The end of 2021 marked an exciting end for the NFT ecosystem, with transaction volume on OpenSea surging back to almost the peak of August 2021. Richard Chen‘s dashboard on Dune Analytics has been mine go-to with easy-to-understand charts.
The Block’s 2022 Digital Asset Outlook has a great summary of the year which saw US$8.8b in total NFT trading volume. That’s a whooping number, considering its relative size to the US$50b in global sales of art and antiques in 2021, according to Art Basel.
This comparison might trigger some of your thoughts on the whole debate around NFT = art + more vs right-click-save. I don’t plan to convince you where I stand on in this article, but I want to start with Pak’s latest collection as food for thought.
For the uninitiated on Pak, check out my first feature on him in Lost Poets.
In Dec 2021, Pak dropped the Merge collection – an open edition of NFTs which are units of mass, which attracted nearly 29k collectors who spent over US$90m in 48 hours. Over 266k tokens were purchased with each m token their own defined ‘mass’.
The buyer decides how much mass he/she would like to purchase – could be 1, 5, 10 or x – and the price is determined by amount of mass i.e. $299 for mass of 1, $2990 for mass of 10. There’s some bonus mass at certain thresholds so the price isn’t necessarily linear.
The catch: you only get 1 token regardless of amount of mass you purchased.
When you buy another m token from someone else after the primary sale, that token will “merge” with the existing token in your address automatically and once again end up with 1 token but with a larger mass. You can’t sell them separately anymore. Note: this doesn’t happen if you transact with different addresses.
What does this mean for collectors? You can’t own more than 1 m token unless you use multiple addresses. Whether there’s a point of increasing mass depends on the collector’s intention. Flip for profit? But you can’t own multiple to hold some and sell some. Be the largest mass? You’ve got to buy over the market. What does this mean for the collection? There are no easy answers.
But Pak has shone some light through this tweet explaining how m tokens enable their holders to claim free NFTs, with various criteria. Some examples he provided:
If your m token fulfills a given criteria, you may free claim NFT(s) of this drop type. “The first 20 Tier I m(29) Merge tokens can get this NFT.”https://twitter.com/muratpak/status/1473833917715152896
Race: The m tokens with the highest growth rate in the provided time frame will get the NFT(s). “The top 10 tokens that increase the most in the following 48 hours will get this NFT (10/10).”https://twitter.com/muratpak/status/1473833922962366465
Now that’s really interesting. NFT’s never (just) about the image. It’s the token which represents the relationship between the holder and the creator, and/or the relationship between holders. Pak made merge full circle remarking that these mass.black NFTs may be burned into $ASH, which is a sort of creator coin that underlies this ecosystem he is creating.
Pak knows this exactly and therefore the smart contract is his canvas, and not the pixels themselves. Starting out with basic 1/1s to NFTs with intriguing mechanisms, his evolution demonstrates the deeper potential of NFTs that few creator recognizes. Time will tell whether the broader market realizes this and I can’t wait to see the mass.black drops in 1Q 2022.
In the last ~20 hours, thousands of cryptonatives participated in a historic moment to turn their Pages into Poets. To say the least, it was a hauntingly beautiful event. One that forces an examination and introspection of the human condition: What is beauty?
“There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion”Francis Bacon
(skip to Reflections below if you are familiar with the project)
A brief introduction on LostPoets…
The lead up to this “poet-claim-event” (Act II of the whole ‘show’) was a public sale of 65536 digital tokens called Pages at 0.32eth each (Act I) in early Sep 2021. 7586 were distributed to ‘existing collectors’ who were holding another token called $ASH, which was a derivative from the creator’s first project called The Fungible Collection (read Sotheby’s summary of the project here).
This distribution signaled an emerging ecosystem, one where a creator-centric token becomes a “unit” for existing and future utility, value, and liquidity. So in this case, $ASH owners get pages.
So what exactly are pages? Technically, they are a kind of crypto token (ERC-1155), just like NFTs rely on a particular token standard (ERC-721). Less-technically, pages are “just” grey images, and each was priced at 1.2-1.3eth prior to the “poet-claim-event”. Why would anyone pay USD3.5k+ (based on prevailing ETH/USD) for this?
It’s the promise of utility that lend these grey images value for now. First, it was announced that each page token may be converted to a poet NFT in Act II. The top 100 page collectors also get special origin poets that have unique properties and influence in the overall LostPoets NFT collection. For example, an origin poet holder can name it once, and the (max. of 64) poet NFTs that are associated with the particular origin poet inherit that name. Pages can also be “fed” to poet NFTs to give them words for writing poems. Utility can also come in the form of community…
About the the creator of this beautiful mess, I can’t claim to know Pak well, but you can read a great introduction here by NFT Siblings. NFT Siblings seems to be a Pak’s partner / promoter / investor, and some go as far as speculating if NFT Siblings = Pak, but I’ve seen straightforward refutations on this claim more than once.
Reflections of a poet
Back to what transpired… Some of us converted pages into poet NFTs. What we saw was a tremendous range of aesthetics – from the good, the bad, the ugly, to the odd, the angry, the wicked, the insane, the transcendent. Most had ‘distorted’ features – think crooked noses, asymmetric eyes, awry lips, wide foreheads, missing cheeks.
In the first couple of hours, people started selling poets, some even below the price of pages. They could be realizing gains that they felt was the maximum potential, and they might have gotten the page they used to convert at a price cheaper than the current market (around 1.45eth). Alternatively, they could be “recycling” by selling unwanted poets at around page price allows them to buy another page and try their luck at getting a more “beautiful” and/or “rare” poet.
In the Opensea Marketplace, ranking poets on sale from lowest price to highest price and ignoring the bids, there’s a perceptible stratification of market value, despite Pak’s indication that certain traits and rarities emerge over time. Some of these properties are beyond aesthetics, but human nature makes it hard to see beyond the surface sometimes and be patient.
Those that were selling below page price were typically ordinary, “ugly”, or both. At the same time, some really “ugly” ones were listed for crazy amounts and drew attention because they looked so crazy!
Why do we perceive some as ugly? Why is rare sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly? What is crazy?
We all wished for our poets to be the most eye-pleasing or super-cool. At least I did.
The stark reality is that our perception of beauty has always been anchored on the perfect (think golden ratios, symmetry – a bias stemming from evolutionary fitness). Social media only serves to exacerbate that bias. The real world is a lot more imperfect, more asymmetric, more distorted.
While I believe this anchor still holds true (it’s hard to transcend nature), we’ve come to embrace some form of madness, but not all kinds of madness.
Perhaps LostPoets is helping us to define the boundary of madness, if it was ever a possibility of a definition: the strangeness that is beauty and the madness that is not.
By some luck I stumbled upon Kong Andri‘s work, and these stumbles have always been pleasant.
Kong is a graphics designer and a toy designer, and the creator of Owangeboy – a character that exudes an astronomical amount of nostalgia. While the kid reminds me of Astro Boy and Mega Man, Kong’s style epitomizes a unique “flavour” of vinyl toys, which I can’t exactly pinpoint (being neither an art nor toy expert). As I scrolled through his Instagram, I found it exceptionally intriguing how his digital artworks interweave so seamlessly with the physical toys.
This marvel of discovery – finding stories like Kong’s journey – inspired me to restart this writing again, and I’m all the more stoked that Kong agreed to share his story here!
1. How would you describe yourself in a sentence?
I’m a graphic designer and designer toy artist. And I love coffee☺️
2. What inspired you to design toys?
Mostly my inspiration is from Japan and American cartoons that I watched when I was a little kid. I also got so many inspirations from my daily life with my son.
3. What’s the most difficult part about designing toys?
The most difficult part is when the design go for production in the factory – mostly technical and quality issues.
4. How did the story of OwangeBoy come about?
I’ve made owangeboy character in 2011 when the huge tsunami hit japan, there was a charity event that was held by a gallery in my country to support people in Japan. They asked me to donate an illustration for an auction, and that time I’ve made the owangeboy character for the first time and have been developing it until now.
5. Where will Owange Boy go next?
This year, I’ve made a contract with china’s IP management, they will make so many merchandise and figure for owangeboy, and also will collab with so many brand in china. So this will be excited for me to see the character will expand
And that’s a wrap to the inaugural #Curates on Roodelia! I’m thankful for Kong’s willingness to share his story to inspire you and me.
Look out for more of his creations here!
I have purchased one of his digital pieces (Owange Boy #3) and hope that I can get a matching physical Owange Boy sometime in the future.
I used to write about creative works I stumbled upon on the Internet, in part inspired by bloggers like Inspirational Geek. “Used to” is a euphemism, because that was more than 7 years ago.
Why am I starting again?
I created an NFT project (ManiaTulips) as a “capstone” for all the coding courses I’ve been taking, and as a consequence caught the creative bug (again). I was trying to build a following on Instagram, and in my efforts I discovered many inspirational artists and work that got me excited.
It isn’t about NFTs, how much the crypto-rich pay for them , or how NFT-centric communities “create value”. What I discovered were artists who create because it’s who they are – real and authentic folks who are just trying to express themselves instead of making a quick buck.
It was also a “treasure trove” effect. When I wrote in the past, Instagram was mostly (for me) a social platform where I followed my friends rather than creatives. It felt like I was missing out on a lot, I’m not sure, but it’s time to find out.
Why blog? Why not tweet, or post Instagram stories, or even TikTok videos?
Yes – videos are the key to engagement today, to build a following etc.. I spent my formative years in the blogging era, so it’s pretty nostalgia.
And I like to write, more than any other forms of media, to express my thoughts. That’s probably the only reason I need.
What will I feature?
Same as before – anything that inspires me or makes me marvel. And especially if it comes out from the need for expression than the need for crypto.
Yes, yes – artists are entrepreneurs too, and we all need to make a living. But that doesn’t mean we leave behind the human-side of creation. That is the side where I find the most interesting stories 😉