We’ve spoken to a handful of Malaysian artists who refuse to create NFTs, citing various issues with NFTs from environmental impact to art theft.
From there, we saw some well-educated arguments that would make one think twice before diving into NFTs, but to get the other side of the story, we also had to speak to artists in support of NFTs to ask, “Why?”
After reaching out to a handful of Malaysian NFT artists, we found that while they are aware of NFTs’ shortcomings, they also have high hopes for change in the scene.
Reasons behind supporting NFTs
Traditional art can be seen as a niche, even elitist industry to many. Mostly to be viewed in art galleries, artworks are limited to physical locations and opening times, among other factors.
Arda Baha, who dabbles in mixed mediums including 2D and 3D digital art, is of the opinion that NFT makes art more accessible.
This is because when art is minted as NFTs on a publicly accessed marketplace, borders are broken down. Not to mention, it opens up more opportunities for artists to break out of the “starving artist” stereotype.
“The rarer your art, the higher the interest from buyers or collectors in global markets,” stated Firdausi, a digital artist who got into minting and selling NFTs during the MCO.
Illustrator, Riharu Harun, believes that NFTs are empowering to artists, as it negates the need for third parties like art galleries which typically take a 50% to 70% commission on the artists’ sale.
“NFT values creatives in terms of setting the price of our work and gaining royalty from holders’ sales which rarely ever happens in real life,” added Arda.
For Jem Kosmos, NFTs appealed to her because it gives her creative freedom with her art.
“Before NFTs, I spent most of my creative career diluting my ideas at the wishes of clients and employers,” she noted.
In the centralised world, it is difficult to breach new markets due to a lack of infrastructure. I had to depend on these intermediary agents to reach audiences and it resulted in executive decisions beyond my control.
As a surgeon dabbling in traditional art to destress, Dr. Jasma sees NFTs as a revolution in the art world.
“It changes people’s perception towards art, the meaning of art itself, and its value towards the individual or community,” she said.
An evolving space
While these artists are all for NFTs, that’s not to say that they’re ignorant of their environmental controversies.
Dr. Jasma is well-read on the large amounts of electricity required for minting, leading to massive carbon footprints. She’s referencing the NFTs that are minted using the proof-of-work operating method.
Proof-of-work is done by miners, who compete to create new blocks full of processed transactions. The winner shares the new block with the rest of the network and earns some freshly minted ETH. The race is won by the computer which is able to solve a math puzzle fastest—this produces the cryptographic link between the current block and the block that went before. Solving this puzzle is the work in “proof-of-work”.
One NFT minted through the proof-of-work method can use up to 260 kilowatts per hour, equivalent to nine days of electricity consumption for a household.
However, the technology has improved and some platforms are now turning to more energy-efficient alternatives, such as the proof-of-stake protocol.
It is an energy-efficient mechanism by staking, which relegates the crypto assets to support the Binance network. “This reduces the financial cost to mine an NFT. Lower cost = more energy efficient,” Dr. Jasma added.
As a creator, Arda has decided to associate herself and her work with blockchains that harvest less energy consumption through each transaction. Therefore, most of her work can be spotted on Tezos and the Binance Smart Chain (BSC).
The same can be said for Jem, who pointed out that a lot of the conversations surrounding NFTs’ environmental effects are intentionally one-sided, instilling fear and deterring newcomers from the NFT sphere as a whole.
“I believe that there are worse things for the environment than NFTs that have been normalised today,” stated Jem, which Firdausi echoed.
The artists could all agree on how NFTs are still in their nascent stages at the moment. Thus, change is bound to happen over time, given how much scrutiny the industry is currently facing as it evolves.
There’s no running away from the technology
Due to split opinions, there is some tension in the art community between those for and against the ubiquity of art NFTs.
Riharu addressed that there are generally plenty of polarising views in the art scene, and the debate about NFTs is no different.
Dr. Jasma agreed that NFTs are a debatable topic, especially for fine artists because of the existence of collectables in NFT.
“For traditional artists, their physical art is exclusive, a one-and-only piece of art where the painting technique used took years to master or discover,” she pointed out.
Hence, they oppose the idea of NFTs, and some see it as selling a picture or a JPEG. “However, the world is moving fast and so is the definition of art,” Dr. Jasma added.
Instead of refusing the technology, she hopes more artists would become accepting of it and see NFTs as an opportunity to introduce fine art to the modern world.
When asked whether these artists believe that NFTs are the way forward for society, especially when it comes to the subject of art, all of our interviewees replied with a resounding yes.
“The NFT world is vast, fast-paced, and constantly expanding. There is so much more to discover, from art to virtual events, staking, farming, real estate, metaverse games, AR, VR, etc,” Arda explained.
She also believes that art is immensely celebrated in NFT, where creatives are given the freedom to go wild with their visions and aspirations in the community.
“Collaboratively speaking, it can spark a movement that has the potential to create an impact on society with art because of its endless possibilities,” Arda envisioned.
- Read more articles we’ve written on NFTs here.