money with the expectation of a return and I am not advocating the hype in any way. When you operate at that level it’s really just a dodgy casino full of criminals, copyright infringement, and blinky gifs. Click here and here if you’re interested in diving down that rabbit hole.
When it comes to the serious question of the environmental impact of NFTs there is a whole new wave of blockchain technology that doesn’t use the power of a small country, but there’s no doubt that the entire medium is built on a creaky foundation.
Having said all that, there are lots of very clever people who believe this kind of technology will completely transform global infrastructure, and that the Vegas-in-the-1940s vibe is just temporary.
Either way, that dubious, confusing side of the NFT world needn’t affect your experience if you’re buying a piece of art directly from an artist (like me) that you want to support.
I’ve always been fascinated by the way our economy works: the agreements we make about what has value, and how we organize (or fail to organize) the distribution of resources. The NFT component of my work isn’t a flippant attempt to jump on a bandwagon and make a quick buck. I am genuinely delighted by the idea that you can buy an idea, or a moment, or a concept, using a token representing a digital asset. It’s so beautifully meaningless, and yet it generates real revenue.
NFTs create a path for artists to get compensated. Making pretty paintings people want to buy for their walls doesn’t necessarily make you a good artist, and in some modalities, like performance or installation, there is no final product to sell. Historically artists have relied on grants that are closely controlled by institutions and their politics, or the kind generosity of a patron. Modern tools like Patreon or Kickstarter have created more options for artists, but they act as gatekeepers, censoring content, sucking up data, and making the rules. Artists become dependent on these tech giants and a change in policy or algorithms can destroy lives, particularly for artists working in controversial territory, as demonstrated with the OnlyFans scandal.
With NFTs, artists aren’t forced into a never-ending treadmill of online content creation, and they don’t have to ship out a bunch of schwag people don’t want, instead, fans are buying a conceptual stake in the idea of the artist. The question is, does that sound fun to you? Or is it the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard? Because your attitude is really all that matters here.
You might be asking, “but what am I actually buying?” and that’s a fair question. You will “own” the idea of a thing that doesn’t actually exist in the world. Although that “ownership” is just an idea of ownership and might have no real value. So where is the value in your NFT? Is it stored in a token on the blockchain? Is it in the relationship between the artist and the viewer? Is it a concept represented by the token? Is it the idea of ownership itself? Or is it the meal that the artist can enjoy with the proceeds made from the sale?
Using NFTs as a medium for my art allows me to interrogate and critique the medium itself. Arguably, there is no value in owning the idea of a thing that doesn’t exist in the world, but objective value only exists where we agree collectively it has value.
It’s entirely likely NFTs are a fad and that in the future they won’t be worth the paper they’re not even printed on, but NFTs allow artists like me to build direct connections with their followers and generate real money. That’s worth more than a thousand instagram likes when it’s time to pay the bills.
P.S If you’re interested in buying in on the idea of a thing I made, please be warned that my art is NSFW.