The artist Robert Alice brings their Bitcoin themed artwork "Block 21" to the Async Art platform in collaboration with Christie's auction house in form of an Ethereum non-fungible token (NFT).
This is a first for the auction house, who are "excited to welcome the NFT community to Christie's". The event most definitely represents an actual art history milestone and perhaps signals an interesting turn of phrase in doing so.
It is certainly iconic and evocative of technology, both as a radar scope and a tape storage media for an old mainframe computer. The feeling is that it conveys or contains important data that is essential to the future of something. There is an unapproachable sterility to the object, as though it is crafted by something other than human hands.
In this sense, the work is a perfect representative of the space we have been calling crypto art up to this point. It could however, also represent the ambassador of a new era or change from distant powers above– sort of like an alien invasion might play out in an old sci-fi movie. We want a representative of the space that was here before this was minted to approach it and attempt communication with it, or to be told that it holds some ninety-eight yottabytes of data about something, or that it can be inserted into the slot of the largest video game in the universe.
Instead, the object is simply filled with some of the the Bitcoin source code as a series of hexadecimal characters. Not quite fully evocative of the branding we observe in the crypto art scene with Put an ETH On It, but the still lifelessness of computer source code that is so revered by fanatics of the cryptocurrency is always a welcome subject matter– so very important to the two percent of humans in the space who can actually fully comprehend it. It is programmable art on the Async platform, so the art also changes appearance in relation to the related physical artwork's geolocation, which is kinda neat.
Crypto art NFT
What is also interesting here is that this work and its associated auctioning and messaging also illustrate a strong preference to refer to this art minted on a cryptocurrency blockchain as a NFT, but not as "crypto art".
This is particularly striking since "NFT" is a super generic term, and can represent anything from trash to treasure in the cryptocurrency space. The term also designates all types of assets which are not themselves art, such as game items, promotional tokens, distributed finance bullshit, and other so-called "shit coins".
It seems that calling the art simply "NFT" instead of "crypto art" leaves a lot remaining for the poignant of the community as doing so sort of ceases to signal the "art" function of the token altogether, no?
It is brutally efficient as terminology goes– but no. Of course we should refer to art minted as non-fungible tokens as "NFTs", because that is what they are. They're not paintings or sculpture, or tattoos in human flesh– all of which are art, too.
Maybe it is not "crypto art" anymore.
Maybe it's just art and the NFT is just another media in art.
NFT Crypto Art
Crypto art is a long established term to describe art made exactly in the fashion of "Block 21"; the term even has its own Wikipedia page. You can also learn more right here by checking out What is Crypto Art?
The complete omission of the term from this history-making artwork and its auction can be considered a bit telling. The term is likely not going away, and the positioning of both "NFT" and "crypto art" as terms for essentially the same art is awkward and confusing.
The term is also in popular use now as shown in this recent tweet.
Here is Adobe creative Cloud just days ago using the term "crypto art" to promote the wonderful art of JOY.
WHAT ARE WE CALLING THIS ISH?
We are huge fans of this artwork and the way it has been publicly positioned for sale, and view. It really is an accidentally powerful conversation starter with respect to the "crypto art" versus "NFT" terminology angle alone.
We clearly have work to do in this community when it comes to the naming and terminology we use and it would help everyone if we could be consistent in what we call ourselves and our creations.
For this, we thank Robert Alice, Christie's, Async Art, and even Adobe for stirring up more to think and talk about with this art!
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