‘I invent, transform, create, and destroy for a living, and when I don’t like something about the world, I change it.’ This is a line from the animation <Rick and Morty>.
Ting Song said she was watching <Rick and Morty> just before we met. She felt quite resonated with the line above.
As a 25-year-old young artist, Ting lives in the blockchain community and expresses herself in the form of NFT art, which seem to be an act of following the natural course. Record holder of AI and blockchain artwork auctions in China, 2020. The most popular crypto artist awarded by ‘SEE+ The Future Conference 2020’. The first NFT artist auctioned by Guardian China. The only Chinese artist listed in the first NFT-themed seminar held by Vogue… Behind all these titles is the deep consensus Ting has reached with the crypto community for a long period.
Would you expect more blockchain-native artists like yourself to enter the crypto art field? What’s your take on ‘Everyone could create an NFT’?
I wish the story of blockchain, especially the spirit of ‘Community’, would be told. I wish more people would pay attention to blockchain technology and the interdisciplinary idea and spirits behind it when participating in or enjoying crypto art.
You can't regard technology as an end in itself; you have to regard technology as a method, as a way of thinking. You can't make something arrogant if you use GAN (Generative Adversarial Network) as a method. It makes no sense if applying one discipline to pander to another. If you use blockchain as a method, you just can't ignore the importance of communities. Essentially, community recognition has replaced authority recognition, which is an unstoppable trend.
During the process, if you use ‘the Other’ which is an emergent method, hoping to win compliments from authority, you would easily go off the rails. To achieve a high degree of consistency in action and knowledge is the only way to gain great compound interest, which includes social influence and commercial value. On the contrary, you may have to face the backlash.
I do not evaluate art itself. Am I making art? I will leave that question for my children, and my children's children, to decide. At that time, they will look back and find the most valuable and memorable thing that can represent spirituality, as well as the most rebellious and strongest will of the present generation in 2021.
This industry is currently at a stage in which huge cognitive dividends and content dividends exist. I believe that the pursuit of truth and beauty is the biggest content dividend now.
How do you see those internationally renowned NFT artists?
The earliest overseas group entering the NFT field is digital designers, therefore shaping the entire crypto-art aesthetics. The mainstream digital design goods in the West are directly related to film and entertainment. For example, it is natural for VFX artists in Hollywood to create NFTs. However, design industry follows the logic of business naturally, which is almost impossible to focus on artist himself or herself. Thus, in a sense, design is the opposite of art. We cannot follow the trend of digital design.
Lots of people can draw sci-fi illustrations. It’s not that hard. But who am I? What can ensure me to go further in the next 20 or even 30 years? The answer is definitely not science fiction illustrations, because this kind of art shows the aesthetics of Marvel. It's not from MY heart. Once art doesn't come from one’s heart, it tends to lose its power – that's a given.
We Chinese are not confident enough which is unnecessary. In previous interviews, I said that foreign crypto art market started 8 months ahead of us (marked by the top NFT marketplaces). Actually, what I thought was to compare the top artists from the West and the East, say Pak and me. I entered the NFT field just 8-month later than Pak. At this moment, I think when it comes to research and insights, I’m at the same level as the artists who are active in the global vision.
I often chat with overseas artists on ClubHouse. They once asked me a question: Ting, what does crypto art mean to you? My answer was, Love & Freedom. It was the first time I tried my best to be myself, and as a result, I inspired and affected others, so that they will carry on this wonderful thing.
1bitcoin ≠ a young model by Ting Song
In response to the joke of ‘One coin, one villa. One coin, one model’, I painted a bird generated from GAN. It carries LV and Chanel bags, but people throws mud at it. I wanted to express my thoughts directly. Within the blockchain community, there are many successful female investors and entrepreneurs. They have to seek common ground in the business world. It’s not appropriate for them to make any response. However, I expressed my perspective in this NFT artwork and found that people liked it. This piece was actually collected by a male in the end.
‘Nüwa’ by Ting Song, collaborated with rct
The work I collaborated with rct, ‘Nüwa’, was cool because it represents a universal value. The work I auctioned at Guardian, The Peony Pavilion: Information Technology Penetrates ‘I’, combines traditional Chinese culture with modern technology. These are the works that can create a greater consensus to seek common ground while preserving differences.
The Peony Pavilion: Information Technology Penetrates ‘I’ by Ting Song
Based on IcarusArt.AI, a platform encompassing AI artists and crypto-art minting, I created an AI artist named Alice. Currently, artist Joy Cheng’s solo exhibition is opening at Today Art Museum in Beijing with her collaborative artworks with Alice. Through Alice, I hope to touch more topics between humanity and technology.
You went to Yunnan Province to learn tie-dye from a mater and also created a series of tie-dye NFT works. Why did you do this?
Right, I learned it from Mr. Zhang Xiang, an intangible cultural heritage inheritor. He had no idea about blockchain at first, but he trusted me so much that he was willing to collaborate with me. I learned tie-dye because I found that among the top 100 crypto artists, almost no one concerns about sustainability or anything beyond themselves. This is understandable because the industry is still in its very early days. But meanwhile, as artists, if we don't pay attention to some of the most pressing issues in regard to the evolution of human society, our works can't be appreciated by future generations. That's also a given.
tie-dye work by Ting Song
My tie-dye series is called ‘Non-Fungible Indigo’. I meant to go back to the essence since the full expression of NFT is Non-Fungible Token.
If sci-fi illustrations are constantly created by people from every corner of the world under the encouragement of Beeple's success, then is each of the works really non-fungible? I don't think so, and it's not the essence of NFTs.
In the process of tie-dye creation, I also thought backward. I thought about my experience in some summits themed on ‘Cloud’. I found it quite interesting that almost all the logos of these attendee companies are in blue. I mean, there’s no essential difference between this blue color and that blue color, right? Therefore, I began to wonder why cannot the blue color representing science and technology, and the indigo color out of Radix Isatidis, be non-fungible? In my opinion, the process of ‘tying’ is like creating a private key, and the process of ‘dyeing’ is like creating a public key based on the private key. Everyone could watch this tie-dye work, but it is almost impossible for others to reproduce. I’d like to make this metaphor whenever I give a talk about RSA asymmetric encryption to someone outside the blockchain community.
Poetic and high-dimensional language is the unique feature of art. If I can use tie-dye art to tell more stories about the essence of crypto art, then I’m doing something meaningful. I have read news about artists burning their paintings, which is silly to me because destroying the physical existence of art doesn't mean that the value is transferred into the digital world. So why would anyone pit the digital world against the physical world? I think it’s about public attention and commercial gain.
In this wave, we need radical people, and conservative people as well. Only then can there be room for realistic idealists and speculators who are, although utilitarian, objectively facilitating innovations, to make progresses.
You graduated from Tsinghua University’s experimental class in humanities. How did you become a crypto artist?
In fact, I have learned dance from kindergarten to elementary school. Because of a car accident, I couldn't dance for two years. After this, I was enrolled in the Humanities Experimental Class at Tsinghua University in 2013 and was the top 1 student in Liberal Arts in Shenyang (capital of Liaoning Province) that year.
During my undergraduate studies, I had to study Chinese, history, philosophy, mathematics, and programming. I remember that the final assignment of the programming class was to research a certain literary problem of <Dream of the Red Chamber>. Many of my classmates dropped the class, but I was not afraid of programming because I knew very well that it was just a technical tool. I could learn by myself or learn from my friends in the Computer Department. The point was actually about how to use programming to solve a comprehensive problem.
It was the programming lessons I learned in college that inspired me to work in the open source community afterward.
I strongly disagree with the criteria of ‘professional background’. I don't think the rigid division system of liberal arts vs science and engineering in mainland China can define who I am. In our time, why can't the best product managers come from humanities experimental classes?
You are the first NFT artist in the auctions held by Guardian Art Center. And as a young artist, you created lots of artworks that received great response in the market. How do you see your achievements?
The fact that I am here reflects a certain consensus, which is I share the same spiritual soil with the digital nouveau riches. This consensus is undoubted. Tencent and other tech firms, as well as some tech media quoted my paintings in their previous commentary articles, which is a manifestation of consensus. Here is my spiritual hometown. Technical idealism does not relate to the certain company you are working in.
As the epitome of this industry, I hope my presence can improve the image of China's blockchain industry and bring more imagination to China's blockchain and digital economy.
Someone tweeted when Coinbase listed in April: Thank you Satoshi whoever you are. I hope that when a domestic company in NFT space be listed one day, or achieves more amazing things that deserve others' applause, someone will post: Thank you Ting, it was really not easy. Thank you for all that you did.
What’s your take on the current development of NFTs in China? What kind of future do you expect?
For those in the traditional industry, I would say that NFT is not invented to integrate the resources that you have difficulty integrating before. NFT has its own mission, it is born for young generations.
There are many bubbles in this market, but there are four points that are definitely not bubbles. The first point is that the engineers and the pan-engineer culture community have their own manifestation of personalities. The second is that the group of post-00s, who have started to use iPhones and iPads since two or three years old, has a completely different definition of what is real, what is virtual, and what is cool. Thus, their acceptance of NFTs is unstoppable. The third is that the process of assets escaping from the physical world to the digital world is inevitable. The pandemic has significantly accelerated this process and it is irreversible. If people can accept that financial assets are somehow stored digitally, why can't they accept that spiritual assets are somehow stored digitally as well? The fourth is that along with such a boom in information technology today, humanity and identity need to be redefined. These things are not bubbles, for sure. Any recognition of the four points above and any attempt that places them at the core is beneficial.
I suppose in the next three years, the most impressive thing about NFTs will appear in the field of finance. But within a year, in mainland China, it must be digital artwork that reflects the native of IT, and the valuable spirit of open source.
Later this year, Internet companies will enter the market substantially, which will accelerate the launch of regulations. Is it possible for the NFT market to achieve more and to innovate more in mainland China? It depends on two things. The first is the market and regulatory feedback resulted from major Internet companies advancing NFT space. And the second is the signals from the government when leaders have deeper understanding of digital assets. Nevertheless, NFT is still a rose rooted in the soil of the digital economy, in which participants using cryptocurrencies get more enjoyments. How to define it? It will take a lot of extraordinary content output to make it more positive.