With the Reverse NFT Utility, these queer artists are subverting roles
The NFT space, like many other societal domains, isn’t necessarily known for its diversity and inclusion. This is especially true when it comes to LGBTQ+ artists and individuals being represented. However, as we approach Pride Month, LGBTQ+ artists are taking center stage. While diversity should be celebrated all year, these exhibitions and projects by queer NFT artists serve as a reminder to the community about the importance of representation. Ania Catherine and Dejha Ti, an award-winning art duo and a married couple who run the art house Operator, are two artists who have made a name for themselves in both the NFT and LBGTQ+ communities. an NFT artwork paired with a physical exhibition will be released this week as a playful commentary on the institution of marriage, queer relationships, and the debate surrounding utility in the NFT community.
The piece is part of the exhibition ICONS X SuperTrans (curated by Nicole Ruggiero, Sam Clover, and Laurel Charleston), which is part of SuperRare’s SUPERQUEER, a guest-curated art initiative taking place over the next six weeks. Catherine and Ti’s work will be on display at SuperRare’s pop-up gallery in New York’s Soho from June 9 to 15, with their NFT auction taking place from June 15-to 20. The reserve price of the NFT will be set at 11.38 ETH, representing the 1,138 rights granted to married couples in the United States.
Queering the Marriage Structure
Catherine and Ti described their excitement about being a part of an initiative involving queer NFT artists who are involved in blockchain. It’s such a historic and one-of-a-kind moment. We’re using our marriage as an empty vessel to design both our creative practices and our romantic relationship within this thing that we were never supposed to inhabit together historically. It’s queering the structure of marriage, Ti continues, because it was never intended to be a social and romantic contract between two women; it was designed to be an oppressive tool. The collector will not be ‘buying our marriage,’ but rather ironically buying the marriage as an art object.
Much of the irony stems from the way the couple has flipped the script on the utility debate in NFT projects. While the project revolves around the couple’s physical marriage license and its digital replica, the NFT is linked to another smart contract that the couple created themselves. The user scans a QR code stamped on the marriage license to gain access to this contract.
The prospective collector who wishes to purchase the NFT will not immediately see a representation of the second dynamic NFT, but once purchased, it will appear in their collection alongside the marriage license.
NFTs with reverse utility
The second contract, “Marital Obligations,” includes an on-chain transcription of the certificate in plain text as well as a dynamic NFT that the couple can update on demand. The collector will play an active role in the project as the owner of the artwork, which is a key feature of that dynamic NFT. We’ve set it up so that every year on our anniversary, July 19, the collector will be given some direction or a request for anniversary gifts or something else.
As a result, the collector inherits certain obligations that are a rebuttal to the idea of utility given to NFT buyers. This is a refreshing and defiant take on the utility conversation, much like the duo’s project itself, that could inspire other artists to feel less bound by the concept and encourage them to explore on their terms how they would like to interact with the people collecting and buying their work.
Queer representation in the world of NFT art
The project also serves as a commentary on the debate over queer representations and perceptions in society. The duo observes that these perceptions frequently fall into the imagined, exploded, or fantasized, perhaps at the expense of glossing over the mundane day-to-day realities of queer couples like themselves. At the same time, they recognize how and why imagination has long been an important part of queer existence and art.
It can be a powerful tool to aesthetically escape to somewhere else, especially if where you live isn’t safe or accepting. Where we are in our lives, it feels inspiring to simply exist together daily, supporting one another and building something. Aside from the NFT, the couple believes that their relationship is a kind of rebellious artistic act against history, helping to establish a new perspective on tradition and values. Being playful and subversive inside of this container that everyone associates with traditional values is exciting, and feels like a creative act in and of itself. That is something to be admired, utility or not.