With all the noise around the seemingly unapproachable concept of blockchain technology, Alex Wong insists that all you need to know is that it makes new things possible. This point is critical to the East Nashville-based artist and producer who over the course of the pandemic pored over potential means of connection outside, amidst unprecedented isolation.
The concept for his new project, The Light, was bred from a series of experiments he created and performed during the pandemic—seeking new ways to connect from a distance. His digitally hosted Wherever You Are series reframed the virtual performance experience. Feeding off of other creatives, each weekly show in a six-week series featured Wong performing alongside two of his favorite songwriters—like Eric Holljes and Vienna Teng—as well as one non-musical guest that specializes in various disciplines including a sculptor, author, and a chef.
In one of these events, he partnered with visual artist Kenny Harris who wielded one of Wong’s songs to paint light moving across a city street described in the lyrics, from dawn to dusk. On-screen, the audience watched a stop-motion time-lapse video of a process that is typically geared toward the final product. Wong feels this addition of “time-based art” exemplifies the parallels that emerge during this type of artistic crossover.
“We loved the idea of having time pass in a painting, so we started thinking more about how to develop that idea a bit more to make it a little more deliberate,” Wong tells American Songwriter over the phone. “I had a song that hadn’t really been totally fleshed out yet called ‘The Light.’ It was vaguely about chasing this distant goal, and that can be whatever but in the song, it’s this light.”
This distant goal is intended to be abstract and interpreted individually. With light being an integral part of painting, the pair set out to capture the process of light moving across a canvas. The subject is Wong whose face is tilted up toward the radiant source that moves from left to right over the course of the song.
“Instead of doing one static painting, we decided we’re going to do several paintings—one on top of each other over the course of time,” says Wong. “So, you see my face as the subject kind of stay the same, but the light source keeps moving. And he does three rendered, detailed portraits, and each time he finishes one, he destroys it on the canvas and then starts the other one right on top of it.”
Watching Harris spread a new layer of oil paint over such a detailed portrait throughout the process encapsulates the value of blockchain in its ability to capture moments in art and time to carry on in perpetuity. The emotive experience of witnessing the undoing of meticulous creation is part of the process that consumers would not typically experience when purchasing the final product. Highlighting the hidden layers of the inception opened up a new dimension of how one could experience a painting.
“Watching the video from beginning to end as a time-lapse, you see the final painting hold all these secrets you wouldn’t know about until you saw the whole thing happen,” Wong continues. “It was really emotional to watch these things be painted and then destroyed and then painted again. And it’s kind of like playing with this ephemerality of our goals and dreams as something that can be just wiped off. And so we were looking for a way to express this idea.”
Just as they began down the path, Wong was connected with Joe Benso of Soundlouder who expanded upon his minimal understanding of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT).
Soundlouder exists to bring the value of music back to the artist and fan by forming newly possible connections through blockchain technologies in the form of NFT. “Artistically, this was like the perfect medium to tell the story because we were wanting to attach a physical object, which is the painting, to a digital object,” Wong explains. “It’s still a fine art painting, but for those who want to invest in diving deep into it, they would be rewarded through this medium.”
Benso had been exploring blockchain technology since 2015 and encourages everyone to learn as much as they can about this tech revolution. “If this was 1995, and I was explaining to you something called the internet, I would say, ‘It’s groundbreaking, it’s gonna disrupt every major industry in the world,” says Benso. “And that’s really kind of the state of where we’re at with NFTs and blockchain technology.”
Wong and Harris teamed up with Soundlouder’s first curated collection of NFT drops. The Light NFT Collaboration—available November 11—blends traditional and digital art to deliver a dynamic new form of creative consumption. Soundlouder is offering one-of-a-kind works of art, including the pieces that were completed during the composition that no longer exist.
There is only one high-resolution video of the time-lapse collaboration between Wong and Harris, plus the unique original oil painting. Additionally, 100 exclusive audio-visual NFT’s of the song with unique cover art, and three high-resolution digital artwork NFTs that are snapshots at different stages of the final composition of the oil painting are available.
Furthermore, through this collection, Soundlouder endeavors to create a space for future collaborations by offering 25 packages of high-resolution audio recording stems of “The Light” for producers and remixers to purchase with full commercial NFT usage rights. This enables future derivatives to be generated continuously throughout the life of the art essentially crafting an ever-evolving medium for the work to transform and bring new works into the metaverse.
The producers and remixers will be able to release their versions and earn revenue while respecting the origin of the work.
These NFTs are all one of one unique piece as part of a larger collection of NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain and stored forever on IPFS.
“This is a really great example of a project that highlights some of the capabilities of what’s possible with NFTs,” says Benso. “It allows artists to reclaim ownership in a way that was never possible before. But at the same time, it’s a really interesting dynamic to actually give away ownership. And in doing so, you’re increasing the value of the entire project overall, long-term. It’s a fascinating aspect that is hard to understand at first. But once you start looking at it in a new perspective—that is outside of the traditional industry infrastructure, and realize this is a completely different set of rules to be working and creating art within — the possibilities are endless.”
Learn more about The Light NFT Collaboration and sign up for the drop, here.