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How Wikipedia’s Classification Of NFTs As ‘Not Art’ Impacts Equity In The Art World – Forbes
In a lot of ways, NFTs have represented an opportunity for artists to bypass traditional gatekeepers, allowing a more diverse range of artists to reach collectors and sell their work independently. However, a recent vote by Wikipedia editors introduced a new type of gatekeeping: the popular online encyclopedia has decided not to classify NFTs as art.
Many creators and collectors of digital art found this decision to be overstepping and short-sighted. The basis for this sentiment is the observation that NFTs, while not always used for art, can be another artistic medium, like paint or ceramics. And even more than that, the idea that any person or institution would try to put rules on what is allowed to be deemed art feels problematic to many, with real implications on the lives of artists.
The Definition of Art
Art is a form of expression defined by the artist and appreciated by the beholder. As Oscar Wilde said in his 1891 essay The Decay of Lying – An Observation, summarized on Wikipedia, “To art’s subject-matter we should be more or less indifferent. We should, at any rate, have no preferences, no prejudices, no partisan feeling of any kind.” With this in mind, it’s no wonder that many artists and collectors take offense to the idea of anyone categorizing what is and is not art.
“This was a discriminatory statement against the work of thousands of artists who find their creative freedom and passion in the NFT space,” shared Marlon Portales, a multidisciplinary Cuban artist. “It is not for Wikipedia, or any institution of power, to say what is art and what is not. Art exists in the eyes and consciousness of the beholder. Art is a way of communication, dialogue, emancipation and expression. It is a gesture.”
It’s not only the new wave of creators and collectors that value NFTs as art. “The fact that the biggest art auction houses have folks dedicated to digital art is the most basic proof needed,” Alex Marshall, an artist and director at Silicon Valley Bank points out. “NFTs have dramatically expanded Sotheby’s collector base, Christie’s auctioned off an NFT for $69 million and the British Museum is selling NFT versions of their collections. Just because NFTs can also serve as financial and certification instruments, that doesn’t mean they aren’t art. In some ways they’re better than traditional art, because there is transparency into ownership and the artists continue to get royalties.”
NFTs as a Medium
Art can be created out of a limitless variety of mediums, from paint to found objects. Many people that disagree with the Wikipedia decision on NFTs argue that NFTs should be seen as the medium used to create the art. Just like not all paper is art, not all NFTs are art–but the medium should not limit the end result.
Breanna Faye, NFT artist and creator of Metarkitex Metaverse, explained this by comparing NFTs to blueprints. “Digital blueprints are the blueprints used to build every modern day building. We don’t call AutoCAD plans ‘not real architecture’ and we shouldn’t do it with art,” she points out. “NFTs are merely a canvas on which digital artists export their artworks. Yes, the medium has changed, but the product and the definition have not. NFTs are a canvas, blockchain is the medium, it’s what’s on the canvas that determines if it’s art. Excluding some of the world’s most notable artists from your list just because their medium is different is a shame.”
There have been countless examples of non-traditional mediums being created and appreciated as art. “Piero Mansoni was a revolutionary, highly conceptual artist who mocked the systems that pretended to say what was true art,” Portales shared as an example, referencing the piece Artists’ Shit, which is described on Wikipedia as an artwork consisting of 90 cans filled with feces. “In the end, the NFT is just another medium, it is a new language system.”
Not only do NFTs serve as a new medium for art, but they unlock new artistic realms as well. “NFTs enable new possibilities of art expression beyond what exists or is imagined today. LIT’s Robert De Niro NFT is a great example,” Gabriela Sabate, an entrepreneur and NFT collector, shared. “The actor dynamically reacts in 4,600 images at the same time to live events that happen after the NFT was created. NFTs have the power to redefine our current concepts of art and culture.”
Impact on Artists
The claim that NFTs are not art hits particularly hard for artists who finally found an opportunity to thrive in the NFT ecosystem.
“Many NFT artists are traditional artists who have moved their artwork into the Metaverse and, for the first time in their life, have been able to support themselves financially with their art,” shared Samantha Hume, NFT artist and founder of Crypto Lady Gang. “NFTs are killing the ‘starving artist’ stereotype and creating a modern, financially stable artist. The old era of the art world is all about privilege, based on connections and money. This new NFT era of art has the ability to empower any talented artist, regardless of their background. That is historic.”
Michael Gold, an art professor that teaches generative art, expanded further. “If we think about how access to resources has kept artists from creating and distributing their art in the past, NFTs have flipped that script,” he shared. “Many successful NFT artists have broken into this space by teaching themselves the necessary techniques using resources that are freely available to anyone with a laptop and an Internet connection. Since the Internet, as a whole, tends to look at Wikipedia as a source of truth, if a handful of Wikipedia editors decide what is and is not art, that decision will have ripple effects that will limit opportunities for future self-taught artists and potentially rob the world of their art.”
The emergence of NFTs, and Web3 as an ecosystem, presents the opportunity for a more diverse range of artists to be seen and valued for their art. There is far more upside to embracing that, rather than trying to limit this new decentralized opportunity with the use of centralized definitions.
Art in the new surge – theberkshireedge.com
Kelowna Art Gallery exhibit connects visitors to Residential School survivors and their families – Global News
Standing tall at the Kelowna Art Gallery is an intricately woven blanket representing Canada’s dark past. It’s a visual representation of residential schools and the atrocities afflicted on students, called the Witness Blanket.
Indigenous artist and master carver, Carey Newman, who also goes by his traditional name of Hayalthkin’geme, created the 40 foot-long blanket made from western red cedar and various objects as a way of sharing what happened to survivors and their families, and to bring awareness of it to the country and the world.
“I landed on making a blanket out of solid objects gathered from residential school sites and eventually, that idea expanded out to include objects from the churches, and the government buildings and finally from cultural buildings — from places where we see the resurgence of Indigenous culture. That is what makes up the 886 plus pieces that we gathered,” said Hayalthkin’geme.
The original blanket resides in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, MB, where it is being restored. However, the touring replica is at the Kelowna Art Gallery. Visitors can download a free app on their smartphones called ‘Witness Blanket’ to learn about each part of the installation.
“With the app they get a lot more information about where [each object] came from because there were 77 communities across Canada that contributed to the blanket here,” said Nataley Nagy, Kelowna Art Gallery executive director.
The Witness Blanket features braids of hair, hockey skates, moccasins, a drum, a Métis sash and the door to the infirmary of St. Michael’s Residential School in Alert Bay.
“The nature of those pieces being everyday objects that we all encounter. We all have doorknobs, we all have hair, so many of us have memories that are attached to hockey skates or piano keys or moccasins,” said Hayalthkin’geme.
“The objects that are on the blanket aren’t mysteries. They are things that we know and that we might have our own sentimental ideas about. And when those two things converge, when our feelings about time converge with the reality of some of the terrible stories and atrocities … attached to some of those objects on the witness blanket, that creates a connection.”
The Witness Blanket: Touring Reproduction will be at the Kelowna Art Gallery from Jan. 15 to April 10.
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