NFTs Can “Democratize Imagination”, Says VR Metaverse Sculptor

In short

  • Joshua Skirtich is the artist behind Jenesis, an Ethereum NFT collection of digital sculptures made in VR.
  • He spoke with Decrypt about the potential of art in the upcoming Metaverse, as well as its unique creative process.

When industrial designer and NFT Artist Joshua Skirtich sculpts in virtual reality (VR), he is not bound by the constraints of the real world. He can imagine things that aren’t inspired by his immediate physical surroundings, with an endless digital canvas to use as he sees fit.

It’s a key detail, because when he takes off his Meta Quest 2 headset, he returns to a nearly empty 100-square-foot room in Queens, New York, with little more than a computer desk at a end of space. The walls are intentionally empty and the floor is covered with soft, interlocking EVA foam panels…like the midsole of a sneaker.

“My whole floor is basically one big shoe now,” Skirtich said. Decrypt. “It’s very comfortable sculpting in virtual reality, and my only contact with the outside world is through my feet.”

Skirtich made the conscious decision to remove real-world reminders from his home space – a small room in an apartment he rents by the month – to try to unleash the creative possibilities of designing in and for the metaverse.

“I pretty much took everything off so I wouldn’t be influenced by the way we traditionally lived,” he said. “This room seems empty, but in [augmented reality or] VR, I have endless space and material to work with. In a way, this piece makes me feel like I’m in a spaceship and allows me to take crazy ideas more seriously.

Skirtich is the designer of Jenesisa series of digital sculptures sold as Ethereum NFT. An NFT serves as proof of ownership for an item, and in this case, each Jenesis NFT represents a single 3D figure that he has hand-sculpted in VR. The sculptures can be digitally deposited in a real environment via augmented reality, or even printed in 3D.

Jenesis is the first product of Skirtich’s attempt to live in the metaverse, so to speak – a concept that even he admits is “comical” right now, because “we have no idea what it is” .

Skirtich’s collection from NFT Jenesis. Image: Joshua Skirtitch

The Metaverse refers to a future, more immersive version of the Internet that people can use to work, play, and socialize through avatars in 3D environments. Blockchain technology is set to power the future metaverse, with NFTs used to represent things like avatars and clothing that can potentially be accessed across various interoperable online spaces.

Right now, however, the term “metaverse” can be nebulous. Facebook is heading to the metaverse, but it may not be as open or crypto-friendly as other visions of the space. When tech giants talk about the Metaverse, it might seem like they’re focusing on VR and AR experiences rather than NFT-powered environments and spaces.

Ethereum metaverse games like Decentralized and The sandbox (which hasn’t fully launched) are current examples of what might be possible, but it could be years before the larger metaverse takes shape on a large scale.

In the meantime, Skirtich is exploring the possibilities for creators with NFTs and in digital worlds.

The genesis of Jenesis

This isn’t Skirtich’s first small apartment in New York, but he had a lot more going on in the last one. Previously, he lived in a meticulously curated 88-square-foot room in Brooklyn that was featured in Remain magazines in 2021with tools neatly arranged on a pegboard and clothes hanging near the roof accessible via a system of pulleys.

He admits he ‘became so anal with the design’ of the space – he created a catalog of all his possessions – but then said he realized he no longer felt the same attachment to real objects. In the end, he sold almost everything he owned via Instagram last summer and decided to live an increasingly minimal and digital life.

Skirtich sold most of his stuff to create a space ready for metaverse creation. Image: Joshua Skirtitch

“A problem with physical objects is that you surround yourself with them, and then in a year or two you don’t really feel that way,” Skirtich said of memories and emotions tied to physical possessions. “You might want to explore something else, but you have the burden of these objects and they kind of keep you like yourself.”

This shift in perspective was particularly poignant for Skirtich as an industrial designer immersed in the world of physical goods, ranging from toys and watches to jars and household appliances. Before the onset of the pandemic, he designed products for the Ice Museum‘s, which he describes as being “almost a sculpture” in form.

Last year, with the maturing of the NFT industry and the rise of discussions about the future metaverse, Skirtich began to explore the possibility of creating and selling purely digital art – sculptures that are not necessarily informed by the realistic dimensions and features of real-world inspirations.

Jenesis covers 103 digital sculptures that Skirtich describes as “creating cave paintings” in the metaverse. He called Jenesis his first step towards designing his own world in the Metaverse, which explains the name – a nod to stories and creation myths, plus the ‘J’ in his first name to represent his role. personal as a creator.

Each Ethereum NFT coin is unmistakably inspired by human forms, albeit in varying poses and dimensions that suggest body language and with a glossy finish devoid of clear detail or texture. That leaves interpretation open to viewers and collectors, he said.

“What digital sculpting and NFTs are going to be able to do is provide people with forms that could never exist in the real world,” he said, noting that such creations don’t have to be bound by physical materials or display considerations. “I want more people to think about the subtlety of everything we can do.”

Art in the Metaverse

The NFT market exploded in 2021, generating some $25 billion volume of trade in art, collectibles, video game items, etc., and this year could be significantly higher, with counts already in the first quarter exceeding $12 billionaccording to data from DappRadar.

Many creators have turned to NFTs, which not only prove ownership of the original asset, but also enable the scarcity of digital assets that can often be easily copied and shared. Skirtich acknowledged the impact of early influential profile picture projects as CryptoPunksbut said the space is now overrun with copycat collections.

“It’s gotten to the point where a lot of them are very derivative, where you have people copying themselves and creating soulless things,” he said. “I look at them and I can’t say that one person actually created it.”

Skirtich, who also recently designed NFT passes for the Flow-metaverse application based on (which counts actress Brie Larson among her fans), suggested that there’s an abundance of technologists leading the NFT space right now, and that it’s still early days for artists to move on and embrace the medium.

But some notable artists are thinking about the metaverse. Sculptor and painter Daniel Arsham said recently Decrypt that he uses NFTs to create art that is “not possible” with physical materials and constraints, and that some of the concepts he has seen to create in the metaverse are “pretty magical”.

While we may see more established mainstream artists making their way into the NFT world, alongside Arsham, Damien Hirtand others—Skirtich also believes that the endless digital web and improved tools and infrastructure will “democratize the imagination,” allowing everyone to bring their creative ideas to life and share them with the world. through NFTs.

“There will always be a few trailblazing artists,” he said, “but I think the best art will come when the places of distribution are firmly established for the average person to exhibit.”

“We’re going to get to a point where anyone can post their ideas virtually, and that will level the artistic playing field and give everyone a chance to express their ideas,” Skirtich added. “Anyone who can get a helmet or some kind of tool to create will be able to say, ‘That’s what I think. It’s here. Looked.’ I’m so excited about this.

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