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Malaysian artists earn freedom to be creative with NFTs | Arts and Culture News

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — Life-sized murals, quirky installations, all colors on canvas: Before the COVID-19 Pandemic closed its art and performance space in March 2020, with the Malaysian cities of Kuala Lumpur and Georgetown Art Festival. The gallery provides a lifeline and inspiration for national artists.

However, the turmoil of the last two decades has forced many to move out of the comfort zone, struggling to survive as full-time “physical” artists.

Some have set foot in a new world Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrencies..

NFTs are unique digital assets designed to represent ownership of virtual items. Unlike Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, NFTs cannot be exchanged like other NFTs, making them rare and increasing their value.

This concept has been fully applied to the collection of artwork and has begun to drive an unprecedented trend in digital consumerism. In March, American digital artist Mike Winklemann, known as Beeple, sold his NFT work on Everyday: The First 5000 Days for an astonishing $ 69 million. Christie’s, a well-known British auction house.

In Malaysia, the idea of ​​NFT art was nurtured as a fun pastime for graduates of design, multimedia, engineering and architecture. It was popularized by Philamen, a collection of interdisciplinary digital creatives based in Kuala Lumpur, and in April 2021 at the Digital Art Gallery in Physical Space on the University of Malaya campus, Seni Kripto (in Malay). “Cryptoart”) Exhibition has been launched.

Katun’s Garden of Bloom, one of his most successful NFT works [Image courtesy of Katun]

The Malaysian art scene quickly realized the potential of NFTs and launched its first crypto art week in July, creating the first local NFT marketplace, It has already acquired millions of Malaysian Ringgit-equivalent cryptocurrencies to local artists.

New concept of art

“Malaysian NFTs have grown significantly last year,” Mumu of Malaysian NFT Stan AKA Munira Hamzah (Monday) told Al Jazeera. This new non-profit organization and digital gallery will support and fund Malaysian artists in the NFT scene and provide teaching materials and peer support to empower and uplift Malaysian art in the global scene.

“Earlier this year, on the other hand, we could have counted the number of Malaysian artists who are actively casting and selling NFTs. That number has steadily increased to hundreds in a few months, It’s probably in the thousands now, “Moon said.

NFT artwork by Malaysian artists spans 3D animations, internet memes and illustrations inspired by the multiethnic cultures of Southeast Asian countries.

According to Moon, the growth of the NFT scene has changed the way Malaysian artists traditionally make a living. From the commissioned artwork, “We provide new confidence and a source of income that depends on what the artist wants, not on the client’s demands. To achieve it personally and creatively.”

For some of them, NFTs have regained joy in art.

“It gives me the opportunity to expand and display my creativity. [my work] We will track copyright ownership and keep records of creation, as I wish, “Penang-based artist Kenny Ng told Al Jazeera.

For others, NFTs have given them a concrete opportunity to make tremendous profits with Ether. This is a cryptocurrency that is a major asset of. Ethereum, A decentralized open source blockchain with smart contract capabilities where NFTs are traded.

At the beginning of September, Kuala Lumpur-based graffiti artist Abdul Hafiz Abdul Rahman KatunBecame talked about selling two of his NFT collections for 127.6 ETH within 24 hours. That’s equivalent to 1.6 million ringgit ($ 400,000). This was the most expensive batch of NFTs sold by Malaysian artists in a single release.

“Since cryptography grows exponentially every day, it’s very clear that the money earned can really make a difference to Southeast Asian artists if done properly,” Katun told Al Jazeera. ..

But while NFTs sound like gambling scams, they are growing into a more progressive and useful community, at least in Malaysia. For example, Katun founded 4Stages, a digital platform aimed at bringing together Southeast Asian artists.

“There are a lot of talented artists here and there is not enough exposure to other parts of the world,” Katun told Al Jazeera that the rapid growth and global spread of NFTs is the presence of Malaysian artists. He added that it is the key to driving both financial benefits. It goes far beyond the geographical and economic constraints of the country’s small physical art market.

Skeleton in the closet

The benefits offered by the use of NFTs and cryptocurrencies are evident in the artist-rich developing regions, but with limited art space and freedom of expression.

However, the catch is that these digital artworks are paid in cryptocurrencies.Cryptocurrency mining is the most reported Carbon polluted companies In today’s world.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk enjoys plans to sell DOGE coins to fund spaceflight Memebank’s Doge to the Moon print [Marco Ferrarese/Al Jazeera]

In other words, many of the websites that help artists such as the popular OpenSea sell NFT artwork are based on the Ethereum blockchain, which is extremely environmentally burdensome in design.

According to a study by digital artist Memo Akten published on the website, “Selling a single version of the artwork on Ethereum will start with about 100 KgCO2 of carbon dioxide emissions. This is an hour’s flight. Is equivalent to. “

“I was hesitant at first, but then I did a lot of research and talked to a lot of people, especially technicians who really understand blockchain. After that, my view changed.” Kuala Lumpur-based artist Red Hong Yi, Known as Red, told Al Jazeera.

Originally from Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Borneo, Red has established an international position by creating portraits of Chinese celebrities such as: Ai Weiwei Jackie Chan noticed everything from used tea bags to chopsticks, eggshells, and sock bundles.

Her striking work, Climate is Everything, is the result of creating and burning a world map created by pasting 50,000 green matches on a whiteboard.

Against this background, few even Red wanted to challenge NFT technology, but they made their debut at Doge to the Moon earlier this year. The Doge-1 satellite is a completely DOGE coin, a fictitious cryptocurrency whose mascot is the Shiba Inu.

Doge to the Moon was cast and auctioned at the Binance NFT Marketplace for two weeks. The highest bid was 36.3 ETH (about 320,000 Malaysian ringgit ($ 75,500)). With this sale, Red co-sponsored 1000 Tiny Artworks. 100 Malaysian artists to be held in Kuala Lumpur from December 17th to 19th.

Doge to the Moon is also part of Red’s latest NFT project, Memebank. This is a spoofing central bank with six banknotes inspired by the Chinese yuan, US dollar, Japanese yen, British pound, Singapore dollar and Malaysian ringgit. “How did economists warn about the dangers of inflation as the central bank continuously prints money,” Red told Al Jazeera.

Unlike most other NFT projects, Memebank is more than just a digital product. Each buyer gets a 1/1 canvas print of the artwork and a physical copper plate of the selected banknotes so they can print as much as they want.

Reduce carbon content

The reason for believing in NFT art is that this digital space is advancing rapidly, creating new energy-intensive blockchains like Tezos that run on systems called “Proof of Stakes” (Pos). is. To significantly reduce the current carbon effect of NFTs. “”[Tezos] It’s basically the same as using a PC on a daily basis (stake node), “says Katun.

Kuala Lumpur-based artists Katun and Ape Standstrong, one of the two NFTs that brought him a fortune [Image courtesy of Katun]

“Even if the plane has carbon dioxide emissions, people will not stop flying to solve the problem of time and distance. Blockchain, a technology that supports cryptocurrencies and NFTs, provides transparency. It does not require an intermediary during the transaction to solve the trust problem by providing it. It returns control to the majority. The current system is in the hands of a small number of people, “said Kuala Lumpur. Ivy Fung, a defender and trainer of the Sabahan blockchain based, told Al Jazira.

“Many researchers [ways of] It reduces energy consumption and some are already implemented. For example, it is built on a stake that promises trust, using Pos, a more energy-efficient mechanism, rather than the energy-intensive computing power. “

What remains uncertain is whether NFT art can distinguish itself after the novelty has been exhausted. After all, the rules of success are in many ways similar to the traditional path of art gallery exhibitions, and it’s hard to crack the collector’s market.

“It’s like a new NFT is created and uploaded every minute,” Kenny Ng told Al Jazeera. “”[Success still] It really depends on the artist’s own efforts to self-promote and become visible. “


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