End of a month, time for some Field Notes. Let’s talk about this month’s global superhype, NFT’s, the importance of communities, and the group behind those crazy Nikes that people were angry about (amongst many other things) this week.

One. On the rise and fall -in, like, a week- of NFT’s.

So, first off, What’s an NFT? I’ve found quite a few people are still wondering what they are. Probably because blockchain technology can still be quite an abstract thing. If this is you, this Wall Street Journal video (5.39 mins) explains the concept of Non-Fungible Tokens in a very clear and concise way.

NFT’s, despite actually being not very new, gained immense popularity earlier this month in much the same way as BitCoin did a couple of years ago — by someone making a ridiculous amount of money from them, in a way that potentially could have also been you or me.

In this case this someone was Mike Winkelmann, also known as “Beeple”, an American digital artist and graphic designer selling his “The First 5000 days” digital collage artwork for 69.3 million USD through Christie’s. The buyer? A super-rich Blockchain entrepreneur, who made a shitload of virtual money, funding virtual currencies, buying a piece of art that also does not exist in physical form, launching lucky Beeple into the top three most valuable living artists. Welcome to a very real 2021. Intrigued? Read “How Beeple crashed the art world” why don’t you.

Also very 2021… of course a major buzzkill followed immediately. Because NFT’s come with very serious environmental issues. So here’s the article explaining those, and that made many other artists not actually join the NFT-craze yet until they’re solved. One day.

Two. On community, and why people need it.

Almost two years ago, I found an article by Jenny Anderson on Quartz, which made such an impression so that I still regularly think about and refer to it, and it probably even contributed to me and my family moving out of Amsterdam, to a small town near the Dutch coast in a couple of months. 

In the piece, Jenny explains how the sad passing of her brother made her realize a fast-paced life focused on optimizing time and personal opportunities may be really nice, but what it doesn’t automatically nor easily bring, is one of the most basic human needs; other people around you, who care for you and are there when you need them. I think a lack of human connection is a tear in the fabric of many modern cities that needs fixing to make people happier and cities more liveable. Which might not be easy. Like Jenny says; “Communities are built, like Legos, one brick at a time. There’s no hack.”

What this could do is something the short film “Fishcakes and Cocaine(26 mins, 2013), by filmmaker Alex Nevill shows in a great way. It features the wonderful eccentrics and artists living on Scoraig, an off-the-grid Scottish peninsula.

Three. On “MSCHF”.

The final part of this newsletter is all about MSCHF, “a counter-culture media/product brand, playing in a gray area that isn’t yet defined by traditional approaches”, as they explain themselves. MSCHF to me is probably the most interesting thing that happened to creative culture, fashion, and digital commerce in the last few years. 

Their weird and unruly approach to projects and products often plays with cultural phenomenons in ways that are obvious once you see them, but totally original at the same time. Look at for instance their recently released 34.000-76.000 USD Birkinstock’s, their Times Newer Roman font or Axe No. 5, “the most treasured brand in luxury fragrance meets the most reviled scent in locker rooms everywhere”. 

Brilliant. Although brands don’t always love what they do with their staples as much. This in itself is interesting, given that those same brands are often eager to work (on their terms) with edgy creatives to lend their cultural relevance, as much as possible.

This week, MSCHF launched their “Satan Shoes” a collaboration with rapper Lil’ Nas X. The shoe is an alteration of Nike’s Air Max 97, featuring several customizations, most noteworthy a drop of human blood mixed with red ink injected in the air sole unit. As one would expect, many people went crazy or didn’t get it, which was kind of the intention.

Unfortunately, Nike in the meantime showed its uncool side by suing the studio “to maintain control of its brand”. While the group’s Jesus shoes a while ago (infused with holy water) was no such issue apparently. While we await the outcome of the trial, find more on MSCHF in this article and stay tuned for their next drop — And mine 🙂

Smart people make sure to subscribe to our monthly “Field Notes”