“A new type of art will emerge from blockchain — dynamic NFTs, or an art-based gaming, if you will”
The project is co-created by Michael Joo and Danil Krivoruchko and produced with the help of Snark.art. It uses NFT and blockchain technology, as well as the identity and decisions of its community of collectors, to shape the work itself.
We spoke to Andy Alehin, the cofounder of Snark.art — about the project’s profitability, the NFT art market’s evaluations and perspectives, the DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) of the project, Lewis Carrol, and the journey towards finding something no one has seen before.
— Should I call Snark.art a gallery, a marketplace, or a production center? Or does the NFT art market require a new name?
All of the above come together in the form of Snark.art.
It all started back in 2017, when I saw a random ad on the internet promoting an Art and Blockchain conference and decided to attend it, even though this particular pairing of topics seemed weird to me at the time. I was expecting it to be a major conference, but it turned out to be a rather small event with barely 100 people involved, mostly geeks and nerds from around the world. But what they were discussing blew my mind.
The idea that one could truly own digital content on the internet seemed surreal. This conference inspired and gave rise to many different projects and startups. Founders of a few prominent projects took part in it: Joe Looney, creator of Rare Pepe Wallet, Matt and John from Cryptopunks, and others. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one fascinated by this thing. After the conference, I immediately contacted my friend Misha, sharing what I had heard. We brainstormed and concluded that we needed to start a company immediately, even though we were new to the whole thing.
At this point we launched as a digital lab, helping artists build complicated digital projects using blockchain.
— How did you find artists to join you?
Misha was living in Brooklyn at 475 Kent, the heart of the local art scene. We started talking to his neighbors and promoting our concepts. This is how our very first project “89 Seconds Automized” by Eve Sussman was born. Eve actually lived next door.
— Is it fair to say that Eve’s project was the entry point into the art world for you?
Absolutely. Eve is a well-known artist and the idea behind this project was rather interesting. We broke her most famous video piece, which is currently in the collections of the MoMA and Whitney Museums, into 2304 pieces, each 20x20 screen pixels. We created a “smart contract” for it as well, meaning that if you owned a single piece of the video, you could borrow the rest from the community for 24 hours, and recreate the whole thing from scratch. We built a sizable community of owners who could share art in this unusual way. We managed to preserve the “one edition” rule as well, but the piece was still shared and seen a lot within the community. The original piece had very limited exposure in the museum’s collections. The MoMA presents it maybe once every five years, I believe. We introduced this new approach that allowed it to be viewed much more frequently. Initially, each piece was worth around one hundred USD, and now they’re worth somewhere between 5 and 7 thousand.
The project received some media attention and we got introduced to both the traditional art and crypto art worlds. This helped us raise some money and start working on other projects, of which we’ve built seven since.
— You started as a digital lab bringing blockchain into artistic work. What is Snark.art today?
Still a lab, but also a platform. Since we grew to be well-connected in the traditional art world, we were able to invite many artists to experiment with NFTs. Some of them wanted to create custom projects with us, but almost all of them preferred to begin with something simple, say, selling their digital art or creating stills from video files they’d provide. This is where the platform aspect of Snark.art comes into play.
— How and why did you decide to approach Michael Joo?
Our curator, Nadia Taiga, has been working with him for many years. She decided to introduce us. I met with him in his studio in Brooklyn, and I was awestruck by the scope of his work.
His studio is amazing, hopefully, he will allow us to do an online tour sometime soon. Some of the items displayed are over 400 million years old. He gathers the oldest organic materials on Earth from nature, collections, and museums all over the world to use in his installations and stuff. The way he seamlessly integrates them into his art is nothing short of a miracle.
So we began talking about blockchain technology as a medium. I described examples of how it could be used, and this clicked for Michael. He began showering me with ideas and development concepts on the fly. We discussed how crystals could be generated from the first purchase, evolving to the point of being unrecognizable.
But this conversation, though enthralling, didn’t get us closer to realization.. A few months later I met Danil.
— How did you meet?
He had helped us with one of our projects, Crypto fortune cookies. As it turned out, our kids are roughly the same age, and we became fast friends. During our usual Sunday get-together at the playground, I mentioned Michael and the conversation we’d had. Danil was interested immediately.
He’s very into similar generative concepts but approaches them from a different perspective. His thing is data visualization, he knows how to actually make these concepts work. I know how to build something on the blockchain, create smart contracts and sell things, but the actual rendering and visualization processes are way beyond me. We needed a guy like Danil to kickstart all this. He brought his ideas, artistic vision, and technological process to this project and gave it new depth.
— What’s the most important thing for you in this project?
I like that it’s very experimental. An art piece changing and evolving post-sale simply wasn’t possible up until now.. Because the artists aren’t able to fully comprehend what their art is going to look like in the end there’s an exciting ambiguity to the entire process, and I absolutely love it.
All visualization and rendering happen on the fly, and this can be technologically challenging. There’s a complex logic to it as well, something we’re experimenting with at the moment. I believe that projects like this one will pave the way for artists to learn how to use this medium properly, and this is part of what makes it so special.
— Are you saying this could become a new medium for art?
Absolutely. I believe a new type of art will emerge from blockchain, something in between traditional art, digital art, and gaming — dynamic NFTs, or an art-based gaming, if you will. There’s no decent name for it yet, but I’m sure someone is going to come up with one soon enough.
— This project involves complicated financial and ownership structures, and I’m not sure I understand all of it. Why do you create a DAO? How is it going to function? Who is going to own the pieces and who is going to profit from them in the end?
It’s not like we are going to single-handedly create a DAO, we hope that the relevant processes will be jointly managed by the community..
We’ve seen some projects do this already. Their examples show that decision-making becomes easier when the ownership of a piece is distributed among the community members.
— What kind of decisions are the community members going to be able to make? Do they get the final say or do you?
They do. We hope this DAO is going to manage sizable amounts of money and that these funds can be used to promote the project, create community events, etc.
— Where would this money come from?
Part of it might come from us, the creators, contributing a percentage of the sales. Then there are secondary royalties. Artists get their cut from each secondary market sale, which is typical in the NFT world. This cut usually amounts to 2–5 percent of each sale. If a DAO is created, we might contribute a share of these cuts to it as well. This way the DAO will get recurrent revenue.
— Can the community members just take these funds and share them?
While technically this is possible, we would be completely against it. The last thing we want to do is convert this artwork into a corporation of some sort. It is a communal piece of art. We’ve seen how other communities work and they tend to dedicate some funds to the betterment of the community itself. They organize physical events, create entertainment, and spread the word.
— You don’t sound like a real businessman.
Yeah, I’m not a business mogul at all, I just like creating interesting art projects and having fun along the way.
— A single seed will cost 0.10301. What is this price based on?
10301 is a palindromic prime number. On one hand, our project is so different from all others that we think it should be reflected in the price. On the other hand, we would like to create a vast community, so it needs to be fairly accessible. Most members will be allowed to mint just one crystal at pre-sale, all in hopes of creating a major community with as many members as possible.
— You have a background in mathematics. Do you enjoy the numbers & data part of the project?
Of course, it’s a mathematician’s dream, this project. Not only are there numbers involved, but also there’s game theory and experimental things like a dynamic rarity.
The rarity of the pieces, how rare one’s piece is compared to the rest of the collection, is usually predetermined in projects like this. But in our case buyers and collectors are able to influence the rarity of their pieces, which I think is fascinating. It’s the “everything depends on you” kind of case, where certain community members might figure out clever ways of making pieces become rarer.
Say you buy a crystal and wire it to a wallet that has never been used before, and then keep it there. If you are the only one who does this, your crystal will look different than any other one. Or maybe the rarest crystals are going to be those which stopped evolving on the third iteration. I can’t wait to see the strategies people come up with during the growth period, and which ones work best.
Danil came up with an interesting idea as well. If a buyer has a certain NFT in their wallet at the moment of purchase, their crystal can get themed after the collection they already have.
For example if there is a Ksoid in your wallet at the moment of purchase, there is a certain chance your crystal is going to take after this Ksoid in its features. One might get a crystal with a Meebits or Omnimorphs feel to it. This is part of what makes this project truly unique.
— What’s your take on the NFT art market and what do you think the future holds for it in the long run?
NFT collectors are a completely new strain of owners, they hardly intersect with conventional art collectors. When we first started Snark.art, we thought the collectors would be the same as those in the traditional art world, so we exhibited in museums, galleries, etc. People were somewhat interested, but not interested enough to invest, they just didn’t get it.
Crypto community members, on the other hand, aren’t well versed in traditional art, but are interested in supporting something they understand and love. The crypto community went on to grow exponentially, with its members educating themselves in traditional art at an astonishing pace. They came from simple beginnings, plain pictures with slick designs, and progressed towards generative and conceptual art with thought-provoking, experimental origins.
It took the traditional art market over 200 years to move towards conceptual art, something the NFT market achieved in just 6 months. Think collectors on steroids. Some recent amazing art pieces were able to appear simply because there is a market for them. I can’t wait to see what this arena looks like in a few years, as this combination of technology, talent, and finance continues to progress and evolve.
I firmly believe that NFTs are going to go mainstream and that this new type of art is going to dominate the scene. It will certainly outgrow the traditional art market.
— Are there some numbers you could provide to illustrate this?
Sure! An artwork by xcopy(https://xcopy.art/) — one of the oldest NFT artists on the scene — sold for 3.8 million USD yesterday. More talent and more great minds are going to keep flocking to the industry. NFT art is so easy to use and collect.
— You can’t hang it up on your wall though.
Who needs a wall? You can store it on your mobile device and show it freely to anyone, or exhibit it on your Twitter. Nowadays, people visit each other’s Twitter pages more often than they visit each other’s homes.
— Last question. What does “Snark” mean?
It’s from Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. It’s a poem about a journey to find something no one has seen before: “The Impossible Voyage of an Improbable Crew to Find an Inconceivable Creature”. It neatly explains what we do at Snark.art.