Free TON community podcast featuring Ben, Chuck, Mitya Goroshevsky, Eugene Morozov and Pavel Prigolovko. The philosophical, ethical and technical aspects of the events of the modern decentralized Internet are discussed in the conversation.
The podcast is dedicated to NFT, and its participants include special guests: award-winning artists Artem Mirolevich and Igor Vishnyakov.
Ben: Starting with the big obvious question. I spoke to a few of our artists previously on the topic of NFTs. We mostly discussed the question: are NFTs real art? Artem, I don’t know if you wanted to summarize what you said in our interview about your feelings on this and we’ll go from that?
Artem: I think my answer was that as far as I understand, NFT is a really nice way to authenticate and to document your artwork. It’s not really a way to create new artwork, but it’s a really good way for people to record, especially in the digital world. In short, that’s my answer, but if you want me to expand, I can definitely say that the NFT craziness and boom created interest from artists to create artwork in digital formats that then could be transferred into NFT. And of course, we will see a new generation of artists who take it to their poor understanding of what the art world is. I think those will be younger artists, probably younger than myself and Igor, but hopefully we’ll get into this buzz as well.
Igor: Basically, it’s just a new exciting form. For thousands of years stone was the material that dominated, then canvas took over for about 500-600 years. And now digital art and NFT is just a new instrument, it’s an exciting instrument. As long as it’s handled by the artists and you’re showing the miracle, showing something that does not exist, create something out of nothing. It’s art. Yeah, basically it is art.
Ben: The NFT itself is the medium. Whereas a lot of people sort of compare it more to this signature on the artwork. Mitja, you’re a very opinionated guy on these topics.
Mitja: I have several conflicting things to say. One of them is that most of today’s NFTs are just certificates of something. They’re not objects by themselves. That’s the first thing to remember. If that’s what you need, the certificate to some objects, art objects or something like that, then most of the current NFCs except for a few exceptions like Cyber banks, for example, if you have an art object embedded into the NFT itself, then the NFC becomes a form of art already. And I think there is a huge difference between the two. Although most of the people on the current blockchain platforms will try to blur that and will say: “Oh it’s just the same”. Well, it’s the same name NFT it shouldn’t be I think because I think there is a difference between holding a certificate to the art and the art itself. That’s kind of one thing. Another thing is if we talk about NFT as a true art form, then what is the difference between that and digital art? The digital art that we know for dozens of years is already a thing. Is there a difference?
Igor: My feeling about it is there’s already a third generation in the West growing with baseball cards, Pokemon cards and all that. So we’re talking about compact collections. If you can handle your collection in your pocket and your phone, why not? You don’t need walls, you don’t need a special place, you can enjoy it. People collect different stuff as long as it tells the story. Any type of art is a story; it’s either boring or fun or whatever. It makes you sad or happy. Collecting is about possession, it’s a strange form but we, the humans, we do that, we collect stuff. Collecting NFTs is the same thing. People will get into it because it’s nice and compact and how often can you show all your art collections on the beach, for example? To a friend you just met who collects NFTs as well. It’s about communication with yourself. We’re expressing our individuality. A lot of people create regardless. You were born that way. This kind of art, you can spot it right away, it’s honest. A lot of NFT art is quite inspiring and interesting. It definitely deserves its place in history and time. It’s not for us to decide. 200 years from now people will decide what was interesting. It’s not for us to decide what was interesting in our generation because the history screen will get rid of a lot of stuff and only essentials will come up. Now it’s overwhelming, especially if you look at Ethereum, it went up so high.
Eugene: Would you agree with the statement that what you collect is part of identity?
Igor: Definitely! It is the base of your identity. It’s your true self because basically this is what you are when nobody sees you, your collection. When you pull something out of a closet and look at it and it makes you happy.
Artem: Does NFT allow you to create artwork? Does it give you any vehicles for creating as a tool? As far as I know no, it’s not. So NFT is a good way to store your artwork, it’s a good way to sell it, it’s a good way to buy it, but it doesn’t really allow you to create in a new way.
Ben: I think it definitely comes back to what you were saying Igor about being able to possess things. NFT is a form of possession rather than the formitself.
Igor: Absolutely! Art is created in your heart. Art is created in your mind. It doesn’t matter what media you use. We live in an interesting time because we take our electricity and return it into gold.
Pavel: I participated in a digital art conference and there was a guy who used to write some code which creates different programs, different forms creation, different surface creation and that guy used it to see what he gets in result and once he found a suitable formula he created the physical object. There’s always a number of digital art which is dynamic and programmable. In that respect true NFT can include some elements, some code which will create an NFT object in your browser instead of just torrenting.
Ben: Cryptocurrency is possibly the example which stands out as something a little bit different and I will come to Cryptonumiz in a minute, of course.
Mitja: You paint one art object which cannot be copied, right? It’s completely unique. Versus you painting a trillion copies of the same thing and if you for example paint and create. Does it make a difference for you or is it just for collectors which makes the difference?
Igor: I don’t know. I think copying work is boring. But sometimes you come back to the theme or idea. I don’t know, the true art you can explain in a few words, the idea.
Mitja: Imagine you paint a picture with your hands, you know that’s a unique object, it’s only one copy like that. Imagine that by some technology you’d paint a picture and it would be copied into myriads of pictures like that. Would it make a difference for you?
Artem: Yes and no. It does not make a difference because it’s not an actual brush stroke. at least in my artwork. I am not communicating the brush stroke, I’m communicating the idea which is represented through the brush strokes.There would probably be only one original and that original with a thick brush stroke or whatever it is can be duplicated and that person will hold that original but I am definitely happy to see and to be able to make millions of copies of my artwork and for millions of people to see it. And I think every artist deep down inside wants as big of an audience as he can get for his artwork. If he tells you otherwise, he’s probably lying.
Ben: Using your logic you’ve just described there, Artem, could you describe bitcoin itself as an artwork for the world with 21 million copies?
Artem: No, I wouldn’t describe Bitcoin as an artwork because just like Igor says, art is something that makes you sick and you do it because you have to not to sell it or to profit from it. You do it because it needs to come out of you and it needs to be done on paper or canvas, computer screen, whatever it is. Bitcoin is definitely an interesting project and it has a lot of artistic elements in it, but I wouldn’t call it an art project in itself, no.
Ben: What would you say to it, Igor?
Igor: It’s a different reality. It’s an art of finance, I guess. The art of liquidating banks in the world banking system. We don’t need regulators anymore because everyone is a regulator. What do we need the banks for? It’s interesting, it’s a revolutionary idea. I don’t know if it will slide into the next 40-50 years, we’ll see what happens next but it’s definitely very interesting. But it’s not art. Every art is blockchain the way art basically is created, especially contemporary art. It’s kind of a blockchain, it’s postmodernist soup, you take a little bit of this little bit of that. I don’t think Bitcoin is art. The idea’s great, that’s for sure.
Mitja: The art form should create some kind of reflection.
Ben: If you can see what is printed in the Genesis block of bitcoin in that way, it has the headline from the financial times into it.
Mitja: I think art is the artist. You can call many things an art, the work of a master or something like that, but there is a difference between this and artistic work which creates a reflection of something like in science or in financial art, it would be something precisely what it is, right? So if you say we’re doing that and it has properties of this and that, money and whatever, then it will exactly have these properties. Where in art it is a reflection, so the audience is reflecting on the art form itself and for each one of us the art form would be different, right?
Artem: Art means it’s literally unnatural and since bitcoin is not a natural form of finance, I guess it is art.
Ben: I know Antony had a question in a moment.
Antony: I understand that NFT really brings the side of financial property and so on. Can we really feel the same emotion with NFT comparing when you’re staring at a painting or drawing, you can keep it in your hand or see just in front of you whereas NFT you have to watch it be on your screen and finally you can’t see the real details and so on because you can’t feel really deeply the piece of art. Is there a real feeling to watch the art behind your screen?
Igor: Imagine the future when you can travel from country to country instead of carrying 20 kilos of books, like I used to do. It’s all on your Ipad now. Everything is in your smart device. It’s kind of cool. All you need is a few changes of clothes and that’s about it.
Ben: Igor and Eugene are obviously very close to the Crypronumiz project. What do you guys feel is kind of the distinguishing factor with this in bringing about a new way of doing it?
Eugene: I might start by saying that we’re still working with them in the framework of Free TON which on its own is a work of art. And it is important to understand that people start experimenting with different things. So the Cryptonumiz sub governance was formed by a group of private individuals. A group of people decided to get together and run a contest for the best commemorative point to memorize the first year of the Free TON anniversary. Amazingly or not, we received 111 formally submitted and one informally submitted work that the jury is now deliberating. Extremely interesting and great results I might add. So that’s my quick introduction. And of course the artists on the call today and some others who all happen to be friends of mine for many many years, they are also part of it. Igor, you and Sasha submitted so you want to say something about your thoughts on that?
Igor: Yeah, it’s very exciting. I like the concept. I like the idea of illuminating all the news that was happening with the previous platforms for similar projects. It’s very exciting to see how it’s growing. I suggest Free TON to collect artwork. We can definitely work on that and keep the collection, start with a little museum and see what happens.
Ben: I don’t know if you’ve got any thoughts you wanted to add on this, Mitja?
Mitja: If everyone gives more life to art, will it create more art and artists or is it just creating more symmetry of it?
Ben: This is actually what I particularly like with the Cryptonumiz project. Going back to what you said Igor about art is the story, something you have to kind of get out there or a story you want to tell and the obvious predicament you have with NFT is the copying factor. Artem is back with us and if you wanted to add anything on this?
Artem: I am actually looking forward to seeing the first NFT in the museum of art and in the near future. So I think yes, it does bring artwork back to home, but I think they’ll be NFT institutions.
Pavel: Hermitage is actually planning to issue their own NFTs as well. So this is going on, very conservative big museums going in that direction.
Artem: And also I wanted to say that the buying craziness, it’s sort of like the bourgeois class that was formed in Europe in the 18-19th century. Basically people got extra money that they made and they’re spending it on stuff that the previous generation wasn’t spending on, something that didn’t exist before, this is new world new trends and new generation spends money on new trends, which is in sync to their reality.
Igor: People collect a lot of strange stuff. Basically collecting is sort of a form of disorder from the psychiatric point of view. A new generation, for example, I have two daughters, one is nine years old. Recently for her birthday I asked her what kind of present she wanted. Most of the stuff that she wanted was inside of her computer, inside of her games. Possession is the thing over past, we’re living in a sharing society. We have car sharing, we have house sharing. And the kids, the new generation, those are the people who are going up with Pokemon cards. They do want to have originals. They can print pictures of Pokemon on the computer but won’t be the same. They want to have original cards. And I guess some people want them more, some people want them less but I don’t care, I just want to make them. I don’t care if there’s a huge demand or I’m gonna sell it for millions. It’s not about that. For artists it’s about making stuff, not about selling stuff. Selling is a different profession, we have art dealers, we have galleries agents. So an artist is the one who creates.
Ben: As you say, what makes your heart pick creation?
Artem: Precisely. Something you look forward to. Life is a big word. In Japan they call it “Ikigai”. It could be anything, it could be a little figurine or sailor moon that you’ve painted when you come home from work after 18-hour day-work in Japan’s case. When we talk about the creation, why not in this form? It’s a wonderful form. For me it’s just another instrument. It’s easy to express, it’s less time consuming and more people can see it. A lot of people use social media for that, they’re posting their stuff on social media and they’ve been doing it for quite some time now. It became a second job for many people. They’re so serious about their social media. I’m not very serious about my social media. I have an Instagram page, that’s about it. But it’s a form of expression. We’re very simple creatures. We have four basic hormones and in order to receive one of those hormones we need those likes.
Mitja: So in this respect the reason is a little bit of a conflict. I liked very much what you said about us being in a sharing economy kind of paradigm, but we still possess things, you cannot take that away.
Igor: Things are slowly moving from the offline world to the online world. We see that transformation, we see that transition already. I used to make albums with photographs all my life, but now I have a cloud.
Mitja: Yes, but how does that reflect art? Can we share art?
Igor: Art is meant to be shared.
Mitja: But does it mean to be possessed as well?
Igor It is a possession.
Mitja: Wait, there is a conflict. I mean it’s either possession or sharing.
Igor: No, but in a sharing society, everything is moving into the telephone slowly.
Mitja: I understand about the telephone part, but it doesn’t matter. The question is between possession and sharing.
Eugene: If you are an artist, I think by large we heard the answer that what matters is that people see it. Therefore implying that multiplication is good. Now for the owner. if somebody buys, for example, and once that possession thing, it’s the opposite, right? It’s a uniqueness, that is value.
Mitja: What we have in cryptonomy is that there are two sides of the “nomy” which is a coin. One side is sharing it to everyone, everyone can see that. But the other side, the flip side, is possessed only by the owner and it’s the owner’s decision to share it or not. What artists think about that?
Igor: I think it’s a great idea. Because that’s another thing. One of my daughter’s favorite toys is called LOL.
Ben: So option A: your piece of art can be seen by a hundred people and it has your name on it; or option B: someone else takes your idea and shares it as their own with no accreditation and it gets seen internationally, but you get no recognition for it. Is the ownership of the idea the important part to you?
Artem: I would rather have millions of people see and get synchronized with an idea than a hundred seen it enough synchronized. To me personally, just because I’m egocentric I guess it’s important to have my name next to my work, but like I said, it’s still more important for millions to see than to have a name on it.
Igor: There is a great piece by Gustav Klimt called “Nuda Veritas Naked Truth”. And there’s a little quote right on the picture saying “If you cannot please everyone with your deeds and your art, please a few. To please many is bad”. For me the result is not as important as the actual process because basically the process is more important, that’s what makes me happy when I’m in a studio. I had a pizza that’s been on the floor for the last 3 days, a cigarette in my hand and I don’t care because I have an airbrush in my hand and I don’t even have a mask, I don’t have glasses, I don’t care anymore. I’m just there, doing it. Art is all about results. You see the result already, it’s already in your head. And my only problem is that my hands work much slower than my head. And with computer art, NFT in particular, I can realize my ideas much faster.
Ben: Artem, we didn’t really get your thoughts on that, how do you feel about the interesting aspects of Cryptonumiz with the two sided aspect?
Artem: Like I said, I think it’s a brilliant idea. The artist gets to show his artwork to as many people as possible, and the owner/collector gets to keep his personal unique piece of art for himself. I think both are very happy. I think it’s a brilliant and easy way to make everyone happy. The idea of art comes from the universe. It somehow gets planted into your head. Then you translate that idea into the world, so of course you want this idea to be seen by as many people as possible. I also like to sell my artwork, it’s important for me to sell it because that’s my bread and butter.
Mitja: That’s where collectors are coming and that’s I think why NFT has the potential of connecting the artist, political actors and the audience directly without these all sorts of intermediators in between which usually takes the largest portion of the money for not providing a lot of value. Of course when we talk about blockchain, we always talk about this disintermediation part in the peer-to-peer economy. For me even economically it works much better than before in the history of art with a real art in enabled NFT’s. I think for me as a collector it is important that the NFC itself will be an art in itself, not just specifically, because I don’t want to pay for a certificate, I like to pay for art. Actually I think we are missing some collectors on this call, so we don’t hear their side of the story, right? If there is anyone who is collecting art, come forward and say what you think.
Eugene: I am the proud owner of the largest number of Igor’s works. Anyway, I was using art to create living spaces. As a hobby for many many years doing large apartments. The majority of works that I bought from artists went to decorate the walls of upscale apartments that I did. And for each apartment would probably use from 20 to 30 works usually from like 2 to 3 different artists to match the style of a particular space. So for me that was the primary use of course. Some I did keep but again to me, honestly it is more the memory and the ability to reach out to my friends.
Ben: Okay, do we have any questions from anyone in the audience or anyone else on stage? Anything anyone wanted to go back to or go over?
Mitja: I think we’re covered it all more or less.
Igor: A lot of those platforms that I’ve seen before, they don’t look like collectors because they try to define something, they try to resell right away. Real collectors, they don’t sell, they keep it for themselves. What I would suggest for Free TON is that I think we can maybe curate the project, organize the work a certain way to be rather like going to a museum rather than a bunch of people trying to sell something right away, maybe build a collection. Artists can make donations, I’ll make a donation.
Mita: I totally agree with Igor,I think that NFTs today, the NFT space is a completely speculated space, which is fine. In the Netherlands it was the same, in the Renaissance everyone was speculating about art as well. But in the end you should create collectors on the road somewhere, we should have them. And I totally agree that this is a big part of the vision to create a real market of the real art on the blockchain, not just speculate.