It cannot be ignored that the current so-called encrypted art market may be more financial than artistic.
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Art exhibitions are commonplace in Beijing’s 798 Art District, which has a strong artistic atmosphere, but this one seems a bit different.
In late April, the Goethe Theater of the German Cultural Center in Beijing is holding an encryption art exhibition. The word “encryption” is a bit pioneer. In the exhibition hall, crowds gathered in twos and threes, and a slender woman with curly hair was one of the social centers. Her name is Song Ting, she is 25 years old this year, and she is currently a “popular man” in the crypto art circle in China.
In 2020, the concept of non-homogeneous tokens (NFT) in the blockchain field will emerge. NFT is considered to be the only and irreplaceable digital asset. Its ownership is transferred on the blockchain (such as Ethereum) and is currently mainly used in artworks. Artworks are chained into NFTs, and encryption art has emerged as a result. At present, it can even be described as “excessive”. In Christie’s London, a work was even auctioned for a high price of nearly $70 million.
Song Ting is the record holder of China’s NFT encrypted art auction in 2020. Therefore, in this exhibition, people kept coming to say hello to her.
In the eyes of outsiders, NFT is conceived in blockchain technology, which is sharp and mysterious. However, stripping away all kinds of technical terms and phrases, what is the essence of NFT? Behind the sky-high auction price of tens of millions of dollars, does NFT have real value? We might as well walk into the front-line practitioners of NFT-crypto artists, to find answers.
How are crypto artists made
In the current crypto art market, the “story” of crypto artists determines to some extent their degree of recognition in the circle.
Most of the artists come from two directions, one is turning from technology to the field of art, the other is born in the field of art but gradually learning technology, and even more, combining backgrounds in multiple fields.
Song Ting is the representative of the third cross-field.
“The encryption circle pays attention to stories,” said Zhu Zheng, an encrypted art collector. “She has the most stories.” Zhu Zhengzeng took a piece of Song Ting’s work for 100,000 yuan at the end of last year.
When the reporter met Song Ting for the first time, she was basically bare-faced, wearing a blue sweater and sweatpants of the same color, and a casual outfit.
When talking about work and ideals, her speech speed will unconsciously speed up, and her thin body seems to be infused with “chicken blood.”
Song Ting was the number one student in the college entrance examination for liberal arts in Shenyang. She studied Chinese language and literature in the humanities experimental class of Tsinghua University, and she also wrote science fiction. In her sophomore year, she started to learn about programming through an introduction to linguistics using java programming to complete her homework, and at the age of 19 she began to promote the distributed storage docker open source technology. In 2017, Song Ting entered the blockchain industry and earned the “first digital remuneration” of her life by providing optimization suggestions for the white paper, 0.2 Bitcoins.
In the fall of 2018, Song Ting began to create AI and blockchain art.
“When I was very young, I told my dad that I am first of all alone, Song Ting. In the future, I will be the lover of one person, the mother of a child, and the CEO of a group of people. It is only your daughter. Ranked fifth and sixth in my life, it is hard for you to accept it, but you have to accept it.” Song Ting showed her “rebellious” character to The Paper.
“I’m very angry. Many things in this world make me feel dissatisfied, and I want to change it.” Song Ting gives examples, such as liberal arts students and science students, men and women, design thinking and engineer thinking, the relationship is definitely not 0 and 1. It’s either black or white, “Whoever told you that girls must only study liberal arts, and who told you that liberal arts students can’t write code or make technology products?”
On May 20th, at China Guardian’s 2021 spring auction, Song Ting’s NFT work “Peony Pavilion Rêve’s Subject Dielianhua——Information Technology Penetrates “I”” became Guardian’s first NFT art work for auction. The work was presented in the form of video, and the final transaction price reached 667,000 yuan.
Reva came from a science and engineering background and used to be an engineer.
When the reporter met Reva, it was at an exhibition in Shanghai. As a guest at the round table and an artist in the exhibition, the “post-85s”, wearing a ponytail, black-rimmed glasses and casual sweaters, looked energetic and young, speaking slowly and concisely.
Reva, who was born in Shenzhen, was interested in painting since she was a child, but she still took the ordinary path during the college entrance examination and applied for the computer major of Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. After graduation, she worked as a R&D engineer in China Film Group for 4 years, doing software development in the direction of film technology.
In the 2016 high-tech investment boom, Reva also had two entrepreneurial experiences, successively in the field of VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality). In 2018, Reva resolutely resigned, and finally found the field of “algorithm art”, that is, using algorithms and codes to generate images, and code to control image changes.
Reva said that the emergence of NFT gave her algorithmic art a channel to be seen. In August 2020, Reva created the first encrypted artwork in his life in a competition.
Today, Reva has created about 30 works, and a total of 18 NFT works have been made at Makersplace, most of which have been auctioned off. Zhu Zheng compares her and Song Ting to “the twin stars of the encrypted art circle.”
In March 2021, Reva’s “The Droplet” sold the highest price for her work. This group of works pays homage to the law of the dark forest in the science fiction novel “Three-Body”, a total of 5 editions, and the auction price for each edition reaches 4 Ether.
Among the three crypto artists interviewed by The Paper, Chen Qiji is the only one with a pure art background.
Before university, Chen Qiji lived in Zhengzhou, Henan. He studied painting since childhood, including Chinese painting, freehand drawing, and sketching.
Unlike the imaginary artist with long hair and fluttering hair, Chen Qiji, born in 1991, is more like a big boy. The Korean-style bangs are slightly longer and need to be divided diagonally from the side to avoid blocking the eyes. Wearing black half-rim glasses, black sweater and black sweatpants, according to his words, it is to resist stains and prevent the dye from staining the clothes.
At the age of 19, Chen Qiji went to the United States to study alone. Two years of business study experience made him find that he was not suitable for business, so Chen Qiji transferred to Maryland Institute of Art (Maryland Insitute College of Art) to study architectural design and visual art.
After returning to China in 2018, his main income came from teaching international students to create art. At the end of 2019 and early 2020, Chen Qiji, who likes to visit foreign forums, discovered that the concept of NFT was mentioned in the mouth of bloggers in the art circle. When he learned that the work could be recognized and realized through NFT, he took action.
“As an art worker, why not do it if creation can bring income.” Chen Qiji recalled, “The first time I went on the chain was in the middle of last year, I watched a lot of videos on the Internet to teach myself, and then I started to work hard in the blockchain art area.”
Chen Qiji’s first digital artwork is a self-portrait. He puts the RGB three primary colors of the self-portrait into a hexadecimal code editor, converts the picture into code, and then pastes all the codes representing the red color to do It became a red picture.
Today, Chen Qiji’s label has become an “encrypted artist”. There are currently more than 30 digital works, and 7 of them are made into NFT on the chain. The most expensive pair of NFT auction prices reached 20,000 US dollars.
How is encryption art generated
The different backgrounds of crypto artists often determine their creative forms.
Song Ting calls her worldview of cryptographic art creation inverse cyborg. Cyborg is the future of mechanization, and inverse cyborg refers to the mapping of human nature to the world of cyborg after being sorted out.
Song Ting’s first AI and blockchain artwork was inspired by the Large Hadron Collider developed by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). The machine allows tiny particles to run and collide with each other in a circular runway at the speed of light. It is used to simulate the beginning of the Big Bang at the moment when the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS, Compact Muon Solenoid) collides, hoping for the birth of the Higgs particle. The ring-shaped compact muzi coil reminded Song Ting, who was studying ballet at the time, of the TUTU skirt that she needed to wear when dancing ballet.
In Song Ting’s view, if the Big Bang reappears, it will be like the myths and stories of various places, and there will be women’s love and beauty characteristics. The compact muzi device is the ballet TUTU skirt. The main part of the painting is hand-painted by her and turned into a digital version, while the background is generated by AI on the blockchain.
Song Ting’s most special piece of NFT artwork “Cyber Wonder Woman” was once bid for 52 Ethereum on the Rarible platform, which was about 240,000 yuan at the time.
She obtained the portrait authorization of 119 Chinese female technology leaders, and used the deep learning model GAN algorithm (antagonistic generative neural network) to generate a portrait, and then cooperated with Yu Tongzhou, deputy director of the Media Institute of China Academy of Art and others based on human and machine collaboration The second creation was completed together.
“The generated portrait is simply Angelababy in the blockchain circle.” Song Ting’s assistant said with a smile. All secondary creators participating in the distributed collaboration have an NFT for everyone, and every woman who provides portrait authorization also has a special edition NFT gift.
Currently, Song Ting’s encryption art creation methods are mainly divided into three types. The first is based on an open source language to design and build applications and use it as a creation tool, such as NLP (Natural Language Model). The second is to design and collect data by yourself, and use GAN algorithm to collaborate to generate images. The third type is based on the creation of artificial intelligence models on the blockchain.
Tian Jia, one of her co-founders of AI and blockchain laboratory Cortex Labs, said that in the field of art, the native AI on the blockchain can be used to generate the seeds of art works: hash values are generated on the chain, Generate pictures under.
Reva’s algorithmic art fully combines her technical background with content creation that she is interested in. She told reporters that she likes to construct images in a particularly rational or logical way, and use mathematical functions or algorithms to construct organic things in an inorganic way.
“In this process, there is a strong sense of collision,” Reva said. Usually, works made by algorithm control or mathematical functions have a strong sense of mechanics, but after many adjustments and corrections, “the resulting image will be It is a strange combination that has never been seen before, and it is very magical.”
All the elements in the two NFT works she auctioned for the first time, such as the window lattices and dynamic haze of ancient Chinese buildings, were generated by algorithms. After the NFT trading platform Makersplace was listed, they sold 0.5 ether (according to the time). Price, about $200). What made her even more encouraged was that she later learned that the collector who bought the two paintings was a well-known figure in the circle.
Unlike the artistic creation of engineers who prefer a logical perspective, Chen Qiji’s creations use digital media more of “touch design, which is relatively intuitive digital creation software.” He believes that his content is more perceptual and tries to use it from a human perspective. Discuss the original problems that exist.
“The way of computer creation is more of my reflection and reverse process, like a mirror,” he said. “Some creations are deliberately destructive, such as destroying the key data in the code of a picture, using a reverse computer. Way to create.”
Chen Qiji has a series of works called “Matrix”, which is to magnify the digital photos of his eyes hundreds of times on the computer, just like using the microscope method in the physical world. After zooming in to a certain degree, the photos will become A blurry image that completely deviates from the original image.
According to the production form of NFT, the creation of encryption art can be divided into two types, one is made into a digital version by taking photos and other forms from traditional physical forms, and then it is made into NFT on the chain, and the other is done directly online with a computer. Create, and then make NFT through the chain.
Song Ting has two forms of creation. She recently became fascinated by the art of tie-dye in Yunnan. She went to Dali and spent a week staying up late to study with her teacher. She often bought white T-shirts and cheongsam at home to make various tie-dye patterns, and then took pictures. Or after scanning, it can be digitally wound into NFT. Reva’s algorithmic art is created on the computer from beginning to end, while Chen Qiji is the conversion from traditional physical creation to online digital creation.
However, Chen Qiji still attaches great importance to the creation of physical nature, he usually first digitalizes the chain, and then transfers to the physical. He believes that encryption art will move towards reality, and digital content will be transformed into works of physical content.
“Purely digital and planar artworks are like drafts, just like human beings, conscious and without body.” Chen Qiji said, just like computers, hardware is the premise of software. He will try different materials to make works in physical form. Take a version of Matrix work he showed to The Paper as an example. The physical version is selected through experiments, based on various textures and textures, and based on his understanding and understanding of physical media.
“It’s like a person’s soul can have different physical bodies.” Chen Qiji said.
Where will the art of encryption and NFT go?
Encrypted artist Beeple, after auctioning up to $53 million in NFT works, converted all Ether into U.S. dollars and chose to “escape.”
Regarding Beeple’s behavior, Reva expressed his disappointment and disappointment.
Reva refers to himself as a blockchain believer, while Chen Qiji said that he does not fully believe in decentralization. Song Ting believes that the only way of digital civilization is centralized and decentralized collective collaboration.
The future of NFT and even encryption art is far from conclusive.
For some artists, the emergence of NFT has indeed broadened the channels for their works to be seen and realized.
Reva told The Paper News reporter, “In the past, the realisation of artworks required intermediaries such as galleries and auction houses, with commissions as high as tens of percent. The secondary sales of artists could not be profitable at all, but through the blockchain, artists can directly By contacting buyers and selling artworks, artists can also get a certain amount of income from the second sale.”
Hu Jie, a professor at the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance, said that the essential function of NFT is to record the ownership of works of art. It can better implement copyright rules. Although NFT cannot prevent piracy, because pictures can be copied, it will allow confirmation of rights. Authorization and rights protection have become relatively easy.
It cannot be ignored that the current so-called encrypted art market may be more financial than artistic.
Chen Qiji told The Paper that the value of artwork NFT lies in the public recognition of the art market, its influence and recognition. At present, academic institutions are not much involved, and most of them are capital institutions.
“NFT has not yet integrated with mainstream art and other communities. It is also difficult. Only when the threshold is high enough and the community is formal enough can the mainstream art community be accepted.” Sun Yang, a researcher at the Suning Institute of Finance, said that many new affairs will have issues. Bubbles and defects, just like many people who turn everything into NFT, make the crypto community mixed with bad products and flooded with bad products, which is not conducive to the development of NFT.
“It can be cleaned only when there is a lot of foam.” Chen Qiji believes that all new things will have foam. Now it is in a foamy state, and there may be a period of silence in the future, and then the second time I get up, the state may not be. Too the same.
Hu Jie also believes that there is definitely a bubble, but it often represents a promising and promising tool with far-reaching significance.
“NFT is a long-term thing.” Chen Qiji said, “Now that NFT is overly focused on financial attributes, it is easy to distort the concept of art. Everyone is becoming more and more confused about the concept between art and NFT products, and the bubble collapses. After that, everyone calmed down, and it may take time to figure it out.”
“I think NFT will be an important aspect of blockchain applications. The technology is neutral. If it is used well, it will benefit, and if it is used incorrectly, it will be hurt. It is empowered when used in the right place, and it may become a problem if used in the wrong place. Hype is even a tool for deception,” said Wang Zhicheng, an associate professor at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management.
Author/ Translator: Jamie Kim
Bio: Jamie Kim is a technology journalist. Raised in Hong Kong and always vocal at heart. She aims to share her expertise with the readers at blockreview.net. Kim is a Bitcoin maximalist who believes with unwavering conviction that Bitcoin is the only cryptocurrency – in fact, currency – worth caring about.