By Vector Meldrew
In the early days, the internet provided artists with an exciting platform to express their passion and creativity. It was underpinned by freedom, decentralisation, and the ability to bypass the traditional artistic establishment when sharing unique design.
“Blockchain technology has allowed artists such as Billelis and Beeple to tokenise their work via smart contracts. This format for digital art immediately puts them into a frictionless market, in a digital format that is intuitively suited to their digital practices.” - Vector Meldrew
This sense of excitement and freedom was gradually eroded by the transition to Web 2.0, which is dominated by social media giants and tech conglomerates. It left many artists at the mercy of algorithms, which stripped them of their creative freedom by dictating the trends.
However, we are now moving into a new era of Web 3.0 thanks to the rise of blockchain technology. The focus is firmly on decentralisation and democratising the internet once more, making it an exciting time for artists. NFTs have pervaded the mainstream consciousness in recent months, but this is just the beginning of a profound revolution.
The Early Days
My journey as a digital artist began in the early 2000s. I would make Flash animations and create short, animated films, while exploring platforms such as Newgrounds and Deviant Art. Much of my early work centred on the UK grime scene, which was full of fresh, original talent. Many of us made art to appease the algorithms. Yet some artists would still create projects driven purely by passion.
A New Era Begins
Towards the end of 2020, the landscape started to shift dramatically. This was when blockchain technology really started to gain mainstream acceptance and NFTs emerged from the underground. Blockchain technology has allowed artists such as Billelis and Beeple to tokenise their work via smart contracts. This format for digital art immediately puts them into a frictionless market, in a digital format that is intuitively suited to their digital practices. By March 2021 Billelis was firmly established as a “blue chip” artist and Beeple hit headlines around the globe by selling an NFT for $69 million. The traditional art world immediately took notice.
Ethereum was a Game Changer
I have been interested in decentralised technologies before Bitcoin was unveiled, and I was an early investor in the coin. It spent several years on the fringes, but I observed a sentiment shift in 2017. Some of the most popular original iterations were “Cryptokitties”, which allowed people to breed digital cats, and ‘Crypto Punks” – a series of 10,000 8-bit pixel avatars that have since become the blue-chip investment of the NFT world, some of which have changed hands in seven-figure sales.
Reclaiming the Space
The larger revolution at hand here is the movement to Web 3.0. As we shift our focus away from centralised platforms, the technology allows users to take back control of data, presenting opportunities to monetise artwork and reclaim the internet. Crypto opens a gateway into the worlds of decentralised finance (DEFI) and decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs), both of which involve a rather radical perception shift from the current structures that govern us.
The Environmental Issue
It is also worth noting that blockchain could actually replace lots of energy intensive technologies, thus helping to spearhead a green revolution. Ethereum is the dominant blockchain for NFTs and many hope that the impending rollout of ETH 2.0 will resolve current energy inefficiencies. My latest collection – “CULTure CULT” – is largely influenced by the time I spent in the Amazon rainforest, spending time with tribes, and learning about their cultures. As a result, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Amazoni Alerta. This project is a blockchain-based, smartphone app that empowers local users to gather evidence on, and report, environmental crimes within the Amazon. All alerts on crimes are time-stamped, geolocated and secured in the blockchain, where the data is incorruptible and thus of significant value in legal proceedings.
A Return to the Wild West
The NFT space is an incredibly exciting place to be right now. The rise of decentralised technology feels like we are going full circle and regaining what made the original version of the internet – Web 1.0 – so fresh and exciting. The grime scene I was previously immersed in was essentially a punk movement, and it feels like we are now ripping up the rulebook once more. It can be chaotic at times, and quality information is difficult to source, but exciting NFTs abound, and you can uncover many gems if you put in the time and effort. The space appears poised to continue its upward curve, which spells good news for emerging artists seeking a creative outlet.
Vector is a digital crypto artist creating NFTs. He uses art to craft stories and worlds around themes such as consumerism, decentralisation, culture, identity, consciousness & the nature of reality.