Brian Eno on NFTs

In this thought-provoking piece on The Crypto Syllabus, Evgeny Morozov talks to Brian Eno about the current NFT craze.

Brian Eno is one of the most accomplished artists working today. Having given us the genre of ambient music, he also produced many of the most remarkable acts of the past 40+ years. He is also known for his sound, video, and digital art including 77 Million Paintings, which, with its generative spirit of abundance, might be the opposite of what NFTs represent.

Brian once pissed into Duchamp's famous urinal, unhappy with how the gallery world was misinterpreting Duchamp's philosophy of art. Having known Brian for some time – we both share an interest in cybernetics and the work of Stafford Beer – I reached out to him to ask his opinions about NFTs and what he makes of the broader political import of crypto.

If NFTs are really Duchamp's Readymades reversed, as the American art historian David Joselit argued in a much-discussed short essay from April 2021, what better figure to ask for answers than the man who urinated into Duchamp's Fountain?


There is much excitement about crypto these days, with many claims made in the name of these technologies. What do you make of their promises?

I see a set of solutions but I don't know what problems they exist to solve other than 'How can we use these to absorb all this spare money that's washing around?'. Most of the conversation I hear is asking the question 'What could we do with these technologies?': which doesn't mean 'how could we change the world into a better place?' but 'How could we turn them into money?'.

Is there much that, in your view, crypto technologies can do for artists?

As for the effects on artists, although I imagine there can and perhaps even are now interesting creative uses of crypto technologies, as yet I don't see them. I am not sure what is being brought into the world that makes any difference to anything other than some strings of numbers moving about in some bank accounts. I want to know what is changing, what is being made different, what is helping, what is moving? I don't see any answers to that question.

Read the rest here.

[H/t Angela White]

Image: Screengrab from Brian Eno & Steven Johnson: On Art.