NFTs : the last straw?
When Beeple sold his NFT for 65 million dollars, it initiated a chain reaction. The mass media called it the next chapter in Art history, but to me, it’s the final straw placed on art by capitalism. I am very much surprised how no one talks about it. (probably cause people to think of it as a bubble). There is no question that it created a space for digital artists to have value (monetary) to the work they create. This space opened up by the 65 million dollar auction created a force that pulled in numerous artists to the space, the sole magnitude of the force being the ‘profit’. The profit that could be made from selling the works before which had very less value. On the surface, this is very liberating for the artist. There is a lot of money to be made, the exposure the budding artists receive is enormous. It is more democratic than ever! Sales could be done directly to the buyer! (straight out of fairy tale stuff).
The problem begins here, the forces of capital is so strong that it dictates the art that is made. Every NFT drop comes with a mint fee and list fee, therefore most artists are concerned with the amount it could be sold for, such that there’s no monetary loss. Artists are then concerned with mass appeal, trends, and imitation, leading to homogenization. “the collectables” so they call. This is again fuelled by more discussions, clubhouse sessions, and other programs on “how to make more money by selling NFTs”. Devoid of any substance, just visual spectacles. Art thus made is not self-expression but rather the expression of the market forces.
Art primarily should be self-expression. It exists between the intimate relationship between the subject and the object. In this scenario, the artist is so disconnected from the art, that he becomes the proletariat(?).
As one of my favourite movie quotes goes “ the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world that he didn’t exist “. People living in an advanced capitalist society never even realise that they are being controlled, manipulated, exploited, sold(as data points). They don’t even realize the ideas that they have is fed into them by external forces. The propaganda is embedded into products that we consume and we don’t even see it. This is worse than the 1930s Fascism, at least they were conspicuous about it :P (borrowed line!).
How can we get out of this? there should be a systemic shift in the way people think. How do we do that? from speeches? yes, speeches do help! but art is more influential.. it is easily conveyed to the masses(sings Bella ciao)! The true value of art lies in its ability to make people think which leads to action. To Herbert Marcuse(German-American philosopher) works of art have the potential to be a tool for liberation.
“The truth of art lies in its power to break the monopoly of established reality to define what is real.”
Art alone can save the world!
This very art is now being engulfed by capitalism. The works of Beeple express his political thoughts, the essence of this is captured by the capitalist machine and was used as a catalyst, manure for fertile ground. This is not a new thing. It had happened to Hip-hop (patriot act volume 2 ep 2). But the speed and scale of it is happening now and going to happen is very alarming. Anything and everything could be sold as an NFT. From tweets to physical objects. And with the metaverse on the verge, the multiplicity of this is going to increase. Digital space thus becomes an absolute tool(which it already is) of the elite to control the masses where freedom of expression is a myth.