‘If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?’ goes the old philosophical question. Toying with this concept in the worlds of contemporary art and advertising is Plinft, a new platform for NFTs (non-fungible tokens) that aims to connect NFT “collections and communities, Web3 style”.
Plinft’s debut event took place last week in Manhattan’s Times Square, where artworks and NFT collections were displayed on a digital screen during a 15-minute show. The event drew on a “fractionalised” model – in other words, the slot was divided among exhibitors, meaning each piece had a brief airtime, in turn lowering the cost per exhibit. Roughly 500 artists had their work showcased individually. If you’re trying to work out how they packed it all into a quarter of an hour, it’s because each piece of work was displayed for just over a second. Yet the artists and collectors could still say that, technically, they were shown in Times Square – an event commemorated by grabbing an image of it in situ and minting an NFT of it. If a piece is exhibited and you have one second to see it, did it really run?
For Nicolas Roope, one of Plinft’s co-founders, the answer is yes. “It happened, although it’s not that long period of time,” says the designer and entrepreneur, who has set up Plinft along with software developer Joe Leo, producer Harris Salat, and Bruder, who is described by the group as an “anonymous crypto god”.
The Times Square event was, in a way, a hack that provokes myriad questions about the machinations of artistic and advertising spaces, and where we draw the line. Do we attribute more value to something that we can see in the flesh – say, in Times Square – or the reproduction of it that’s shared on social media or listed online?