Students are investing more and more in non-fungible tokens, better known as NFTs or blockchain art. 21-year-old student Stijn van Schaik, who studies Advertising at the Willem de Koning Academie and General Cultural Studies at Erasmus University, went a step further. He edited a photo that a friend took of him with a blue hue and a white film that seems to move. He copied what the soul might look like from the Disney film ‘Soul’ to create a ghost-like image of his soul. Accompanying the image, he and a blogger called Liminal Warmth wrote a kind of title deed linked to the work.
Van Schaik, known to friends as Stinus, sees his action as a criticism. “I’m a great supporter of the technological aspects of cryptocurrency and everything it involves. I feel it’s such a shame that people only associate NFTs with a picture that earns you a lot of money. All the pictures that sell well are endlessly reproduced. Just copy and paste. In that respect, they are soulless projects. NFTs are now all sold on the same platform, so everything is centralised, even though the blockchain was supposed to decentralise everything. So, I decided to sell my soul. As a criticism from inside, from someone who loves the blockchain.”
For 330 euros, he sold his soul under the name ‘Soul of Stinus’ as NFT on the big online marketplace Opensea. The American tech entrepreneur Brian P. Christie bought Van Schaik’s soul and has big plans for the work. He shares Stijn’s criticism about the current NFT market and calls the work unique. Much more unique than the much talked about Bored Ape series, which were sold for a lot of money by NFT speculators. Which is why Christie put the work on the market for a few hundred euros more than the most expensive Bored Ape on the market: over 3 million euro.
Although you get ten percent of the profit from the current owner if he sells your work, you may lose out on a couple of million. Any regrets?
“For me, it was never about the money. It was about criticising expensive NFTs without a story.”
Do you think it will be sold for that huge amount?
“I think so. When people realise the artistic message behind the work, they’ll support it too. Christie told me that the famous auction house Christie’s had shown interest in auctioning it. If that happens, you also reach buyers who have a lot to spend.”
“I’ll try to reach the agents there via mainstream art magazines instead of just the media who only talk about my project for its shock effect. Christie’s has sold NFTs for millions more often. As far as I know, there aren’t many conceptual NFTs with a message like mine. Previously, they sold works made for the hype or just because people liked them.”
I only see a drawing, a self-portrait with a glorified rental agreement. What do you think makes it a soul?
“It’s my soul, I mean that seriously. Mind you, I may look at it more scientifically than other people. According to Islam, you may not depict a soul, so I don’t score any points with them. I personally see my soul as an energy force. All my energy goes into this project, in talking to the media and drawing attention to the NFT. But it’s also an ode to old definitions of the soul. According to Christian myths, you used to sell your soul based on a contract, signed in blood.”
You’re not religious?
“No, I’m not. I get a lot of criticism from religious people who say that it’s not too late to save my soul. And then I say: yes, it is too late, I’ve already sold it. They tell me that I’ll have a painful death or go to hell. That doesn’t scare me personally, because I take a scientific view.”
“However, I am convinced that I’ve sold my soul. Purely because everything I do is focused on that. Because for me, a soul mainly means energy, and I’m putting all my energy into this project. I can’t study or do any sports, for example.”
According to the definition of a soul that’s in the sales contract, namely that a soul has nothing to do with the physical reality or can be legally traced to you, there are absolutely no consequences for you as a person. So, what does it actually stand for?
“I don’t want to interpret or attack the buyer’s beliefs about a soul. But you’re right, it doesn’t say in the contract that it will have consequences for me as a person. But I’m open to however the owner wants to use my soul.”
Ok, but say the buyer believes that he or she also buys you when they acquire the NFT, despite the terms and conditions of the contract, what then?
“I’m prepared for the fact that that person could appear on my doorstep at any moment. But that’s ok.”