NFT Review #1: Cyberpunks and Pioneers

Interview with a RMRK pioneer, an in-development RMRK explorer and wallet, a *yuge* NFT competition announced, pending website launch, and the beginning of some interesting NFT stats.

NFT Review is a weekly newsletter covering NFTs in the Web3 ecosystem on Polkadot’s side of the woods. The newsletter is put together by Bruno Škvorc, technical educator at the Web3 Foundation.

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Looking for a primer on NFTs? This should be the last introduction you’ll ever need.

Pending Website Launch

We’re launching the front-end of nft.review soon - the website will hold some NFT stats and feature posts from maintainers of this newsletter and authors, tool builders, and others in the ecosystem. If you’re one of the Polkadot ecosystem NFT enthusiasts, get in touch, let’s write something up!

Interview with obxium

It’s only fitting to start the first issue of NFT Review with a chat with obxium, the first artist to use RMRK for production-level NFTs. Fun fact, three of his NFTs have been sold for a total of 15 KSM (~525 USD value).

N: NFT Review, O: obxium

N: Hey, thanks for joining us! Let’s dive right in! Tell us a bit about yourself - what’s your non-blockchain persona’s history, what’s your origin story?

O: I am an artist & aeronautical engineer. So you might say that I am an artist who does rocket science in their spare time.

N: What's your blockchain background, how did you end up in this space?

O: I am a sceptic of the blockchain as a data structure panacea & constantly curious to determine what it actually can be useful for in an artistic sense. I started examining the blockchain as someone who simply did not care for the hype. I received a little over 2 BTC in 2010, but didn't really care. I lost the floppy disk the wallet was on. Didn't care. It's worth like 50 grand right now. I don't care. I am interested in the monetary aspect only vaguely, as in I have made commissioned artwork about specific kinds of historical currency, but that is as far as I go when it comes to caring about monetary functions. I joined the blockchain circus to help move it into a viable artistic outlet for people all over the world to create & share art. Art for the common person is my blockchain background.

N: How did you end up deploying your NFTs on Kusama, what drew you to it? Was it the freshness of the ecosystem and the potential to establish a brand foothold in a new environment, the cyberpunk branding, the experimental nature of RMRK, or something else entirely?

O: All of the above! It's clear that the future will involve multiple blockchains which all must interoperate & I have always took that pragmatic view, too. Maximalism in this new space is quite ridiculous, so it was refreshing to start looking at the Ethereum 2 alternatives & discover the Kusama & Polkadot ecosystems. It was even more refreshing to discover that these chains aim to connect other chains and facilitate that interoperation. I am a forward looking technologist who can typically identify great concepts & implementations from the outset, and Kusama impressed me with only a little regular usage. I have been making cryptoart for over 3 years now, so I already knew I needed NFTs. Being that I communicate occasionally about awesome stuff with the artist Jessica Angel, I found out that Kusama was going to have an NFT strategy soon. I discovered RMRK as part of that initial research. I started my cryptoart journey on Bitcoin with Counterparty/XCP and it was a graffiti for Bitcoin in a similar way that RMRK is graffiti for Kusama, so there was an instant attraction to the RMRK project for me.

N: What's your tool stack - hardware (analog and digital-enabled) and software?

O: I use mostly commercial off-the-shelf hardware, with some specialized gear that I am assembling for new AR work. I have used some kind of UNIX for a long time, so I use Linux and macOS based computers for all of my work. In terms of software, I use some legacy tools like NodeBox 1 in a custom macOS environment for procedural texture generation & other generative art experiments. I use NodeBox 3 also, and then a standard set of Adobe tools & numerous other supporting utilities. My pipeline is often ad-hoc and spur of the moment. I do not make my art with a factory like process or precision, because I was deeply moved by Margaret Kilgallen's philosophy that the imperfections in art signal its human origin & are therefore the essence of art. I took this heart early on & I strive to make my art look less perfect even though the tools I use allow for precision. I also own operational NeXT hardware & software from the early 90s & I have actually made cryptoart with these systems, too. I'm always experimenting with new tools as well.

N: Where would you like to see Kusama's NFT ecosystem go?

O: ROCKET EMOJI, MOON EMOJI! In all seriousness, I'd like to see it reach and eclipse the usefulness offered by Ethereum based NFTs & prove that it is the future of NFT platforms. This can be done through a number of properties which make Kusama succeed something like Ethereum. For one, faster transactions with lower fees are already huge differentiator & pleasant property for NFT platforms as they open up better experiences in gaming & other areas where things need to be swapped cheaply & swiftly. For art, the killer app right now is on-chain data. My understanding is that a Kusama block can potentially hold about 5MB & that is a big win over what can be done on Ethereum already. I just minted a nice SVG based artwork with 5KB of on-chain data representing the art media. This is not something easily doable on the legacy platforms like Ethereum. All this said, the tech is great, but community is king! Good communities will take the tech & make it thrive! I think it's excellent that you are already getting into the community aspect by doing this & the other newsletters, so thank you for your part in growing the community as well. I am confident that Kusama has what it takes to be a next generation cryptoart platform & am excited to see what comes out of it soon!

N: What are your biggest gripes with NFTs on blockchain right now? What just doesn't work, but should?

O: The on-chain data again is huge. It's sad on most other chains as it is a reflection of the inherent computer science challenges posed by slinging around large data in distributed systems, but I wonder if there will be custom parachains with even larger blocks that feature massive on-chain art media, but I digress. The biggest problem with Ethereum NFTs is the outrageous gas price needed to deal with them. I think this is largely solved with Kusama so that is nice. There is actually a lot of fraud going on in the space too, with unscrupulous persons taking art from others & minting it as their own. I think Kusama provides a nice way to maybe provide remediation of these kinds of events through the council, voting, slashing & reclaiming ill-gotten gains & so on. That would be nice to help legitimize the space, remove the wild west feel, and bring in more conservative and risk-averse collectors.

N: What inspires you?

O: I am inspired by those close to me, my loved ones & all of the wonderful people I have met in this space over the years. We truly have the potential to make a new art world that is inclusive, available to the common person, and built on amazing decentralized & permissionless technologies, which are in turn created and maintained by equally awesome folks. I'm constantly excited and inspired by the next generation, the young people and their fight to make a future that works. The art I make and share is all part of that fight and I am here for it. Every day.

N: What's your most out-there idea of what you'd like to see NFTs evolve into? On any chain in any way.

O: I am creating it now. An NFT will eventually encompass an entire business, concept, or project, including all of its supporting identity, assets, credentials, etc. You'll be able to soon build a turn-key web 3 business, like a pop-up, a headless brand, a decentralized autonomous organization, whatever- and tokenize the entire thing as a package deal to sell in a single transaction. I'm going to be offering art based on this notion with two massive undertakings this year, so stay tuned!

N: Thanks, looking forward to seeing what you come up with next!

🔧 NFT Tooling

KodaDot’s UI

KodaDot started a discussion about their NFT wallet/explorer on Polkassembly. They are defaulting to RMRK right now as the only NFT solution on Kusama, but plan to expand this to other NFT implementations as they’re developed. A writeup of their road so far is published on Medium.

Native NFTs on Kusama

As you might know, there’s an evolving NFT strategy for Kusama Network. The plan right now is as follows:

  • finish and use RMRK.app

  • implement ORML NFT pallet in Kusama Network’s relay chain for base-layer NFT primitives

  • implement a new Gallery pallet which will allow listing, displaying, and possibly trading of NFTs created with ORML NFT pallet. At this point, RMRK NFTs can be fully ported into the native solution.

  • implement multiple UIs around all this, notably by KodaDot (see above) and EverDreamSoft (see strategy document).

It’s never been a better time to get in on the ground floor of something amazing - if you or someone you know is artistic, have them prepare some digital art for deployment via next week’s RMRK tools release!

🍸 NFT Events

Virtual Niche

"Virtual Niche" - The World's First Crypto Art Exhibition with Kusama Network is the title of a new discussion on Polkassembly, aiming to finance the creation and promotion of a big NFT competition and subsequent exhibition of the winning artwork in UCCA Labs Beijing and Shanghai’s JinArt Gallery.

The plan is to use this opportunity as a grand opening of Kusama’s art gallery - a special pallet that’s being developed to work in tandem with ORML’s NFT pallet (see NFT Tooling above).

📈📊 NFT Activity and Stats

RMRK stats from RMRK Genesis:

  • 7 NFTs created by 3 artists of which 3 were sold by a single artist.

  • Total trading volume on NFTs since genesis: 15 KSM (womp womp! We’ll get there :) )

Unique Network stats:


That’s all for this week, see you in the next edition! Got some links to share with me, artists to feature, NFTs to sell, jobs to promote, or events to popularize? Get in touch!