The Cologne artist and curator Thomas Zitzwitz collects and experiments with NFTs. My connection to him came about through the most recent project undertaken by Roland Schappert at the David Behning Gallery. However, his involvement with NFTs was first brought to my attention by chance via twitter. And, as I am – how would people put it nowadays – quite bullish at the moment as far as NFTs are concerned, my curiosity was aroused and I wanted to know more. Thankfully, Thomas found the time to answer a few of my questions.
fk: I saw via twitter that you are involved with NFTs, both as a collector and as a producer. Is that right and why does the subject of NFTs interest you in general?
tz: I am sure that the hype around NFTs has a lot to do with the coronavirus pandemic. At present, the possibilities to see original art are extremely limited. All we are left with are online viewing rooms of galleries, fairs, museums, Instagram, etc. and an almost endless number of PDFs that flatter into our email boxes every day. Even as die-hard art enthusiasts, be it as collectors or artists, we soon become tired of it all.
As an artist, I have always been interested in new trends in contemporary art. I started in 1992 in the foundation semester with a course of studies in Media Arts at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe. Early on, I became interested in new forms in art, as an artist in particular in video and sound installations, as well as a new form that I have called Situation with Smell.
When I look at artworks shown on platforms hicetnunc.xyz, foundation.app, makersplace.com or superrare.co (to name just some of these ‘exhibition sites’), they are stored per certificate in a blockchain as NFTs. That means that I look at the original artwork on my computer screen, even if I am sitting on my own sofa because of a lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic and I am not able to go to museums, galleries and art clubs. That has its own particular appeal for me, as I am not looking at the copy, the photo or documentation of a painting, sculpture, installation or film but at the original.
At the same time, I don’t deny that only a few NFT artworks really engage or inspire me. But there certainly are some, and the discovery of just one such work sometimes makes clicking at breakneck speed through hundreds, even thousands of works worthwhile. But I also believe that, when we have overcome the pandemic, and we can once again visit exhibitions, biennales and fairs, the fascination for NFT artworks will diminish. Although it will definitely not disappear.
fk: More than a few artists have currently been engaged in a polemical debate regarding NFTs. They tend to describe them as turbocapitalistic, meaningless objects of pure speculation, in which the worst of art is brought together. How do you perceive the situation at the moment?
tz: I can understand the criticism because there is a lot of speculation in play in the domain of NFTs. This is further reinforced by the crazy exchange-rate fluctuations of cryptocurrencies. On the other hand, there is also a lot of speculation in the so-called traditional art world; I would just like to remind you of the bubble of Zombie Formalism named after Jerry Saltz in abstract painting.
Personally, I have so far found only a few big-ticket items stored as NFT artworks that really interest me. To tell the truth, none at all. At the moment, the works that interest me as a collector are absurdly good value for money compared to the average price of a work negotiated at an Art Basel fair. But, of course, this can change very quickly. As artists, we don’t generally have any say in the matter and are often the victims of these speculation bubbles. Actually, I don’t really see much difference here between the NFT and traditional art scenes, except that the first is still in its infancy and is probably surrounded by a kind of initial hype.
I consider criticism of NFT art, in particular in relation to environmental protection, to be justified. For example, the production of one single NFT on the Ethereum blockchain consumes a lot of energy. However, there are ways to minimize this consumption of energy, such as ‘minting’ on the Tezos blockchain for the hicetnunc.xyz platform.
fk: What are currently your favorite pieces and who are they by?
tz: On the one hand, I am especially interested in artworks that live up to the specific possibilities open to NFT art. These are works that have so far been classified as media, Internet and video art that I can actually experience as an original on the screen. The possibilities here have not as yet been exhausted, and, every day, I discover new works and ideas that explore these possibilities. Also exciting, interactive ideas. On the other hand, I am interested in digital artworks from the last 20-30 years that appear on current platforms but that were difficult to receive in the past because the forums for this were missing or they led a shadowy existence.
fk: How and where do you find inspiring new NFTs?
tz: To start with, it took me a while to wade through the jungle of different blockchains and platforms, and I was disappointed when I didn’t find anything interesting. But, little by little, I found artists that play an active role on this scene who really inspire me. As artists, we usually collect works by others, too, and so it came to be that, making hand-over-hand progress, I quickly gained insight into exciting worlds. In the process, I have also been able to access areas that I would rarely see in museums and galleries, areas from the Illustration or animated artwork GIFs, Stop Motion, glitch art, art based on video games, you name it… even works by artists from areas around the world that only rarely appear in our western art canon.
fk: You also produce NFTs yourself, what are you currently working on?
tz: During the pandemic I have developed a passion above all for painting in watercolors. Many of my scheduled exhibitions and fair participations were cancelled, so I didn’t see any point in painting large-scale works that would fill up my studio in Cologne. Working in watercolors has something refreshing, something light and satisfying about it … If necessary, during lockdowns, I could also work from home, in the open air or wherever I got stranded due to travel restrictions. And it was a challenge to paint something in this classic medium with a raison d’être in today’s world.
Concurrently, the time I spent every evening in front of my MacBook also increased. This is when I developed my mania for NFTs, and it captivated me … At first I only consumed, bought and collected NFTs until I dared to make my own first attempts … I wanted to do something new and not use my earlier media works to start with. So I calculated so-called Julia sets from my latest watercolors, which I then placed, in a small edition as a symbolic contribution to some Tezos, on the platform hicetnunc.xyz, which appeared to be the most environment-friendly and also most interesting artistically from my perspective. They were sold in no time and, interestingly, I was introduced again to collectors who were enthusiastic about my paintings … But, more importantly, I was able to exchange ideas and information with other artists working in this area, also thanks to the new Clubhouse phenomenon and twitter renaissance …
fk: Many thanks for talking to me and the insights gained as a result.
Note from the digital3mpire: In order to acquire one of the works mentioned on platform hicetnunc.xyz you need a Tezos-supported wallet for your cryptocurrency, in this case also Tezos (the trading symbol is XTZ). You can acquire these currencies on platforms such as crypto.com or coinbase.com in exchange for Fiat currency (Euros, Dollars). There are wallets available, on the one hand, in the form of browser extensions, for example on templewallet.com or walletspire.com, and, on the other, as desktop applications, such as https://cryptonomic.tech/galleon.html. Please don’t forget: Whatever you do is naturally at your own risk.
Linkt to Thomas Zitzwitz NFTs and his collection at https://www.hicetnunc.xyz/