Digital Art on the Blockchain

New Course
Intersession 2022

— NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have exploded into popular culture in the last year as a way to buy and sell digital assets using cryptocurrency. The digital artist Beeple, in likely the highest-profile example to date, sold a mosaic of images from his long-running Everydays series for $69 million, while NBA Top Shot has released thousands of collectible basketball highlights generating over half a billion dollars. Met at once with skepticism as an overhyped bubble waiting to burst and acclaim as a revolutionary shift in finance and the art market, NFTs raise a number of questions about the future of digital objects and networks—and about the cultures that daily interact with these objects and networks. This course introduces students to the phenomenon of NFTs with a two-pronged approach of discussing cryptocurrency as a cultural technology and minting their own digital artworks on the blockchain. We will cover how various distributed ledgers operate, how digital coins circulate, and what the difference is between digital coins and NFTs. We will have conversations with digital artists in the NFT market and discuss how these new assets disrupt traditional hierarchies and open possibilities for underrepresented creators to take control of their work. Students will also have the opportunity to mint their own NFTs, with workshops to help even nonartists generate an artwork and all digital coins fully provided with course registration. The course is co-taught by Jimmy Joe Roche, a multimedia artist with work in NFTs, and Kyle Stine, a cultural historian with research in new media and internet art.