We spoke to a handful of Malaysian artists who refuse to create NFTs, citing various issues with NFTs, from environmental impact to theft of artwork.
From there we saw some well-educated arguments that would make you think twice about diving into NFTs, but to get the other side of the story we also had to talk to pro-NFT artists for ask, “Why?”
After reaching out to a handful of Malaysian NFT artists, we found that while they are aware of the shortcomings of NFTs, they also have high hopes for change in the scene.
Reasons to support NFTs
Traditional art can be considered a niche industry, even elitist for many. Primarily intended for viewing in art galleries, artwork is limited to physical locations and opening hours, among other factors.
Arda Baha, who is interested in mixed media including 2D and 3D digital art, believes that NFT makes art more accessible.
Indeed, when art is minted as NFT in a publicly accessible market, boundaries are broken. 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,” said Firdausi, a digital artist who got into minting and selling NFTs during the MCO.
Illustrator, Riharu Harun, believes that NFTs empower artists because they eliminate the need for third parties like art galleries who typically take a 50% to 70% commission on artists’ sales.
“NFT values creatives in terms of pricing our work and collecting royalties from holder sales, which rarely happens in real life,” Arda added.
For Jem Kosmos, NFT appealed to her because it gives her creative freedom with her art.
“Before NFTs, I spent most of my creative career diluting my ideas according to the wishes of clients and employers,” she noted.
In the centralized world, it is difficult to break into new markets due to a lack of infrastructure. I had to depend on these middlemen to reach the public and this resulted in executive decisions beyond my control.
As a surgeon who dabbles in traditional art to de-stress, Dr. Jasma considers NFTs to be a revolution in the art world.
“It changes people’s perception towards art, the meaning of art itself and its value to the individual or the community,” she said.
An evolving space
While these artists are all for NFTs, that doesn’t mean they ignore their environmental controversies.
Dr. Jasma is knowledgeable about the large amounts of electricity needed to mint, resulting in massive carbon footprints. It refers to NFTs that are minted using the proof of work method of operation.
Proof of work is done by minors, which compete to create new blocks filled with processed transactions. The winner shares the new block with the rest of the network and earns freshly created ETH. The race is won by the computer that is able to solve a mathematical puzzle the fastest – this produces the cryptographic link between the current block and the previous block. Solving this puzzle is the “proof of work” work.
An NFT issued by the proof-of-work method can use up to 260 kilowatts per hour, which is 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 a power-efficient staking mechanism, which relegates crypto assets to the backing of the Binance network. “This reduces the financial cost to operate an NFT. Cheaper = more energy efficient,” added Dr Jasma.
As a creator, Arda decided to partner herself and her work with blockchains that reap less energy consumption from each transaction. Therefore, most of his work can be spotted on Tezos and the Binance Smart Chain (BSC).
The same can be said for Jem, who pointed out that many conversations surrounding the environmental effects of NFTs are intentionally one-sided, instilling fear and deterring newcomers to the NFT sphere as a whole.
“I believe there are worse things for the environment than the NFTs that have been standardized today,” Jem said, echoed by Firdausi.
Artists could all agree on how NFTs are still in their infancy at the moment. Thus, change is inevitable over time, given the scrutiny the industry currently faces as it evolves.
There’s no running away from technology
Due to divided opinions, there is some tension in the art community between those for and those against the pervasiveness of artistic NFTs.
Riharu explained that there are usually a lot of polarizing opinions in the art scene, and the NFT debate is no different.
Dr. Jasma agreed that NFTs are a moot point, especially for fine artists due to the existence of collectibles in NFTs.
“For traditional artists, their physical art is exclusive, a unique work of art where the painting technique used has taken years to master or discover,” she pointed out.
Therefore, they oppose the idea of NFTs, and some see it as selling an image or a JPEG. “However, the world is changing rapidly and so is the definition of art,” added Dr Jasma.
Instead of rejecting the technology, she hopes more artists will embrace it and see NFTs as an opportunity to bring fine art into the modern world.
When asked if these artists think NFTs are the way forward for society, especially when it comes to the subject of art, all of our respondents answered a resounding yes.
“The NFT world is vast, fast-paced and ever-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 celebrated immensely in NFT, where creatives have the freedom to go wild with their visions and aspirations in the community.
“Collaboratively, 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 about NFTs here.