I encounter all things NFT with huge amounts of skepticism. And while I concede the idea behind cryptocurrency is good—any alternative to the deeply entrenched legacy of western capitalist financialization, and the kinds of old power it perpetuates, is worth pursuing—the computing power it requires is one more drain on our already depleted planet.
So it was hard for me to wrap my mind around the following headline, and harder still not to read it as dreary satire: “Women-Led NFT Poetry Gallery Receives Grant to Build the Future of Literature in the Metaverse on Tezos.” It’s a real journey, isn’t it? Let’s begin.
“NFT Poetry Gallery”
This seems to be an Instagram-driven idea about the poem as a fixed work of art, a lyric poster for the digital dorm room; this is poetry hung on a wall rather than modified in the guts of the living. The gallery in question is theVERSEverse, which is
a literary gallery where text is art, poetry is technology, and language has no limits.* We seek out and spotlight poets whose work transcends mediums, celebrating their words as common ground.
We are a curated platform where collectors discover poets, and poets discover the infinite potential of the Metaverse. A place where writers, artists and technologists come together to make magic, and readers encounter words in new ways.
Not to be confused (I think) with Mark Zuckerberg’s very explicit attempt to bring Ready Player One to life, “Metaverse” here is being used as a broad catch-all for Web3, the latest version of the long-promised tech utopia that will surely one day change our lives for the better.
As I mentioned above, I do understand the appeal of cryptocurrency as a way to sidestep state-run economies and the historic inequities they perpetuate. But even if cryptocurrency wasn’t simply mirroring the pre-existing power dynamics of regular old money (it is), I’d still take issue with the staggering amounts of power (and therefore fossil fuels) required for the blockchain’s computational transactions: the two largest cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin and Ethereum, consume over a hundred billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year (the average US house consumes 10,000 kWh a year).
Which brings us to Tezos, an allegedly eco-friendly blockchain platform that only consumes 100,000 kWh a year; this may be because the platform’s unit of currency, the Tez, hasn’t really taken off—I can’t quite figure it out. Nonetheless, Tezos gets good results when you search “eco-friendly cryptocurrency,” which seems to have made it more popular with artsy types like theVERSEverse. Or maybe it’s because something called the “Tezos Foundation” is handing out grants to arts organizations, in what amounts to a marketing spend.
“Receives Grant to Build the Future of Literature”
According to Blockchain News, theVERSEverse will use its Tezos Foundation grant to
deepen its Tezos tech integrations and community engagements in order to scale its mission to empower writers via blockchain, enable meaningful, next-gen poetic experimentation, and bring mainstream readers into the metaverse.
It is here, dear reader, that I choose to withdraw from all of this to a cabin in the woods to copy out the poems of Adrienne Rich on loose sheets of birch bark. You can figure out the rest of it for yourself.