This digital object, from the series collapse, is my first minted object, trialling Opeansea.io collections.
NFT – non-fungible-transaction – is a way of authenticating ownership of a digital asset. As well as digital artworks, this could be a gig ticket etc. In relations to digital works, which may exist as many copies, the NFT works to prove that you are the owner of a minted version. The work may be minted as unique or as part of an edition. The hype-generating blockchain is the method of proving ownership, authenticating sales and holding a chain of history. This is a new (2017 appears to be the start of it) area for art and ever-changing, with some potential fundamental issues.
This is a first exploration of the act of publishing, or minting a digital work, to find out what the world of exclusivity in digital visual art looks like. There are inherent issues here, one being the idea that an infinitely reproduceable digital work can become a unique digital object through proof of ownership. Secondly, there are problems with what is actually owned – the NFT includes a unique url to the file *at the time of minting*. This references a specific server and file position. If the server is retired or the file moved, the URL in the NFT no longer points to the object. Several systems are being worked at to slove this, the most basic being businesses offering long-term file storage, which have no guarantee of surviving long-term.
A third issue, one for the impoverished artist is the varying cost of setup and minting. Transactions are added to the blockchain at a cost (a cost that tries to give a return to the miners who incorporate new transactions). That cost is variable (you can also pay more for quicker transaction processing). It varies acording to demand for work, and also on the current value of the coin being used.
For NFTs, ethereum seems to be the coin of choice. Ethereum transaction costs are called gas and usually measured in kwai. Mintbase started to allow artists and others to set up digital stores and mint artworks for sale (or giveaway). Back in 2020, a store cost about $US2 and minting 5 works about $1. At this time – March 2021 setting up a store is more like $250.
For this reason I looked to Opensea, which bills itself as ‘The largest NFT marketplace’ and suggests that you can mint NFTs and sell for free ” Plus, there’s no fee! You don’t even pay for gas, and you can sell without paying gas as well if you’ve initialized an OpenSea account”. How does that work if gas is a cost? Opensea hold off the cost of gas until you actually sell a work, which sounds pretty cool and workable for artists who, generally do not generate a lot of sales.
It turns out though that there are hidden costs with Opensea, that they elude to, but don’t make sense until you are at the point of attempting to list a minted item. Suddenly there is a demand to authenticate your account ‘you must first complete a free (plus gas) transaction’ for $0 + gas, and, hello, that gas cost, at the current time, is $US58. This is a one-off fee, but suddenly ‘free’ is costing real money. I don’t really care whether Opensea get any or it really is just gas costs (which it appears to be), its still $US58 to me.
A fourth issue, and one that should be the top of everyones list is that cryptocurrencies currently work on the basis of doing meaningless work that has a major environmental impact. That is, hundreds of thousands of pieces of hardware work away at knowingly complex mathematical tasks in order to keep the blockchain secure and trusted this is known as ‘proof of work’). This work uses power, lots of it. Fortunately there are studies into how much power and the impacts that is having. There is also work being done that may reduce the need for ‘proof of work’ and blockchain just may become less of an environmental distaster in the making.
A fifth issue, subjective perhaps, is that the work that is currently mostly being sold and praised on the various NFT platforms is often dull, stolidly meme-based (endless collages with bitcoin and eth symbols, or cats, dogecoin dogs), repetitive, ripoffs of minimal or graphic artists of the past or interesting but half finished digital experiments hurried to NFT fame. Indicative of the interest in the system over the art is the sometimes difficulty in even figuring out who made the work. Rarity, collectibility and value are the name of the game in the NFT platforms, I guess hoping that the buying hype, with people’s need to get quickly on the bandwagon (especially if you missed out on the cryptocoin winnings early on) will cause them to overlook quality or other aspects.
In March, just before the 2020 lockdown in New Zealand, Rim Books published …..and then there were none.
A collaborative book with photographers Harvey Benge, Jon Carapiet, Haruhiko Sameshima and Stu Sontier, along with writer Lloyd Jones.
The book has a website for more detail and purchases, and you can view the short video I made for it all here.
My work-in-progress Collapse was featured by PhotoForum NZ with an essay written by Andrew Wood. This work gets directly into the materiality of digital photography, using the test outputs of printers and direct application of inkjet inks onto various paper surfaces.
Here’s a link to the full essay.
I entered a five part image (titled in a literal manner ‘backprinted dustcatcher’) in the 2019 Wallace Art Awards and it made the finalists, and was shown in the Salon de Refuses. The images were printed beautifully by the Digital Darkroom and framed by Homestead Framers. Currently the work is for sale – please enquire….
This work appeared in my show ‘from this one moment’ in June 2019. The leporello-style book shows it in a self-contained sequential format which suits the notion of infinite observation.
Experiments with using what would normally be considered waste, this is a continuation of my project ‘collapse’.
This tiny thing is an IoT camera module and I’m hoping it will be useful for some imaging experiments.
With a tiny camera on board (with poor resolution but that will be fun in itself), it can capture stills or video and, linking through wifi, can upload to an online web server. This allows for working with imaging in real time, and the ability to post-process in realtime too.
Brush Talks is an online journal edited by Brian Kuhl which publishes compelling nonfiction, along with photographs and occasional poetry, about China.
The 2019 Winter/Spring edition (Vol 4, No 1) published a portfolio of mine from images taken in Pingyao, China in 2016. You can view all the editions of the journal online or download as PDF, here.
Two weeks away from hanging this show, Jon and I have put out a joint press release, since we are exhibiting in the same building at the same time.
Following, is the press release along with some pictures of each.
Disruption as photographers Celebrate 25 years
New ‘disruptive’ work by two photographers who have a history of collaboration of over two decades will be on show in Auckland in June, as part of the Auckland Festival of Photography.
Jon Carapiet and Stu Sontier have worked separately and together since 1995 but in their latest exhibitions they approach the photographic ‘moment’ from different and challenging angles.
Though they are veterans of the black and white print and darkroom processes, their latest photographs both disrupt and show reverence for photographic history and documentary photography. Both work in colour and both regard the photograph as an uncertain holder of truth, perhaps in sympathy with the age of fake news and ambiguity.
Carapiet scans broadcast television for ‘found moments’ that symbolise the threat of climate instability, while Sontier extends insignificant and repetitive moments to create a subtle level of intensity and questioning.
The notion of the ‘moment’ in photography has a pedigree tracing back to Henri Cartier-Bresson’s ‘Decisive Moment’ which Carapiet references in his show title. This – the significant moment that defines an incident – and the idea that the camera never lies, are brought into question in these two exhibitions running concurrently in the Hum Salon, on Grafton Rd, Auckland.
Carapiet is driven by a concern for global politics but without a hectoring voice. Sontier looks for a more internal dialogue where multiple images in varying forms beguile and echo around the walls. The moment is fractured and opened for investigation.
Sontier: “Although the work in both shows fits securely in the contemporary art realm (and will likely infuriate some photographic purists), we have a reverence for photography and the work is part of a long dialogue with it’s history. We’ve both chosen to go outside of some photographic conventions in order to explore our interests in wider form.”
Jon Carapiet: Rain Fade (The Decisive Moment)
Stu Sontier: From This One Moment
Both shows will run from June 2nd to 14th, with an opening on Tuesday the 4th of June at 5.30pm at Hum Salon, cnr Grafton Rd and Park Rd, Grafton Bridge, Auckland. Normal hours: 10am – 7pm Tues to Sunday