Getting high with my NFT edible
Photo by Alexander Wilburn

Getting high with my NFT edible

The mellow tingling that pulsates with an unprovoked, weightless euphoria has arrived. The wooden leg of my desk brushes against my leg — or did my leg brush against the desk’s leg — and I am in a brief fit of laughter. I am high on a piece of art I purchased at Standard Space, a contemporary gallery in Sharon, Conn.

“Zubenelgenubi” by Kristin Worrall is both a THC-laced dessert and an NFT — which might make me the first person in Litchfield County to not only purchase marijuana artwork, but also the first customer to walk away from a local gallery with a piece of digitally encrypted art.

Combining the culinary arts with performance art, Kristin Worall hosted a live auction at Standard Space on Saturday night, Dec. 3. All titled after science fiction influences —from actual stars to names of alien species pulled from 1980s paperbacks — the gelatin sculptures fused the perfectly molded aspics of the 1950s domestic goddesses with intergalactic oddity and vague sexuality. The visuals of popular science fiction have always dabbled in abstract phallic and vaginal imagery, turning space into a Freudian landscape of the absurd. Consider the birth-anxiety of 1979’s “Alien,” or the teeth-baring vortex pit in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi,” or the vacuum-mouthed sandworms of Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” Of course, within the history of dessert are plenty of cheeky references, from the Neapolitan naughtiness of the Capezzoli di Venere — the Nipples of Venus — to the myth that the Champagne flute was modeled off the curves of Marie Antoinette.

“Zubenelgenubi” was the only THC-laden creation sold at Worrall’s performance, but it singularly marks a new direction possible for the conflation of art and marijuana in Connecticut after recreational use was legalized in the state in 2021. Possibilities that may be curbed by small-town government. In Falls Village, Conn., the hometown of The Lakeville Journal Company’s office, a special Nov. 10 meeting of the town’s Planning and Zoning Committee concluded by barring both the issue of growers licenses in Falls Village and licenses for recreational marijuana retail. Resident Daly Reville said at the meeting that “bringing people into town as an adult cannabis retail destination didn’t seem practical or advantageous to the town.” Meanwhile, Hartford Business reported this week that “Connecticut’s cannabis industry could account for more than 10,000 jobs just a few years after the recreational market launches.”

It does not escape me that in purchasing this giant gummy edible — which may leave me crashing into a deep slumber — I also purchased my first NFT in a crashing market. It’s been less than a month since FTX filed for bankruptcy, leaving Sam Bankman-Fried, the former chief executive of one of the leading digital currency exchanges, as a figure of Internet and old print mockery. This is the Sisyphean tumble after years of cryptocurrency’s dogged climb towards legitimacy.

For context on the inflated market of NFTs, think of the Internet as a large island nation, except instead of stumbling upon it after voyaging on the sea, we built it. Now that land needs to be claimed, bought, and sold — we must colonize our own creation, and “we” (meaning “they”) must find a way to make even a leaf on a tree a transactional opportunity. NFTs — non-fungible tokens — are a way of turning images into profit. This may sound like the very definition of the art market, except the baseline concept isn’t creativity, but a creative solution to a problem. Images, even copyrighted images, are duplicated and dispersed with little control across the Internet, which makes them free — a problem. So NFTs  are commonly bought with cryptocurrency like ether used on Ethereum, an open-source blockchain platform. One ether as of writing this is worth $1,282.9, a significant drop from this time last year. A purchase of an NFT is also the purchase of an individual identifier recorded in a blockchain ledger. It does not necessarily give the buyer supreme copyright, but the system does bring in the idea of an online image as a particular object.

Think of an NFT as the newspaper you’re reading. It is an exact copy of one of the thousands of newspapers this publication printed and distributed this week, but only this newspaper is the one you’re holding. It contains the oil on your fingertips, your coffee stains, a stray tear in the paper. Turn to the front and you will see a serial number, clearly identifying this as a particular newspaper — one of a copy, but one of a kind.

The traditional-medium artist to make the biggest splash from the NFT craze was Damien Hirst when he launched the conceptual project “The Currency” through the international art services business Heni. Hirst first made his splash in the 1990s with his formaldehyde-pickled tiger shark, and the bad boy of British art has continued to invent new attention-grabbing methods that make sure even those with little contemporary art knowledge are passingly familiar with his fame. In a 1994 issue of Parkett the late author Gordon Burn wrote, “It is one of Damien’s great strengths, both in the cool medium of his work and the hot medium of his person, that he is always pushing towards full disclosure.” Critic Julian Spalding has called Hirst’s work ”the sub-prime of the art world” more in line with creatively-marketed, hot-button luxury goods than lasting and meaningful art.

For his first delve into the crypto market, Hirst returned to a familiar subject, his instantly identifiable — and by no small coincidence, easily duplicable — prismatic dot paintings. This dot series was presented by Hirst and Heni as “a collection of 10,000 NFTs which correspond to 10,000 unique physical artworks which are stored in a secure vault in the UK.” Once the purchase had been made, the game began. Unlike my gelatin edible and its corresponding NFT, Hirst’s buyers did not have the option to keep both — they had to choose. Either delete the NFT or burn the physical piece of art. Which one held more currency? This October Hirst even welcomed fans to watch him burn the canvases which had been viewed as less desirable, less collectible, than their NFT counterparts.

Worrall described “Zubenelgenubi” as a melding of orange blossom and blackberry flavors, but devouring the gelatin by the forkful, all I could taste was the THC. It wasn’t unpleasant actually, a sexy sense memory that reminded me of having a joint on my tongue, the sound of the lighter flick, the burn and crackle of paper, my proximity to someone close by, breathing on my face as we passed the spark between drags. But as the high left me sinking into the sofa, the blaring the sound of Hans Zimmer’s “Dune” score with its otherworldly ancient chanting eclipsing all other senses like a great, black sun enveloping the earth, I realized I had inadvertently recreated Damien Hirst’s experiment. It hadn’t been intentional, the gummy was food that would eventually expire, but by ingesting it I had destroyed the artwork, leaving only the blockchain behind."

"Take Comfort" by Kristin Worrall is on view through Dec. 18  at Standard Space in Sharon, Conn.

Photo by Alexander Wilburn

Photo by Alexander Wilburn

Photo by Alexander Wilburn

Photo by Alexander Wilburn

Latest News

Walking among the ‘Herd’

Michel Negroponte

Betti Franceschi

"Herd,” a film by Michel Negroponte, will be screening at The Norfolk Library on Saturday April 13 at 5:30 p.m. This mesmerizing documentary investigates the relationship between humans and other sentient beings by following a herd of shaggy Belted Galloway cattle through a little more than a year of their lives.

Negroponte and his wife have had a second home just outside of Livingston Manor, in the southwest corner of the Catskills, for many years. Like many during the pandemic, they moved up north for what they thought would be a few weeks, and now seldom return to their city dwelling. Adjacent to their property is a privately owned farm and when a herd of Belted Galloways arrived, Negroponte realized the subject of his new film.

Keep ReadingShow less
Fresh perspectives in Norfolk Library film series

Diego Ongaro

Photo submitted

Parisian filmmaker Diego Ongaro, who has been living in Norfolk for the past 20 years, has composed a collection of films for viewing based on his unique taste.

The series, titled “Visions of Europe,” began over the winter at the Norfolk Library with a focus on under-the-radar contemporary films with unique voices, highlighting the creative richness and vitality of the European film landscape.

Keep ReadingShow less
New ground to cover and plenty of groundcover

Young native pachysandra from Lindera Nursery shows a variety of color and delicate flowers.

Dee Salomon

It is still too early to sow seeds outside, except for peas, both the edible and floral kind. I have transplanted a few shrubs and a dogwood tree that was root pruned in the fall. I have also moved a few hellebores that seeded in the near woods back into their garden beds near the house; they seem not to mind the few frosty mornings we have recently had. In years past I would have been cleaning up the plant beds but I now know better and will wait at least six weeks more. I have instead found the most perfect time-consuming activity for early spring: teasing out Vinca minor, also known as periwinkle and myrtle, from the ground in places it was never meant to be.

Planting the stuff in the first place is my biggest ever garden regret. It was recommended to me as a groundcover that would hold together a hillside, bare after a removal of invasive plants save for a dozen or so trees. And here we are, twelve years later; there is vinca everywhere. It blankets the hillside and has crept over the top into the woods. It has made its way left and right. I am convinced that vinca is the plastic of the plant world. The stuff won’t die. (The name Vinca comes from the Latin ‘vincire’ which means ‘to bind or fetter.’) Last year I pulled a bunch and left it strewn on the roof of the root cellar for 6 months and the leaves were still green.

Keep ReadingShow less
Matza Lasagne by 'The Cook and the Rabbi'

Culinary craftsmanship intersects with spiritual insights in the wonderfully collaborative book, “The Cook and the Rabbi.” On April 14 at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck (6422 Montgomery Street), the cook, Susan Simon, and the rabbi, Zoe B. Zak, will lead a conversation about food, tradition, holidays, resilience and what to cook this Passover.

Passover, marked by the traditional seder meal, holds profound significance within Jewish culture and for many carries extra meaning this year at a time of great conflict. The word seder, meaning “order” in Hebrew, unfolds in a 15-step progression intertwining prayers, blessings, stories, and songs that narrate the ancient saga of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery. It’s a narrative that has endured for over two millennia, evolving with time yet retaining its essence, a theme echoed beautifully in “The Cook and the Rabbi.”

Keep ReadingShow less