We are not moving our lives into the digital space any more than we moved our lives into the tactile space with the advent of woodblock printing in the 9th century. The digital is not infinite or transcendent, but maybe we can use it to create systems in our material world that are. It is our duty not to shy away from new spaces, but to transform them into new possibilities; something that reflects our own visions.
In 2010 Brendan Fernandes began to investigate ideas of “authenticity” explored through the dissemination of Western notions of an exotic Africa through the symbolic economy of "African" masks. These masks were removed from their place of origin and displayed in the collections of museums such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art. They lost their specificity and cultural identity as they became commodifiable objects, bought and sold in places like Canal Street in New York City.
In traditional West African masquerade when the performer puts on the mask, it becomes a bridge between the human and spiritual realms. The work examines the authenticity of these objects in the context of Western museums where they have been placed at rest and serve as exotified objects as opposed to serving their original aforementioned spiritual purpose.
In Fernandes’ genesis NFT project he is coming back to this work and thinking through the mask as an object that is still in flux and that lives within a cryptographic and digital space. Conceptually in this new work the masks now take on an alternate form of existence as we re-imbue them with the ability to morph and change in both physical form as well as economic value. The piece is constantly in a state of becoming and in that it can be seen as a take away or a souvenir. These NFT masks take inspiration from three specific masks housed in the Metropolitan Museum's African collection. The artist has scanned different materials: Gold, Textiles, Wood and Shells to create layers that will become the foundation of these “new” masks.
“Moving Forward: The Dancer Fund”
Part of the reason Brendan Fernandes was so interested in doing an NFT project was because of the ethos of community and mutual support that he saw in the crypto space. As such, he knew that when he did his genesis project, he would build in 10% of revenue to go to a fund that could increase in size each time he did a project. “Moving Forward: The Dancer Fund” aims to support and create solidarity through the spirit of collaboration, generosity and kindness to generate and provide for a greater dance community! In his work Fernandes has created strong bonds and relationships of support with many emerging dancers, many of whom are undervalued and underpaid. Much of Fernandes’ work focuses around how we value labor. Fernandes wants to be a force for change in the space of professional dance through employing fair compensation in his own work but also realizes that there are many who are not incentivized to seek more equitable forms of compensation and support.
Dancing is hard on the body of even the most privileged dancers, but based on the practices of low pay and too many hours of work, dancers often incur huge bills due to injury or sickness. Furthermore the toll of a dancer's career is a physical one but also a mental one but oftentimes, dancers have to chose rent and food over therapy so mental health is not seen as a priority. The fund will distribute discretionary grants to support the following:
- Bringing dancers from developing countries to take place in workshops and residencies. Many want to train at schools outside of their home lands but can not because of financial disparity.
- Providing supplemental income on important works where artists are not being paid enough out of the budget.
- Healthcare related bills (both physical and mental health). This isn’t a one-time contribution of a fund, this will become a recurring resource of support to dancers, an ongoing system in itself that benefits the community. Every time Fernandes sells a piece, a % revenue will go towards the fund and he welcomes other dancers, artists who support or participate in dance and those who just align with the the Dancer Fund’s mission to do the same!