A few thoughts on NFTs.
Consider this part I. of a few posts to come as I reflect on experiences navigating the space…
I started working with what we now regularly call “digital assets” in 2000 when I started my film + media studies at Clark Atlanta University. After I dropped out I dug even deeper into motion graphic work, compression formats and survived several transitions;
I navigated a range of formats of recording media - Editing hard drive bays – Digi 8mmTapes - Mini DV Tapes – transfers between formats - CF Cards – SD Cards – Mini SDCards – MPEG 2s - MP4s - CD - DVDS….All sorts of file systems and containers you can [insert here].
Everything was about the “copy vs the original” in such a standardized way. Beta SP tapes would only be accepted as the master tapes for screening films and DVD copies were perceived as the lesser for screenings. It was a wildly strange time 2000 - 2008. I witnessed grown men and women give up on their own practices once HD emerged as a new and viable form to handle digital assets. Older software on computers were sunsetting. I ended up purchasing older equipment from these professionals and even spent a ton of time ensuring that the jump from Mini DV to CF/SD cards would not be the end of the work in the video/film industry. This moment now reminds me of that time which I found to be wrought with similar rhetoric punching down on folks just trying to advance the industry. Digital vs Analog has always been a space of tension for many. The thing that perhaps has always saved me from this madness is that I see all media as a form of technology - from handwriting to the most intricate laser paintings = all different forms of technology in my mind.
One thing that I remember about that moment explicitly was the repeated statement of how older technology or equipment was rendered useless as things advanced. This is the same now - you have top leaders in the art world dismissing NFTs as a whole because they simply have not figured out how to control it, or the artist and will not take the time to learn about it. It intimidated the industry. I’ve seen these type of people change overnight as soon as they can convince a few artists to mint on their own platforms where they can secure a percentage. I understood then in the early 2000s what was at stake and even then I capitalized on that moment by buying tons of VHS and film equipment from the older folks in the industry who felt left behind. I thought of these digital advancements as an aid in locking in the provenance and sustainability of those media forms in the future - or at least how they are accessed. I see this now with many artist estates who are entering this moment. In many ways, the master copy of the “work” the artist created can last much longer than the equipment it was produced on causes a mind fuck for conservators or even collectors who still would like to own the work but have no interest in maintaining the equipment.
Metadata: My first export of an edited timeline of video in the Fall of 2000 was from footage that I actually filmed on a college owned camera in imovie. Then in my Digi 8mm won via Seventeen Magazine for a short film I wanted to produce. I filmed a then girlfriend and editing the footage after loading it into Adobe Premiere (which also has been sunsetted) . This was the beginning of my relationship to the metadata of my own creations. I had the chance to list within the file system the details of the work in relationship to me as the owner and creator of that digital file. This was not taught but learned during the moments that I had to produce files for client viewing purposes and when transferring these files to various storage bays.
NFTs are a viable digital container for these same digital assets that I first handled 20 years ago. The blockchain and Web3 version of the internet is arriving and evolving at a rapid pace. The internet is our largest media platform and has single-handedly changed the way that we engage with media of all forms. My own interest in NFTs started just Fall of 2020 as it clearly emerged as yet another technology that I should familiarize myself with as I had done so many times in the past. It was clear to me that it was a way of handling digital assets and method to bring into my own practice in managing digital assets archivally first and then an opportunity to sell work on my own terms In a way that made sense to the asset itself. There are writers, filmmakers, painters, graphic design artists, fine artists, amateurs, and all of the above with NFTS. No one is better than the other and all can learn from each other in this space.
With NFTs, there are folks out there who want to ensure provenance on both sides. The collectors and the artists. Don’t let these folks who are dragging their feet on learning this form of technology fool you into thinking this is a one sided game. There is great benefit in learning about coding, smart contracts, digital assets, and the metaverse on both sides of the fence. I happily struggled in learning about all of these things as it felt rather refreshing to learn something that could yield a new way to declare provenance in the digital sphere and elsewhere.
But unfortunately, I’m now seeing what could be perceived as playground politics between the art industry/world and the crypto/art/tech purist world. Ive witness both sides beat up on each other knowing first hand that they actually want to hold proximity to each other in a range of ways. It’s often times felt like watching a fucked-up twisted crush play out on the playground – slap and run-away type scenarios.
I ran the risk of sounding like a weirdo back in 2003 and now when I have tried to share info about NFTs early as last year to peers and other art industry folks. This has definitely changed in the last six months as every single person who was dismissive, had jokes and waved off the emergence of NFTs has tried to come back around to have a proper discussion. Many are now online positing as an “expert” or consultant in the emerging field now in hopes of being interlocutors without actually learning the core fundamentals of the technology.
In closing, I’d like to offer this advice – Do not be intimidated by those on either side who may make you feel as if you are late or do not belong in the space. Try to continue to learn on your own, at your own speed, and with others who are skilled in these areas to figure out how you or your work fit into alignment with the space. It is my opinion that there are no experts in this field only early adopters. Most of the disagreements and spats have been and are mostly about power and control.
At the end of the day all of this is like the news- some will get it early others much later but the news is still the news.