Art, one of the hallmarks of human civilisation, has always been a catalyst for evolution. From cave paintings of prehistoric times to the classical art of Michelangelo, Baroque art of Velazquez, the Surrealism of Salvador Dali and to the avante-garde art of Pablo Picasso, art has always enhanced the advancement of mankind through ideas and expression.
And when art meets technology, it creates wonders: a case in point is the music of A R Rahman which revolutionised how music is made in India.
To keep up with the rapidly changing times in the world of the Internet and to tie the ends of art and technology, actress Lisa Ray, who is known for films such as ‘Kasoor’, ‘Veerappan’ and ‘Water’, has come up with a new platform, ‘TheUpsideSpace’ that aims at empowering the artiste community through NFTs.
The initiative will put the spotlight on the artistes from Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East.
Lisa has been deeply connected with art since her childhood. In her opinion, “Art is not optional in our world. Especially in India, we live art.
“I’ve been collecting contemporary Indian art since the 1990s and I can’t ignore how much my art collection has risen in value.” This affinity towards collection of art has translated in ‘TheUpsideSpace’ as art rises in value and is now an option for a wide audience due to NFTs and blockchain technology.
Talking about how the idea for the platform came into existence, the actress told IANS: “Ayesha Khan, my co-founder, who is Singapore-based, we met during the pandemic. We connected over our mutual love of the arts from regions like south Asia (India, Singapore, Pakistan, Bhutan), south east Asia where we had both lived (Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore etc.) and the Middle East/Levant (I’m now based in Dubai).”
“At the end of 2021, Ayesha approached me with this idea of marrying art with tech and using it as a vehicle to both make art from these regions more accessible to a wider audience, empower the artist and advance the representation of artist and art forms from these regions in the global south to centre stage,” she added.
Explaining the modus operandi of the platform, the actress said: “Firstly, once our curator selects artists for an online exhibition, we offer to hand hold artists through the creation of their NFTs if they need help and don’t have the technical skills to do it themselves.”
She went on to explain: “Secondly, with smart contracts that are baked into the NFTs, artists can receive royalties on sales in the secondary market, and the royalty amount is automatically deposited in their accounts.
Artists can take the initiative to connect directly with their audience and build their own community and profile, where everything is much more transparent than in the traditional art world.”
But, the world of the Internet also brings along vulnerability for everyone in terms of cyber security and artistes are no different. When asked about how the platform plans to curb plagiarism of NFTs and to safeguard the interests of the artists, Lisa said: “For collectors, since we are a curator-led model that works with esteemed curators, our roster of artistes is very reputable and all the artists or curators, belong to one larger community/network one way or another. Most of the time curators personally know the participating artists and their background.”
She continued: “Still, whenever we are in doubt, we consult our internal content team or external experts in the domain. We will definitely take a systematic way to ensure no one is publishing plagiarised content on TUS, by doing routine screening crawls on the internet and other platforms for any forgery and fraudulent activities.”
And under the initiative will the street art festivals like the ongoing Sassoon Dock Art Festival in Mumbai, the Burning Man festival or arguably the biggest street festival of the world, Durga Puja will be integrated or will the festival artwork be converted into NFTs?
Lisa furnishes an answer: “Eventually, perhaps but if you look at our platform, we are already building unique stories from our countries that can have a spillover effect. There are 7 different projects across 6 countries. Each project has its own NFT in an edition of 20. You can buy an NFT for the project you want to support, buying the NFT makes you a sponsor to the project and the successful sale of a project will allow the project to be created in real life with the communities that each of the Fearless Collective artists (their partner) is working with.”
–By Akshay Acharya