EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Cronenberg On Creation, Transformation & NFTs

Visionary Body Horror Director David Cronenberg shares his views on NFTs and the fusion of art and technology. 

Prices have faltered with some projects in the NFT space, but interest from enterprises trying to get into NFTs is reaching a fevered pitch. The concept of digital ownership has gone full mainstream, and what started with blockchain aficionados has become part of the collective direction of the corporate world. 

If you are looking to make NFTs your work as well as your hobby, now is the time. According to GlobalData, job postings for NFT-related positions from 300 companies tracked over the last two quarters increased by 127%, from 172 in December 2021 to 390 in March 2022. The study mentions the following use cases actively in development around NFTs:

  • Reddit is developing digital tools for users to create and sell NFTs on the platform.
  • Kraken Bitcoin Exchange is hiring for its future NFT marketplace.
  • DBS Group Holdings is exploring NFT and metaverse platforms.
  • Accenture is exploring multiparty systems involving blockchain, tokenization, and NFTs as part of client tech solutions.
  • Software giant SAP is focusing on web3.0 developments, while Salesforce is identifying trends, including NFTs, to connect companies and customers.
  • Gameloft is hiring blockchain developers to work on NFT games.

Nike, Microsoft, StockX, and Intuit are looking for team members with NFT and Web 3 experience. That sounds like a trend likely to continue, for those looking to add a little zest to their tech CV. 

Even Visa, arguably at the heart of “traditional finance” is launching an e-commerce program to handle NFT creators. 

According to an email from Hackernoon, the tech site is going big on Web 3 integration, previewing their quarterly update which will be released on 4/04 and includes crypto wallet integration. Based on interviews over the past year, we expect the tech-forward site is moving toward a possible incentive token and NFT verification. 

The corporate suits have grabbed onto the trend and they are not letting go. Dank Bank, the first meme-focused NFT trading platform, is rolling deep with over $4 million in pre-seed funding from investors including Mechanism Capital and Samsung NEXT. 

As more big players with deep pockets get involved, the NFT-stans will no doubt be pleased by what that does long-term for funding and prices. But will NFTs remain a safe harbor for real creation and personal expression? 

Into this explosively expanding environment, legendary film director and father of the “body horror” genre David Cronenberg. The Canadian director, writer, and actor has given us classic films that are likely to make viewers cringe, such as The Fly, Scanners, and Naked Lunch. Now Cronenberg has a new film he has written and directed for 2022, Crimes of the Future, which stars Viggo Mortensen as a pain-tolerant surgeon engaged in acts of body transformation. 

To accompany the film, Cronenberg has dropped his first solo photography NFT on SuperRare, a 1/1 original called “Kidney Stones and Inner Beauty”. As Cronenberg explains, a literal piece of himself has gone into this work of art – they are literally his kidney stones, carefully crafted inside his own body. 

“This collection of my kidney stones was produced over a span of about two years, I call it my Inner Beauty collection, referencing a comment made by one of the twin doctors in my movie Dead Ringers, who wonders why there couldn’t be a beauty contest for the insides of the human body. Well, here’s my nominated candidate. I see in these kidney stones a luminous narrative generated by a group of my inner organs, a narrative as intimate as a person could imagine,” Cronenberg said in a press release.  “I think each stone presents a unique aesthetic of structure, color, and organic content that engages with the mystery of my essence, my reality, which is my body, inside and out… Art always has the last word.”

We had the opportunity to interview Cronenberg concerning his new drop and his views on NFTs as a progression of his art.

David Cronenberg at BMC Lab in TIFF Bell Lightbox. Photo by George Pimentel. (2013, Wikimedia Commons)

Is it fair to say that this NFT drop is about transformation, a running theme in your work?
“My understanding of the human condition is that we are, first and foremost, bodies. That means many things – chemistry and biochemistry and neurons, that's what we are… One of the most basic devices in dramatic structure is transformation, which is to say change in the mindset of a character, the quality of the character, or in the social circumstances of a character, and so on. 

In terms of Inner Beauty, it's a creation rather than a transformation. It is an intriguing thing because to me it's kind of like a message from the inside of my body. It's kind of saying you are a creative person but your body creates on its own without your conscious awareness or creative input directly. The inside of your body is also capable of being creative. 

That's how I'm presenting these kidney stones, it's a very intimate kind of creation. And I look at it as something that is part of me but also something that goes out into the world that's separate from me,” Cronenberg said. 

See also: NFT Release Calendar

You have decades of work behind you, but does this purely digital format of NFTs ring any new bells for you? 

“Oh, absolutely. It's very exciting. With each advance and technology comes quite complex questions and some answers. And some opportunities.  

I think that the whole blockchain and cryptocurrency era ushers in a question that becomes very abstract and somewhat metaphysical…

What is the unique original work of art in the digital era? And then the whole NFT phenomenon pushes that question to the fore. When you buy an NFT, what do you really have? You don't have something that you can hang in your living room, and other versions of it do exist. It's almost like money is a creation. Money is based on the consent of everybody who uses money. It doesn't exist in nature as a physical thing. It's an abstract thing. And I think that the NFTs are a new version of that, instead of everybody agreeing that this thing has value and it has special value. It raises questions about art, originality, creativity, money, value, bartering, exchange, and economic systems. I don't have the answers to those questions, but I can see the questions,” Cronenberg said. 

When did you first become interested in blockchain overall or NFTs specifically?

I've been playing with computers since the early 1980s. I couldn't wait for the first word processor. I was so tired of the typewriter as much as I love them physically and aesthetically, but as a way to work, they were a complete drag because they didn't work the way your mind works. Your mind jumps around all over the place. And you can't do that with a typewriter. 

So I was very excited about the whole digital realm and have been for a long time so I've been interested in the blockchain and NFTs since they first appeared not that many years ago. But it was really my daughter Caitlin Cronenberg, who is a photographer in Italy. She was involved in my first NFT video because she encouraged me and she is very interested in NFTs and has created quite a few herself. Once you start thinking in terms of NFTs and the nature of art, suddenly it becomes very exciting. I mean, it's an open field, even though of course, it's constantly shifting and changing,” Cronenberg said. 

What new possibilities do NFTs give to creators?

“I would not have thought of presenting my kidney stone collection without NFTs. I wouldn't have presented them to the world in an art gallery. The advent of new technology provokes new art, as well as many other things, but it does provoke new art in each case. Just as the advent of cinematic filming created a new art form, which is the cinema. To me, these are all connected and it's exciting,” Cronenberg said. 

What's your advice to creators on the right way to integrate NFT technology or technology overall into art?

I think that artists are unique individuals. And so I don't think there's an overarching bit of advice or comfort or encouragement that I could give everybody their own difference because I can easily see someone deciding deliberately to make a statement about withdrawing from technology and deliberately having making retro art a huge part of their work. 

It depends on your, your nervous system, whether it excites you to embrace these things, or depresses you, or somehow or confounds you and confuses you. There are filmmakers who have not really progressed into the digital era very well. They don't understand greenscreen, they don't understand digital effects, which have become a staple in filmmaking but some filmmakers who shy away from it.

If there's any one thing one could say – for me, I embrace it. I find all of it exciting. I couldn't wait to get rid of film and get into the digital era. I don't have any of that sort of Spielbergian nostalgia for film. I mean, we have affection for film because of the many fantastic films that we’ve watched. But in terms of working with it, it's a nightmare. Young filmmakers don’t realize how lucky they are not to have to be working with film,” Cronenberg said. 

Conclusion

Speaking with David Cronenberg was a great way to recalibrate to the viewpoint of a creator after viewing NFTs through the corporate lens. Just as the most successful NFT projects are technology paradoxically supported in value by the old-fashioned involvement of a very human-driven hype machine, the NFT space seems to be an emerging corporate goldmine of marketing and productization – but still driven by outstanding creators who are bringing new ideas to the space.

Cronenberg is unusual in his bold fearlessness in embracing change, which is thematic to his work. It’s hard to imagine a better representative of the line between established artists with decades of work to their name, and the Wild West of the NFT space, as new as it is limitless. 

 

*Cover art based on an image by TheDigitalArtist on Pixabay. 

 

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