By inviting students to create and exhibit NFTs during a week of group work, the ENFTAD workshop (Digital and Futurist Exhibition of Decentralized Artistic Works), organized by the National School of Decorative Arts at the end of March, highlights a principle exploration of the blockchain as a collective artistic tool, in particular via the setting up, feeding and management of a website, a veritable virtual gallery of digital works and computerized artistic works. Practical and forward-looking work, thought out and developed by Olivain Porry, a doctoral student from the ensadlab laboratory, which is in line with the establishment’s Meridian Digital teaching axis.
The ENFTAD workshop proposes “to explore NFT technology from the angle of a dematerialized artistic practice, sometimes conceptual, but deeply rooted in communication networks”. What issues raised by NFTs led to the holding of such a workshop within the framework of the School?
Olivain Porry : NFTs are characterized by both their uniqueness and their immateriality. These two qualities, if they may seem antithetical, have contributed to their recent popularization and, even more, to their integration into the art market. If they look like financial assets, NFTs also seem to be virtual objects and an additional means of interactions on the blockchain. As virtual objects, they represent material that artists and designers can manipulate to produce aesthetic and conceptual experiences. As a programmatic element of a blockchain, they are a development tool. Making NFTs is indeed understanding the paradigm of the blockchain, interacting with it and with its multiple users. These are the dimensions that the ENFTAD workshop seeks to explore through practical experimentation. The concept of NFT is interesting in many respects: it questions the notions of value and materiality in artistic practice, proposes specific methods of creation and constitutes a lever to make creators aware of the concept of blockchain.
Concretely, how will this workshop look like?
OP : The workshop will take place throughout the week of March 28. It is open to any 2nd and 3rd year student, all sectors combined, wishing to discover the concepts of blockchain and NFT, and experiment around them. It is truly an experimental and artistic approach that we will conduct during the workshop. The place that hosts it, the Digital Crafts Laboratory (LAN) of the National School of Decorative Arts is also the evocative decor. The tools made available for the workshop cover a wide range of techniques. 3D modeling, electronics, computer programming are the heart of it, but the workshop is intended to be open to student practices. The realization of NFT does not necessarily imply programming, even if it invites to do so, and it is a question, during this workshop, of reflecting collectively and by practice on what the form of an NFT can be. Two times will mark its unfolding. A first day will be dedicated to the presentation of the various key concepts. On this occasion, Anthony Masure , who heads a research program on NFTs at HEAD Geneva, will speak to present the challenges of blockchain technologies in creation. After this theoretical part, accompanied by artistic, historical or contemporary elements, the second phase of the workshop will be dedicated to creation and confrontation with blockchain techniques.
As a network of computers making it possible to secure digitized data, the blockchain induces collective functioning around common interfaces. Can NFTs be a protector and therefore a facilitator of the creation of collective works in virtual worlds, if they make it possible, for example, to distribute and reward everyone’s contributions more equitably?
OP : During the workshop, students will be required to produce NFTs that they can make available on a website. More than a presentation and sales space, this website will be an educational tool and will allow students to familiarize themselves with the notion of interface in its relationship to NFTs. The workshop does not aim to set up an effective NFT marketplace, but rather to have a virtual hanging space. It is the very status of NFTs that we wish to question and explore. The use of NFT type tokens in a collective production process is one way in this direction, but it is not the only one.
Is this workshop part of a real long-term program, led by the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, around this specific question of NFT applied to creation and design ?
OP : Yes. As part of the School’s Meridian Digital teaching axis, of which Martin De Bie is the referent, a first collective exchange was programmed around blockchain by the Digital Crafts Laboratory. The workshop is the continuity and a first practical approach in the confrontation with NFTs and more generally with blockchain technology. As a technical object and in view of the many dimensions conveyed by NFTs, it is important for an establishment like the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs to take hold of these techniques to explore their artistic and symbolic potential.
Are NFTs a new technological tool for you, allowing you to rethink the entire design process and its uses thanks to the virtual?
OP : NFTs and the blockchain are still emerging technologies whose applications are evolving every day, but there is no doubt that there is strong potential beyond the purely financial dimension. Blockchain can be a powerful collaboration tool and the ability of NFTs to question notions of value, ownership and materiality still needs to be explored.