T O N F T O R T O N O T N F T ?
Anna Seaman, MORROW collective, published on MEDIUM, July 19, 2021
Since the historic Christie’s and Beeple drop in March, the three letters N, F and T have morphed into one of the world’s most talked about acronyms. They carry with them a sense of mystery as well as an air of confidence for those in the know. Use the acronym boldly in conversation and you tell your friends, that yes indeed, you know exactly what an NFT is. But, let’s be honest, six months ago (or maybe more for a select few), had you even heard of the word fungible? At a guess, you might have thought it referred to some kind of mushroom, right? So, now that you know that an NFT is a non-fungible token, you feel comfortable to move the word into general parlance. Quick side note for anyone reading this who is still thinking about googling it, let me spare you the effort. If something is fungible, you can exchange it for something else. Commodities, common shares, options, and dollar bills are all examples of fungible goods. Assets like diamonds, land, or baseball cards are not fungible because each unit has unique qualities that add or subtract value. Enter the world of NFTs. Digital assets that are stored on blockchains and which are used to represent items such as artworks, photos, videos, audio, and other types of files. Many people all over the world are embracing the possibilities that NFTs bring to creative industries. They are a game changer for artists, freeing them from physical boundaries and geographical borders as well as protecting their intellectual property rights and bringing them life-long royalties. MORROW collective, the NFT curatorial platform that I co-founded in March 2021, exists to bring artworks with engaging narrative and substance to wider audiences, enabled by the crypto-world of NFTs.
But something else is happening with that little acronym that I, as a writer and a wordsmith, find interesting. Those three letters are taking on a life of their own. Firstly, they have become a word in their own right. An NFT; the noun, the object, the thing has separated itself from the clunky and rarely used phrase ‘non-fungible token’. And then, the word meandered its way casually through the range of grammatical definitions. I asked someone the other day, what his creative agency does and he replied: “We help our artists to NFT their works.” Hmm, my copyeditor spider senses pricked immediately. To NFT? Is that a verb, I hear? What once was noun is now a verb and this new presentation of the acronym refers to both things.
I started paying closer attention to my conversations as the days passed, and I found that this was not a one-off, many people have hijacked the acronym to use in their own ways. “I’m working on NFTing my latest collection,” an artist told me. NFTing? Is that a present participle or a gerund? I think the latter is more likely. A gerund is the –ing form of a verb that functions the same as a noun. I know that we are getting into the nitty gritty of English grammar and I’ll bet that most of you reading this feel the same way about gerund as you did about fungible. The point is, that this is fascinating for those interested in language and more broadly it speaks about something else: the mainstreaming of NFTs (spot the gerund). As the word becomes more and more commonplace and the public come to understand the revolutionary potential of NFTs, cryptocurrency and decentralisation, I believe that language will change with it. Perhaps the noun/verb will become an adjective/adverb. Can something be NFTy? Maybe there will be metamorphisation of other technical terms that we are yet to discover. One thing is for sure, the future of NFTs and crypto is exciting from whatever angle you approach it. And that leaves me with one last thing to say: To NFT or not to NFT, that is the question.
C U R A T I O N V S G A T E K E E P I N G
Anna Seaman, MORROW collective, published on MEDIUM, June 11, 2021
MORROW collective is working with galleries and artists to bring together art from around the world in curated, themed exhibitions. One word in that sentence may stand out to cryptoart purists, who often prioritise frictionless, open and free access to making art available: curation. But is curation a bad thing in cryptoart?
Almost everything you see, hear or read is curated. Every news source has an editor at the back end deciding on what is and what is not ‘news’. Every social manager has a similar gatekeeper managing content and any book you read has been through thousands of edits that gently mould and shape the content into what the author or publishing house decides is the most appropriate way to present it. Even now, as I write, would you say I am curating this article, or would you say that I am a gatekeeper of language, releasing only what I see fit? Those two words, gatekeeper and curator, are deliberately placed at odds with each other in the context of this piece.
Gatekeepers carry negative connotations. A gatekeeper is the bouncer at the nightclub who decides if you can get in or not. They control, strongarm and can ultimately say “no”. Yet curators come across as much more trustworthy. They are seen as friendly guardians, managers and perhaps, they are ‘yes-people’ as compared to the gatekeepers’ ‘no’ Essentially though, they have the same task: to filter.
When we launched MORROW collective, we brought to the table more than two decades of curatorial and artistic experience. We are proud of the fact that in a crowded marketplace of NFTs, which encompass anything from digital trading cards and art to virtual real estate and gaming, we are bringing a filter to what can often feel like an overwhelming flow of content. Importantly, we feel our project and values can coexist, and indeed compliment, all else going on in this wonderful new world.
When it comes to art specifically, NFTs are wonderfully democratising. The removal of boundaries such as access to fine art galleries and notoriously sniffy art fairs has been amazing for those with raw talent and with very few avenues to be able to reach new audiences. Artists all over the world can have access to global audiences and there are countless touching stories of people whose lives have been changed by the income from NFTs: mortgages paid off, houses bought, families fed and the tensions of money problems resolved.
However, like all good things in life, there needs to be a balance. For every diamond in the rough, there are a million cracked pebbles and we all need a bit of guidance. Therefore, what MORROW collective does is offer a layer of curation. We work with leading galleries all over the world to give their artists access to create NFTs and we also reach out to emerging artists through our incubator platform. We want to help artists to get access to audiences as well as to develop their careers. At the same time, for those voracious collectors out there, we are keen to share with them the compelling and engaging narratives that we see time after time with all the artworks that we exhibit. It really is a win, win situation.
Curation, for MORROW collective, is about the creation of immersive and cohesive experiences in art, bringing together pieces with compelling themes, substance and stories. For example, our GENESIS exhibition features art with heart-breaking narratives of loss, conflict and nostalgia, but also celebrates hope and tradition. So, curation in this context is not a barrier — it is our attempt to create an experience greater than the sum of its parts, to maximise the benefit to the artists, viewers and potential collectors alike.
With the growth of NFTs and yes, it is still growing, despite the recent levelling out of the curve that you are being told is the death of the market, there is something much more exciting emerging than the dizzying dollar signs grabbing the headlines. What we are seeing is the birth of a new sector for arts and culture. It is an explosive new market where geographical boundaries are redundant and neither time zone nor shipping costs are a factor. In fact, once artists really grasp the true potential of the NFT world, they will realise that physical laws are also off the table. Forget gravity, forget dimensions, forget medium: in the digital world, anything is possible. And as curators in this sphere, this is so exciting.
Equally, we still hold dear the experience of seeing art in the flesh or IRL (in real life), to use the proper lingo. Standing in front of a vast, incredibly detailed painting can be breath-taking and the use of sound and light in IRL installations is currently unmatched. At MORROW, we know there is room for both and, we welcome both. In fact, we celebrate the marriage of the two worlds and hope that by creating a bridge, we create more traffic between the two spheres. More communication and more crossover can only lead to more inspiration all around.
So, in the end, as we enter the future and look at the art of to(MORROW) are we gatekeepers or are we curators? Does it really matter?