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NFT Statement

Feb 26, 2021

I have decided to release a small set of single-edition NFTs on OpenSea.

I plan to place 100% of direct proceeds from the first sale toward the Bounty for More Eco-Friendly NFTs being developed by Artnome and GitCoin, and 25% of direct proceeds of each of the subsequent 9 artworks in this series toward the same fund.

You can bid/purchase/view the first minted artwork here, and the full series here. At the time of writing, I have only placed 1 artwork on auction, but will place the other 9 in the coming days/weeks.

This may appear as going entirely against statements I've made in the past on NFT/CryptoArt, so I'd like to clarify what I am doing and why with this post.

The Artwork: "Ink Plots"

As my first drop, I'm minting a small selection of my #inktober daily code sketches from 2019. These algorithmic works were developed in JavaScript and designed to be printed with a mechanical pen plotter. Each day, my process involved breaking down common algorithms and techniques into minimalistic forms that could be represented within the constraints of my plotter.

A Note on Transparency

I wish to be transparent and open about my actions here, particularly my carbon footprint, rather than downplay or remain silent about the subject as I mint (as some platforms are currently doing). I am knowingly contributing negatively with these actions, and I wish to recognize that. However, instead of boycotting the NFT movement entirely, or instead of waiting to mint on a different chain, I have chosen to take a different action, which I understand not all will agree with.

Individual Carbon Footprint

I'm estimating that my carbon footprint for minting my first 1/1 NFT on OpenSea will lead to the carbon equivalent of ~1-2 hrs of flying time. After all 10 works are minted, that means up to 10-20 hours of flying time (EDIT: See revised numbers below). Whether my artwork is "worth" this carbon cost is a challenging question, and something that each individual artist would have to balance and consider when minting. The line between "unacceptable" and "acceptable" carbon footprint per-work is difficult to draw, and largely dependent on one's individual behaviour, lifestyle choices, work, etc.

To put this in perspective: if it weren't for COVID-19, I likely would have taken several long flights in the last few months as part of my normal work operations (flying to tutor workshops, giving talks, exhibit gallery work, and setup installations), not including the cost of shipping prints internationally. So, I do not think it is worth demonising small NFT drops on such an individual level.

Larger Scale issues with ETH

However, I want to recognize that there exists a larger issue within the NFT space, that can lead to very significant carbon footprints in the order of 100s of tonnes of CO2 for a single large edition artwork. For this, I maintain my previous opinion that: "Currently, NFT/CryptoArt is not sustainable" — it must change, and quickly. These are issues I feel we should all be fighting for, and to help mitigate this I am:

  • Placing proceeds toward a bounty which aims to help tackle some of these problems
  • Minting a small number of 1/1 NFTs rather than large open editions
  • Choosing a decentralized platform (OpenSea) that uses lazy minting to reduce the number of on-chain transactions

Why the sudden change?

A number of things have made me change my mind. First, understanding the carbon footprint for a single 1/1 NFT on a more individual level, which is in the scale of a "short flight." Second, seeing the revenue potential for artists: I'm beginning to understand that crypto can become a solution for many artists and creators to earn revenue (in fact, it already is), freeing them from traditional forms of commercial/advertising/etc work, and allowing them to practice art full-time. To provide some personal context: I have seen peers making more revenue from a single 1/1 NFT than I have made in two years of physical art print sales, and to me that presents a significant shift in possibilities as a practicing artist, and also potentially (and perhaps surprisingly) a more environmentally friendly option in the future for those wishing to collect my artwork (I currently ship Giclée prints internationally via air mail).

Another very strong force in shifting my perspective was reading, listening to, and conversing with those inside and outside of crypto art scene, doing my own research on how it works, what part of the system contributes to the carbon footprint, how ETH2 is planning to mitigate this, and why some platforms are not choosing to migrate immediately to L2/PoS solutions. Through all of this, I'm beginning to see that many curators, collectors, and platforms have longer term visions for NFT as a new form of art market, beyond mere cash grabs and meme GIFs. Seeing Beeple's Christie's drop has also helped cement these realities for me. Ultimately I think we should all approach this cautiously, and with an open mind, and without vilifying or shaming individuals making small waves in a large ocean.

For what it's worth, I still disagree with many aspects of the current practice of NFT/CryptoArt (such as minting for lulz or open editions), and I will still continue to argue against those downplaying the larger issues around NFT/ETH/Btc. I do not wish to justify all NFT art, but have come to feel that this space can grow far beyond meme GIFs, money grabs, and lazy open editions, and I'd like to participate in small but significant ways rather than completely exempt myself from it.

Why not SuperRare / Foundation?

I am not on those platforms, although I haven't made much of an effort to get onto them. I would rather drop on more open and decentralized platforms like OpenSea, particularly as it is using lazy minting to reduce carbon costs compared to some other platforms.

Why not L2 or PoS chains?

I'd like to explore alternatives such as NEAR (PoS) in a future artwork, particularly writing my own smart contracts to produce on-chain artwork (such as Autoglyphs), but for this particular #inktober series I have chosen to stay on ETH "Layer1", as I believe ETH has a longer term future, and may outlast many other PoS chains once the ETH2 migration is further along.

Ultimately, I hope that by placing some of these ETH proceeds toward the bounty program, I can participate in this space in a more positive way, and help build a better future for other artists interested in NFT and crypto.


Update 1

March 6, 2021

It's been several days since my first mints. In that time, I've also begun to mint several 'simpler' generative pieces on hic et nunc, an esoteric and experimental marketplace based on Tezos blockchain (built on Proof-of-Stake, which uses far less energy than Ethereum). You can follow new mints here, though be cautious to only buy my work from that address as there is no validation on this platform.

The experience has been fun, weird, and rewarding. Almost all my work has sold out, and in the process I've managed to buy dozens of work from other artists. I'm not sure how long hic et nunc will last, and how it's future will look, but it's helped me understand a different side of the NFT/CryptoArt movement (one of artists & collectors gleefully supporting other artists), and made me realize there is some strong potential here for future digital art marketplaces and alternative forms of artistic support. I'm excited to see the NFT space grow — I'll be keeping an eye on other platforms like FeralFile by Casey Reas, and I'm keen to start exploring more applications of generative art and creative coding directly on the blockchain.

With this said, I do plan to continue minting the remaining six Ink Plots pieces on OpenSea (Ethereum), until all 10 are minted. So far, from my 4 mints and 2 sales, I have come under my estimates in terms of the estimated carbon footprint (largely thanks to OpenSea's lazy minting, which leads to a negligible amount of transactions). Although Tezos seems promising, I still believe Ethereum to be the best platform long-term for more serious work and collectors – due to its security, technical stability, community, and global reach.

I have also come to understand far more of how Ethereum works at a technical level, and now realize that transactions are a poor metric for calculating energy costs 1. This discussion is perhaps better suited in a separate post, such as a technical breakdown of some of the current misunderstandings and confusion around NFT/PoW/PoS.

Update 2

April 9, 2021

Now 9 of 10 Ink Plots have sold, with a sum of about 12 individual transactions or about 2.5M summed units of Eth Gas. Based on accounting metrics shared by the team at Offsetra, this may lie in the range of about ~1 to 5 hours worth of flying time, or the carbon equivalent of selling 100-300 Giclée prints through my online shop. Considering the revenue earned (6.59 ETH or an average of 0.73 ETH per NFT sold), and the current price of ETH, it is perhaps a mischaracterization to describe this as a carbon-inefficient revenue stream (for example; per these carbon accounting metrics, it appears more carbon efficient than my current artistic practice of selling Giclée prints). In total, the amount donated to the GreenNFT Grant was 1.92 ETH.

1 – see CBECI FAQ for a primer, which applies similarly to ETH/BTC

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