The non-fungible token (NFT) craze has created unprecedented hype, even though digital arts have been popular for quite some time. But what are NFTs? Will they transform the art scene?
An NFT is a token that represents a currency like Bitcoin on the blockchain. However, while bitcoins can be fungible, meaning they can be exchanged for another cryptocurrency, NFTs are unique and cannot be replaced with something else. You can think of NFTs, which are part of the Ethereum blockchain, as a unique proof of ownership over something you can’t usually hold in your hands, like a piece of digital art or a music video. They basically show that this work is a one-of-a-kind digital asset that belongs only to you.
In short, popularized in both the financial and artistic worlds, an NFT is a unique identifier that can prove ownership of digital products. Some people, including Turkish multimedia artist Refik Anadol, see them as a reaction to those who don’t see digital art as a true art form, while others treat them as if they were an evolution of the art collection, only with digital art. As the latest cryptocurrency phenomenon becomes increasingly popular, artists have even used it to support Ukraine against the Russian invasion in terms of military and humanitarian aid.
Akbank Sanat, one of Istanbul’s pioneering art centers, has prepared a comprehensive exhibition centered on the topics occupying the art world today. “Now in Digital Art: Alternate Realities + NFT” naturally spotlights media art and NFTs in the Akbank Sanat building, which looks artistic from the outside and has a heartfelt atmosphere inside, in the busy street of Istiklal.
The exhibition was actually launched after the digital art lecture series that Akbank Sanat launched on his YouTube channel in 2020. The lecture series, which welcomes artists who work, think and produce in the field of digital arts, offers an overview of their artistic journeys, sources of inspiration, works, new subjects that fascinate them, current projects, suggestions for young artists and developments that await the art world. Literally taking a snapshot of the moment in the art world, the lecture series expands this year with the exhibition “Now in Digital Art: Alternate Realities + NFT”.
Curated by Zeynep Arınç, the exhibition aims to create an exciting space for art lovers while showcasing works that revolve around creative thoughts and practices focused on technology and society as well as topics that occupy the world. of today’s art. It brings together pieces by artists working on visual arts, sound art, the representation of complex data, augmented reality and immersive environments using digital technologies.
After receiving a warm welcome from Arınç during my visit to the exhibition, I curiously started looking around to check what awaited me in this experience. The first section visitors see is a series of NFTs. The colorful NFTs, featuring digital animations, drawings, and illustrations, are so engaging and flamboyant that I was mesmerized for a second in front of them, totally forgetting why I was in the middle of my fascination. While Juki’s “Venus is Here” orange hues caught my attention in a second as they were colored with my favorite bright tones, Selin Çınar’s “Mursi Tribe” illustration came to my rescue after I started looking for a job to neutralize the shock in my eyes with its all blackness. Although the show deals with NFT issues with an objective approach in this section, it surely aims to delve deeper into the subject from different perspectives and artistic views. Associate Professor Selçuk Artut served as a conservation consultant to this section.
After the NFTs, two different works take visitors to different worlds. The first is “Yarattığımız Rüzgarlar” (“Gusts We Create”) by Osman Koç, which offers an interactive experience using software. As you move, you can see the effects of your movements on a screen. Thinking that we have recently focused on how we impact the space around us beyond the pandemic, Koç aims to highlight how we affect the space we share and stresses that this moment is temporary, just like the wind. The other work is “Öz yaratım: Birlikte Oluşmanın Katmanları” (“Selfmaking: Layers of Becoming with”) by Yağmur Uyanık. It consists of a 3D printed sandstone sculpture of a hybrid character created as a result of combining digital models of two original sculptures. at the British Museum. The sculpture interrogates how personal narratives and collective memory are shaped through cultural assets, the cultural value and symbolic meanings inherent in them. The material of the work, sandstone, is a fragile material and implies the concept of temporality.
The exhibition continues with the digital works on the second floor. In addition to taking care of the curation of NFTs, Artut also contributes to their selection with his “Assemblage”. Generative art created with custom software combines traditional patterns with digital art. Another artist who mixes the traditional and the modern in the exhibition is Ecem Dilan Köse. Two shots of the artist’s “Cryptomarble” videos bring the fascinating colors of marble art through media.
While Can Büyükberber’s audio-visual installation “Primordiyal Kuvvet” (“Primordial Force”) presents visitors with ravishing scenes, mixing splashes of water with human facial shapes, Candan Şişman’s installation “Olasılık Örüntüleri V2” ( “Patterns of Possibilities V2”) questions the possibilities – as the title of the work suggests – with random dice rolls on a black stage.
There are other works to discover by aliottoman (Nura Aliosman), Alp Tuğan, Burak Beceren, Burak Şentürk, Dist Collective, Dolce Paganne, Elif Varol Ergen, Haydiroket, Kien, Kübra Su Yıldırım, Mekazoo (Derin Çiler), Mert Tugen, Ozan Türkkan, Tolga Tarhan, VAMK (Uçman Balaban) and Yiğit Yerlikaya at the exhibition.
“Now in Digital Art: Alternate Realities + NFT” is surely a show that enthusiasts should experience for themselves. With this exhibition, Akbank Sanat, which highlights young artists and supports the development of art in all its exhibitions, expects new members, visionaries and thinkers from the art world. The salon will remain open until May 7.