I first heard about NFT in May 2021, when I was working as a graphic designer for Saturday Night Live. We were shooting a sketch with Pete Davidson as Eminem, a parody of the song “Without Me” with the lyrics “Now what the hell is an NFT?”
What was a non-fungible token? Were digital art files finally worth real money? My interest was piqued.
To do an NFT, involve – or mint – her blockchain – a computer-powered digital public record. Some blockchains, such as Ethereum, consume energy and leave large carbon footprints.
This gave me a break. Outside of SNL, I create video art with found objects. I am meticulous about my ecological practices, carefully accumulating and recycling waste. I even use old dental floss to make up and spin my booty for the camera (I waste some water to wash off the plaque). I know it’s not much in the grand scheme of saving the planet, but it helps me sleep at night.
I loved the idea of joining the NFT art movement at its inception. Like Magritte’s apples and floating pipes, I wanted my little trash sculptures to go down in history. I wanted too can be make a livable income from my art.
I started minting on an eco-friendly site called Voice. I made some small sales there, but the real the collectors were on Ethereum. Regarding NFT pollution, most of the big artists had the same answer: Ethereum promised us it would. unite to a more sustainable system and would be green by the end of 2022. (This week, Ethereum delivered on that promise.)
I gave in and chose a non-climate-themed work to sell on Ethereum. The appeal was less about the cashing and more about my work being seen BIG. NFT artists are the new celebrities of art. They walk the red carpets and take pictures together at the elegant parties. Their art is featured on giant screens in Times Square. It’s a new club I wanted to be a part of. A modern take on a stroll through Manhattan’s Chelsea, staring down at white walls sparsely carpeted with artwork from a select few.
So I pumped up to mint, then winced as the Ethereum blockchain hummed with the power of an airplane takeoff. Everything costs and a large chunk evacuated my crypto wallet. But there it is. Transaction 0xe62b842a1ef9d2f3f6ee509662f4f5bd5645c6c7915574520fc1020a54ba4c6f would be my ticket to glory.
For months I have been following the advice on how to promote – or shilling – my NFT. Collectors tweet things like, “I’m buying, quit your job.” How convenient! I quickly realized it’s one of the (many) scams out there associated with cryptocurrencies. The comments increase their messages.
The forced positivity on this side of Twitter has been jarring: artists describing their work ad nauseam, praising the NFT ecosystem, shouting at their friends. I felt like I was trapped in an endless dystopian convention of happiness. I kept updating my NFT list, no movement.
A few months later, I hated this piece. I have lowered the price several times. I tried to coin more. So I just wanted to delete – or burn – all of them. That cryptographic term is right: I imagined throwing everything on a pyre. My art heroes, such as Yayoi Kusama and Louise Bourgeois, often destroyed work in bouts of transformation or anger.
I know social media is a skill; a talent, even. It’s not mine. This is the problem with the new democracy of art that we are building. Yes, the NFTs theoretically broke down the tunnel gates. But the people who make it through are influencers. The quieter group still can’t. Should quiet people be excluded? Is it really a new democracy of art?
What happened to the mythical creative isolation, I wondered? Georgia O’Keefe holed up at the Ghost Ranch in the Abiquiu Mountains, painting the lonely cowboy landscape. “Everything starts with silence,” said VS Gaitonde. “The silence of the canvas. The silence of the painting knife. The painter begins by absorbing all these silences “.
Where is the silence when I’m tied to Twitter? Every time I opened the app, my heart was pounding. I imagined jumping off buildings, falling in front of strangers’ windows screaming: “GM … Thanks to all my followers … I love you !!!” I didn’t feel loved. I swiped and swiped, but couldn’t connect.
In April 2022, I confided to an NFT influencer friend about my lack of success and he offered to start the auction for my next piece. Good, this would be. The piece I chose was risky. I hadn’t fully exhibited my body in my art yet, but I knew, of course, that #WomenInNFT got along well with figurative pieces. I made a composition with my naked body floating between broken egg shells and chipped Easter candy. I called it “Easter Sale”. If that didn’t turn heads, what could it be?
On Easter weekend, my friend made the first bid and tweeted about the auction. I had made two matching pieces and another male collector made a bid on one of them. After the auction ended, I felt good. Days later, I couldn’t ignore the absence of what I had been looking for: more offers for art to prove its point and recognition from other women.
I went broke, panicked over my naked body coined permanently on the blockchain for all eternity of the metaverse, and on the other hand, climate change activists avoiding my choice to sell on Ethereum. The urge to burn has engulfed me. But the NFTs weren’t mine anymore.
I realize that choosing the life of an artist means engaging in perpetual embarrassment. Whether I’m looking for gallery walls, metaverse fame, or the latest ecological practice, it equates to the same question: Does my art make me happy? It certainly does when I’m doing it. Less when I mint it.
So I resist the urge to burn from now on. However it is better for the environment.