Michael Becker

Art/Code/XR

Creating VR NFTs on Hic et Nunc

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Decision Tree Cover Photo
Decision Tree

 

I’ve minted my first piece on Hic Et Nunc. It’s a Virtual Reality work called Decision Tree. You may experience it fully on your browser or in VR, and you may – but certainly don’t have to – purchase it. The 2D version should work anywhere; the VR (namely, WebXR) version is best viewed on a PCVR setup with Metachromium. I have not tested it on any other browsers or platforms. YMMV – between the water, the fire, the intricate leaves animation and the environmental reflections It’s a relatively graphically demanding piece, so if you’re going a different route and particularly with mobile VR (ie. Quest/Quest 2), your mileage will vary.

The NFT Dilemma

For a very long time, I’ve been deeply uncomfortable with notion of Non Fungible Tokens and Crypto Art for the same reasons many others were and some still are. Everest Pipkin’s piece is a fantastic enumeration of the main criticisms – some of which are unchanged by the advent of more environmentally friendly coins. On twitter, time and time again I have been very critical of the tech’s more ostensibly idiotic use cases and aspects.

As the dust settled (and at the time of writing, if feels like it has, to an extent), a substantial amount of artists – digital and physical, professional and enthusiasts, new and mature – have congregated around a creative community, and also a website, called Hic Et Nunc. It utilizes Tezos, a PoS crypto coin based that is much more environmentally friendly than ETH, Bitcoin and other Proof-of-Work coins. It’s not perfect, but it is more viable than other coins and communities. It also seems far less hype-based and much more artist friendly.

The artist M Plummer-Fernández wrote an thoughtful, in-depth piece that has changed a lot of my thinking around the subject and, before making up your mind about NFTs and Hic in particular, I suggest that you read it. Among other issues, he highlights the differences in environmental impacts, and NFT art’s function as a catalyst for financial support of underrepresented minorities and artists in underprivileged countries.

Nonetheless, the ambivalence is still there and in Decision Tree I tried to capture it. While I am very excited about Hic as a platform and environmentally-friendly NFTs as a viable (long-overdue) method of valuing digital art and remunerating artists – the conversation around NFTs is still complicated and nuanced, with issues concerning hype, dark pyramid scheme patterns and the basic value of art still far away from any permanent resolution.

The future is created by those who show up. Hic feels like thousands of artists showing up and, at least in part, consciously doing what they can to support a more equitable, less destructive, artistic practice that benefits all. There’s a chance of rain, but the tree is still burning. I hope that we do not disappoint ourselves.

All proceeds from Decision Tree will go to the Coalition for Rainforest Nations.

 

XR and NFTs

XR and NFTs are in an interesting place. The more obvious integration path seems to be placing NFTs in VR galleries – usually in the form of 3D objects or 2D works, which is an interesting use case. In my view, it compartmentalizes and builds a walled garden around the work; the beauty of hic is that it’s accessible from anywhere, and WebGL and WebXR allow for a progressively-enhanced experience that’s, at least theoretically, as viewable (and interactable!) from a phone, a 2D laptop, a high end VR rig or any other setup. It strikes me as much more inherently open, accessible and user-friendly, and as such, I’m much more inspired by the idea of minting VR Art on an radically available platform like Hic than viewing NFTs on a VR platform which – even if it is not proprietary – still requires the use of a headset. This is a subjective decision, of course, and I am very intrigued by the work of folks choosing the “opposite” route. Of course, due to the nature of the problem space, these views and choices are dated almost as soon as they’re written, anyway.

XR on Hic et Nunc

WebXR on Hic et Nunc should mostly work out of the box, thanks to the tremendous work by community members. I’ve submitted a PR to the Hic et Nunc repo that will help anyone get up and running with ThreeJS-powered VR on Hic et Nunc. Things can get much more complicated from there but the ThreeJS Docs are very helpful and are a great starting point for anyone who wants to create immersive web content on Hic et Nunc.

Immersive realities are an incredibly exciting artistic medium, and I hope that Hic et Nunc will be a home for some paradigm-breaking, bold and creative XR art.

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