Kochi’s first NFT art show is a showcase of some of India’s renowned NFT artists’ works

Fuelled by the spirit of WAGMI, an edgy NFT art showcase in Biennale City disrupts the perception of art and how it should be viewed

Updated - July 01, 2022 06:39 pm IST

Published - July 01, 2022 05:16 pm IST

From Myths and Memes, an NFT art show in Kochi  

From Myths and Memes, an NFT art show in Kochi   | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

A row of vertically positioned televisions, some with attached headphones, serve as digital frames that ‘play’ artworks in a loop at Cafe Papaya. Themed ‘Myths and Memes’, the show curated by artist Vimal Chandran, is Kochi’s first NFT art showcase. Put together by 101 India NFT Creators Project, the exhibit features the works of 14 NFT artists. 101 India is a digital content platform that tells little-known stories from the country. 

“I have put together the works of the best artists in the NFT scene from India. I have integrated artists and works across genres, practices and age groups. For instance, there is Ajay Menon, a photographer, actor Rima Kallingal, Satish Acharya, an editorial cartoonist, and graphic artist Prasad Bhat,” says Vimal, who is also showing his works from his ‘Folk Sci-Fi’ series. Most of the participating artists have been part of the NFT scene since the get-go. 

Ajay Menon had been toying with the idea of cinematography-related NFT projects and discussing it with Vimal, who was already a part of the NFT art scene, when he met Jaideep Singh, founder of OffBeet Media Company, of which 101 India is a part, and the 101 India NFT Creators Project took shape over several conversations.    

One of Vimal Chandran’s works at the show

One of Vimal Chandran’s works at the show | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Since 101 India stories are rooted in India, and myths abound in the country it was an inevitable choice. Though not all works stick to it in the strict definition of myths, it is more each individual artist’s take where the modern melds with myth to create contemporary mythology. 

“The impact of the meme culture on the crypto-world is huge; the aesthetic is different and related to crypto-memes. A meme communicates in ways irrespective of the language barrier; for instance ‘Trollface’ is familiar across the world and people know what it communicates. Memes are the new Mona Lisa! NFT Art has limitless possibilities, boundaries will disappear and the best part? The creator can protect the authenticity of each work especially since memes tend to be anonymous. Artists in VFX and animation now have an identity,” Vimal says. With Sotheby’s and Christie’s conducting NFT auctions, he says, NFT art is here to stay.  

Rima Kallingal in ‘Neythe’

Rima Kallingal in ‘Neythe’ | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Locating the show in Kochi was deliberate, says Jaideep. More than it being the Biennale city, it was “the large, active community of NFT artists in and from Kerala” that led the show being held in the city he says, adding, “The nature of art shows will change, art gets more immersive especially when augmented reality comes into play…the potential of the metaverse is limitless.”

Reshidev RK’s art work

Reshidev RK’s art work | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Plans include creating content around the art and artists, “not preachy but interesting where artists would speak about their art to engage with the audience,” he adds. The content will be uploaded on 101 India’s socials and YouTube channel. This is the first in a series of shows he plans across the country, “four shows monthly, one every week in a new city and take it abroad too.” 

The show is a disruptor that pushes boundaries while altering the perception/expectation from/of what an art show should be. As opposed to work hung on walls or installations, ‘watching’ art becomes a dive into the work as with Varun Desai’s artworks and Jibin Joseph’s generative, ‘cyberdelic’ works as also with Fahd Hussien’s works. Founder of OnSeed Artist’s Collective, Fahd works with psychedelic art and music communities. He has created music festival art, album covers for musicians, and apparel.  

Motions of looms captured
Actor Rima Kallingal showcases her second NFT, ‘Neythe’ (Malayalam for weaving), a collaboration with Ajay Menon. The choreography by Rima, featuring her and a group of dancers, set to the backdrop of weavers working, is the dancer’s take on the motions of weaving.
This is not her first NFT, in October 2021, she became the first Malayali actor to drop an NFT, ‘Insurgent Bloom’. It was created in association with Franky (Francis Kurien), Lami (Lakshmi KTP) and Bohomonk (Mahesh Krishnan). The music for it was composed by Lami, the photoshoot by Franky and the content by Bohomonk.

Portland-based Reshidev RK’s works are colourfully rendered surreal works while San-Francisco-based digital artist Vidya Vinnakota makes a bold feminist statement via her art, rooted in Indian culture as seen through a modern lens. Mythology, folklore and the contemporary find expression in Sachin Samson’s art and Berlin-based digital artist and illustrator Archan Nair’s works are multi-layered and complex. Rajni Gadhvi ‘s works show her background in branding and packaging as a creative director and motion designer. The youngest of the lot is Shizy Umar, pursuing a Masters in Fine Arts from Jamia Millia Islamia. 

Setting up a show of this kind came with its set of hitches, and the non-availability of digital frames with the specs required to display NFT art. “This is new, finding frames was tough. The ones available are very expensive. These are the minor problems that come with doing something for the first time. I am certain that, since there would a demand, production of these would start in India,” Vimal says. The team had to improvise, hence the vertically-placed 43-inch television screens. “We had to make some technical adjustments like tweaking the resolution so that the visual quality of the artworks is not compromised,” adds Jaideep.

The aim is to mainstream NFT art and make it accessible to people while educating them about it and also making space for new artists to explore the medium and get a grasp of its potential, states Jaideep.  It is in the spirit of ‘wagmi’ - the crypto world’s confidence building acronym for ‘we are all gonna to make it’.

Allied events include meet and greet with artists whose works are on show, presentations, talks by artists such as Bose Krishnamachari (July 3), besides other programmes. Alongside is a display of NFT art skateboards by Merkabah Boards. The show opens at 12 pm, and allied events from 6 pm onwards. The show concludes on July 6. 

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