Digital experts spotlight dizzying art trend

Experts at Edinburgh have launched an initiative that seeks to demystify a digital phenomenon taking the art world by storm.

Untitled by Sasha Belitskaja
“Pick n Mix” by Sasha Belitskaja

The new venture explores a growing trend in which digital artworks are sold using the same online technology as cryptocurrencies.

A Token Gesture is an exhibition and research project that helps people unravel the complexities of so-called non-fungible tokens – more commonly known as NFTs.

It offers a risk-free opportunity to find out how these encrypted internet transactions can – or cannot – offer audiences new ways to connect with, and ‘own’, digital art.

The project, led by the University’s Institute for Design Informatics, will also enable researchers to gauge the impact NFTs are having on the art world.

Growing popularity

NFTs have leapt in popularity in recent months amid concerns – refuted by traders – about regulatory and legal loopholes in this multibillion-dollar market.

Fungible is a legal term meaning interchangeable. Each non-fungible token has a unique code contains all of the information about an artwork’s provenance, price and ownership.

A Token Gesture gives people the chance to create and own their own piece of digital art using NFTs. They can do so at Inspace – an events and exhibitions space in the Institute of Design Informatics.

People can register their work for display at the gallery – then mint, claim and own a non-transferable NFT, representing their own piece of art.

Artistic collaboration

The research team has worked with two Scottish generative artists, Sasha Belitskaja and Cameron “Gingey”, to create a system where anyone can generate a unique piece of art.

They can do so by simply presenting a colour of their choice to a fixed camera. Participants are then guided through a process that lets them control when the work is displayed on projectors.

The project is wholly non-commercial. Taking part is free and neither participants, nor anyone in the research team, will benefit financially from their involvement.

Bold vision

Researchers at The Institute for Design Informatics seek to create systems that enable people to interact more easily with data, in diverse settings such as health, culture and finance.

Since 2014, they have been studying, exploring and critiquing blockchain technologies – online systems at allow secure, encrypted internet transactions without the need for financial institutions.

A Token Gesture runs until 3 April. It is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through DECaDE: Centre for a Decentralised Digital Economy.

Related links

Institute for Design Informatics


Get free tickets for event on 17 March: Funging the nonfungible? Laying down the law on NFTs

Get free tickets for event on 30 March: Ask Us NFT-thing (Online)