I'm not sure if my current sense of urgency around what I'm about to say can act as a compass for its truth, or if I will make sense, but this morning I have something to say. I've just written a draft for another podcast installment, after feeling as though there would be nothing left in me when I released Love And Dog Shit In The Theatre Lobby. So I'm starting to learn that you just have to trust the need for expression as it arises in you and not expect any result out of it. FYI, also, it's very possible I will be releasing a full length interview with my sister, the inimitable Maryam Shehata, who has been hesitant to come on my podcast for more than tiny snippets of time because she feels she always says things she "regrets later," which only makes me more curious, because I can't be the only one in the family who does that! She doesn't listen to my podcast because she's too busy helping fashion designers make money, so she has no idea hahaha! Anyway, I've started writing this next installment so I'm feeling rather lost and garbled in myself. A bit tone deaf and unformed. But for one reason or another I think this post is necessary.
There are not that many people on this mailing list, but maybe if one of you hears it from me, and is moved by it, this will ripple into other circles. NFTs are an enemy to art. I don't say that lightly because I think the whole concept of an abstract discipline or entity having an "enemy" is really stuffy and over-important and just plain wrong, but let's just say NFTs will slowly suck the soul out of the art world. It seems as though any acronym with the letter "F" in the middle of it is an enemy to art. Like, MFA for example. Look, I know many brilliant people who have an MFA, but 99% of the problems in our "industry" would be solved if artists just stopped applying to them. The fact that we even call it an "industry" is telling. But that's not what I'm here to talk about.
The writer and professional/impeccable pay-attention-er, Seth Godin, has now written his second blog post addressing NFTs. I have to thank my elder artist brother, Greg Taber, not the Greg who produces my podcast, Greg Fredle, but the Greg who was artistic director of the Woodward Shakespeare Festival, where I played my first Shakespeare roles, and actually the first person to sign onto this mailing list, for turning me on to the work of Seth Godin. Especially his book, The Practice, which I recommend to anyone who finds themselves in unsure footing through their artistic journey in literally anything. Seth Godin comes as close to anyone to knowing everything, seriously, but he makes you feel like the smart one for reading him. Not like Chomsky, who actually does know everything and makes you understand that he does. Don't go around saying I don't like Chomsky, I love him he's one of my earliest heroes! But I know that if on the off chance I ever meet him in person his brain will eat me!
I don't need to go into details about why NFTs are no good, because Godin has already done that, here's the first blog post where he addresses them:
NFTs are a dangerous trap | Seth's Blog
There is a link to an article on the post that goes deeper into the alarming economic/environmental issues around NFTs as well.
And here's the second blog post, from this morning, and the spur to my own post, that Godin wrote:
Celebrity Art (priceless/worthless) | Seth's Blog
So, what can I possibly have to say about this? Why am I speaking up? Whispering up, even? Will it change anything? We all need money, I get it. Pretty soon all three of you who still keep up with my podcast will start hearing ads in the middle of installments because I need money. Artists aren't special people, we work for pay. Though just because we're not special doesn't mean we don't have a unique place in the world.
In many ways we act as a litmus test for the health of our society. An artist must look inward in order to demonstrate to society the truth about it everyone else would rather ignore. And though as humans we have no choice (besides suicide) but to negotiate the compromises with our own values, there are times when we just have to say, "fuck it, I'll do the right thing."
Dave Chappelle's most recent Netflix specials aren't the most well-received stand-ups, by critics or audiences. Frankly, I love them. His shtick these days is to walk on with a vape and go "look how rich and talented I am," but there is a profound humility to his acts, especially when he sits down and starts just talking to us about what he's feeling in the moment. His discussions about race aside, what he confesses about most men being "imperfect allies" is one of the most truthful and hopeful messages of our moment that I have come to hear. But the moment he talks about himself, and why he ended Chappelle Show, acting in his words as a "Paul Revere," this guy who's not a hero by any means but who, symbolically at least, did one good thing in his life that meant reverberations of freedom for all posterity, that to me was sublime.
We cannot control how we're remembered as artists, even though being remembered is precisely the reason we make art. But we can control those moments when we allow our moral compass to take over, if only for a day, or a moment.
I'm a little shit and I like it that way. I take advantage of people's kindness and I ghost and I lie and cheat and I steal. But I also know that while it looks amazing, this digital token stuff, in its current form, is just not right and it's not a compromise it's the complete antithesis of courage and meaning. Two things every piece of art must have.
Will I be remembered for my art or will I be remembered for this one post? Which will maybe help another artist, a better artist, steer clear of the wrong path? I don't know, all I have is my best.
Maybe you never heard of NFTs (all the better for you) and maybe this doesn't matter but clearly I had a need to speak up today. So there. Take my word for it or don't. Please don't make decisions based on what I or anyone else says but base them on your own set of needs and principles. Please don't betray me by doing anything less than that.
But here's my word: stay away.
We have to look out for one another, us artists, god knows we're surrounded by the depravity of competitive commerce enough as it is. And admittedly, I have been so in my own world, learning and working furiously and recklessly trying to make as much I can before my stimulus money runs completely dry, so I don't really have my finger on any pulse of anything. As if I ever did. But I don't know, trust your instincts, right?
If this NFT stuff gets any bigger, it just might be the end of us.
I know you need the money, but you don't. You don't need it that much.