Non Fungible Tokens
The picture above was a long (very long) exposure shot with a lot of mobile light painting, done with a powerful LED torch. It could have been a good candidate for a cinemagraph had there been anything of interest moving in the image. However, this is one of a handful of creative images that I have selected as possible candidates for my first, and maybe only, submission or contribution to be ‘minted’ as an NFT, so at least I can have something in the system! I wanted to use images that have digital glitches and this image is full of jpeg artefacts and other post processing anomalies that give it a certain nascent digital ‘look’. The reason for this may become a little clearer later.
So what are NFTs or Non Fungible Tokens? Fungible means transferable or replaceable value, it is a term that specifically applies to monetary value and the principal of exchange. So a ten pound note is the same as two five pound notes etc. NFTs are digital items or files of any type that have been encrypted into the blockchain ecosystem. This is done in a way that creates a permanent link to their origins (the creator / up-loader) and also to configure the item as a unique ‘token’ which has “artificial scarcity” as a digital entity. It is a unique, non Fungible item like an original work of art. A Monet is not the same thing as a Modigliani even though they may have the same monetary value to the fine art market.
So this whole thing is a complex method for giving digital content the same kind of authenticity and origin status as physical objects. The idea is that an NFT has intrinsic high value but a copy of it is worthless in the same way that a photocopy of the Mona Lisa is worthless — do you get it? The NFT is the signed original made by the ‘hand’ of the author.
Behind all of this is the famous Blockchain that creates the value of crypto currencies; Bit Coin and Ethereum. A lot of immensely complex data science and computational power is used to create and trade the NFT and all of its algorithmic associations that manifest artificial scarcity and status as an original object … Also, it is a hugely energy hungry process. A single Blockchain transaction can create up to 250kg of carbon from data centre electricity demand. Hopefully there will be a solution for this soon because the principal of the NFT is a real boon to content creators as it enables an indisputable and transferable record of origin. It also has interesting potential for the creation of digital legacies.
The Californian digital artist known as Beeple recently sold an NFT artwork as a jpeg file for $70M at a Christie’s auction. The artwork is a well know item title ‘Everydays – The First 5,000 Days’ and much copied, but again the NFT is like the unique signed original. Could this be the beginning of a trend, or more likely a one-off event?? It seems more probable that Beeple may be the Andreas Gursky of the NFT medium, the lucky artist who’s work has been selected as a singular and emblematic example of a current idiom. Just as Gursky’s Rhein II became an iconic representation of a million Flickr and Instagram pictures and a collectable that embodies the contemporary visual language of all those aspiring to photographic art with a DSLR or camera phone?
At the current time the NFT community is still small but growing fast. Though it is obtuse and almost impenetrable if you are not web and tech savvy. Most NFT artworks are in the form of short video clips or cinemagraphs with price tags ranging from $100 to more than $1M. I don’t think I have seen a single still photo on any of the sites yet?