a\terHEN — an invitation to slow down in the NFT space
As new ideas, projects and collaborations are being developed at a high speed in the art and NFT space, we often tend to act and consume without taking the time to explain and reflect on what has been done. Today, I would like to introduce a\terHEN (read alter-hen), an artist-run online space that I helped found.
As often, it starts with a desire for change
The idea of a\terHEN emerged from the high-speed of the Tezos-based art marketplace hic et nunc in June 2021, when speculative behaviours started to emerge. The hic et nunc community went through a frenetic period of low-price sales, fast-produced NFTs and high-price on the secondary market. This changed the way part of the community started to interact with the space and made some artists react. Going away from the original reasons artists came on hic et nunc (an environmental-conscience, ethical and multicultural space), Patrick Tresset and I started a series of collaborations to bring back this sense of community first. We called them “hicmix”. A new series of discussions and reflections started from there, leading to the creation of a new online space on Discord when Patrick Tresset, Somaticbits started to invite artists we appreciated to keep the conversation going. In July 2021, we created a group of artists wishing to support each other by promoting and collecting from each other, highlighting the values behind the community. In August, the idea of starting an experiment together emerged: we wanted to show that NFTs can be created, exhibited and collected differently. Thus, alterHEN was born.
With the support of the Immaterial Future Association, alterHEN launched on 30th September (what the recording here), with a first experiment: a website built to demonstrate the potential of artworks in digital asset form (NFTs) through a set of 20 solo exhibitions.
An invitation to slow-down
In contrast to the NFT galleries and art marketplaces currently being used online, alterHEN makes a conscious move away from speculation, the mass production of artworks and their hurried consumption. Designed to replicate a traditional museum walkthrough, from the entrance hallway to the exhibition space, the website of alterHEN invites the visitor to slow down, take a breath and take the time to appreciate the art and the artist.
The landing page animation sets a calming tone, helping visitors to see digital art as art, moving the focus away from the technology behind it or the noise surrounding it.
After reading the short welcome note, the visitor can begin browsing the exhibitions available. For each artist, one artwork, along with the exhibition title, is shown to give a quick overview, and upon entering the exhibition, the visitor meets the artist for the first time through the gif portrait created by Patrick Tresset. The artist’s avatar can be seen as a guide, introducing the visitor to the artist’s statement and the description of the exhibition.
Once ready, the visitor can push the door of the exhibition room by clicking on the “View Exhibition” button. When finally in the exhibition, space is all around the artworks, giving space to appreciate them and time to reflect. Of course, the work can be collected but this is not the priority. At the end of the exhibition, more content is available such as a long biography of the artist, and soon interview, music or other resources to get to know the artist and their art practice. The flow of the experience invites pauses and appreciation.
Returns beyond expectations
alterHEN has been conceived without pretension, developed with all the simplicity of a group of artist friends met on hic et nunc. It has emerged in the NFT art ecosystem as a breath of fresh air that so many people were waiting for. The impact and well-being that alterHEN has brought were far from expected or even anticipated. The group has received touching feedback from all sides, both from artists, curators, collectors, galleries, museums, foundations, and art critics. alterHEN really came at the right time, when the need was becoming vibrant.
Here are a few transcriptions from messages shared on Twitter:
“The website is a lovely collecting experience. It is calm and slow, you don’t see how many of an edition is left so you just collect what you love. Also, it’s wonderful to read a bit about the artist and their work.” by Rose Jackson.
“I have never experienced buying artwork as I listened to an artist speaks about it. The immediacy and efficiency of the transaction gave me pause. Felt like something important had just happened.” by fomoboy.
“If you haven’t been to @alterHEN’s set of inaugural shows yet, take some time to browse the site and explore a wonderfully curated series of artists in a slower, more thoughtful manner. @patricktresset and the team have done an amazing job-IMO this format is the future of HeN art” by 0x3y3
On top of this feedback, the momentum created by alterHEN with this new marketplace helped artists meet new art amateurs, collectors and curators, as well as selling more than usual. In total, artists sold 640 NFTs for 4600 Tezos.
The next steps
Now that alterHEN has been launched the artists’ collective has several options before it. To serve the community and to accompany it towards a more respectful NFT art market, alterHEN wishes to develop the website in white label. The objective is that everyone can duplicate this experience and invite their community to slow down. This will require some adaptation of the back-end interface so everyone could easily create and edit content as they wish.
The second natural evolution is the presentation of new exhibitions by the artists of the collective but also new artists to welcome. This would create a habit that could resemble a monthly vernissage: meeting every month to appreciate NFT art, meet the artists and collect it.
alterHEN members: Alex Crouwers (Belgium), Andreas Rau (Norway), Anna Malina Zemlianski (Germany), Auni Seiva (Brazil), Bernardo Liu (Brazil), Bjorn Calleja (Philippines), Diane Drubay (France), Eli Joteva (Bulgaria), Iskra Velitchkova (Bulgaria), Inigo Bilbao (Spain), Kelly Richardson (Canada), Laurent La Torpille (France), Katya Kanke-Zaikanova (Russia), Mihai Grecu (Roumania), Patrick Jamora (Philippines), Patrick Tresset (France), Somaticbits (Germany), Jonathan Dean (United Kingdom), Zaki Jawhari (Greece/France).
thanks to Johnny Dean Mann for his support with this article