An NFT is a unique digital good or the digital version of a real-life object in an image or video. Literally, NFT stands for a non-fungible token, meaning that nothing can serve in the place of the NFT, or token. And these tokens are linked to a creation or design that is accompanied by a concept. The range is broad and varied, like the first tweet in history being sold as an NFT, or the first digital home (Mars House) created by artist Krista Kim’s that sold as an NFT. These examples demonstrate the expansion of conceptual art and design, proving that its access and reach are being heavily influenced by the NFT boom.
Two important attributes that make NFT art desired are scarcity and uniqueness. Whether it be a GIF, .jpeg, or mp4; they can only be minted by an individual or collective one time, making it both unique and scarce. But if it is so easy to copy images and videos from the internet, what guarantees these characteristics? The answer is blockchain technology. The blockchain is a digital record book- it records which people mint the piece and put it on the digital market. Releases are usually limited to low numbered series and these factors lock the NFT into a specific space and time via the blockchain. This process means an NFT work is ready to be auctioned off on platforms like Zora or OpenSea, just to name a few. Now collectors, or any curious person, can bid to win and become the sole owner.
What sets this image or video apart from just any old image file or video, is that digital piece, or good, along with the concept tied to it can never be reproduced on the blockchain. If it is sold again, the blockchain creates a whole new record. You may ask: But why not just download a copy of the same exact image or video and either keep it for yourself, trade it or even sell it? Yes, you can possess it, but it has not been registered or recorded on a blockchain, therefore it is not the original. You have the postcard version and the buyer of the NFT holds the original, anchored by the blockchain.
We have seen recent examples from the Arab world art scene, too. Activists/artists are using NFT art to further the conceptual reach of their work, demonstrating how concepts and meaning behind digital art can be re-considered and presented. Khaled Jarrar’s protest NFT in regards to Palestinian land and his most recent NFT piece- a piece that is a stamp for Palestine called “They Even Stole the Rainbow”- engage the digital and physical world, using the impossibility of the former to offer a digital reality of a stamp for Palestine. One may feel closer to the #freePalestine movement– or inspired by the image– and choose to bid not only on a piece of art, but also act within a movement, concept, and idea of a more just world. Other artists like Palestinian Taqi Spateen, offer a similar opportunity with his series of three animations of a mural he painted in Bethlehem:
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And in the contemporary art world, a recent example is Kristel Bechara, a Lebanese artist based in Dubai, who sold her first NFT piece last month, making her the first female artist to create the digital representation of her art and put it on the market via blockchain technology:
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It has been reported that a network of Arab organizations is joining forces, led by the fashion and contemporary art pundit Behnood Javaherpour. The idea is to foster the exposure of artists & designers fusing fine art and contemporary art with technology and getting them into the digital NFT markets. But any further news has yet to be heard. Allegedly his project with the Behnoode Foundation, Arab banks, and organizations, was to have already launched. But we expectantly wait. Perhaps the project is developing as quickly as the digital fashion world, and it will be in no time that the Behnoode Foundation moves into both NFT art and digital fashion as well. NFTs, fashion, and the digital realm?
Many are saying it is only a matter of time until NFT fashion is booming, too. In May of this year, Vogue Fashion mentioned that some luxury fashion companies are just waiting for the right moment, (or gathering the courage?) to make their debut onto the NFT market. Until that seemingly inevitable step from high-end fashion, it is no less important how a few large brand names like PUMA and Tommy Hilfiger have sought out The Fabricant, to roll out marketing campaigns using digital models and videos. The Fabricant claims itself to be,
“ … the world’s first digital fashion house, making innovative and compelling 3D garments and fashion narratives that are entirely non-physical.”
And The Fabricant Digital Fashion Report that was released in coalition with what is considered the “definitive fashion shopping app”, Lyst, has defined Digital fashion as “part of a cross-section of disciplines in the digital world, which includes gaming and crypto art.”
Arguably, and oddly enough, the most tangible example of this new proximity between NFT and fashion occurs in the gaming world. Designers create ‘skins’ within games, like Fortnite, where users can buy new garbs and appearances for characters. Digitalax is at the forefront of this digital market and intersection between fashion, design, and gaming:
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Digitalax’s marketplace and The Fabricant’s reach into digital marketing, boasting appeal to both big brands and innovative independent and boundary-breaking designers, opens our eyes to see the bigger picture of just selling a meme for millions of dollars. But are NFTs really worth all the hype? The scarcity element is creating disproportionate prices and a volatile market that inflates and deflates the value of cryptocurrency and the creation being sustained by it. Today heated debates are occurring within the blockchain technology and cryptocurrency communities. Especially since many of the spikes and drops of the digital market spark from tweets of the most powerful people in the tech industry- simply search Elon Musk, bitcoin, and Twitter to see the manipulation unfold. Unfortunately, this reality directly affects purchasing power and prices of NFTs and the art tied to it. Thus, big names and benefactors seem to have a stronghold on what plays out in the art and design world.
And when it comes to efficiency and green sustainability, much of the talk behind the benefit of marketing for fashion and clothing lines, may not be such good, or truthful, news after all. A thorough and controversial dispute continues to spread throughout the community as the ecological costs of the digital marketplace for crypto art are quite staggering and complex. And now with the addition of this developing and rapidly evolving NFT world, it is hard to imagine where it will leave art, design, fashion, and the world at large.
Written by Paul Holzman.