FolkFigur by Ilja Karilampi is a shapeshifting 3D character whose changes are driven by statistics that people generate in their daily lives. As the first digital public artwork produced as an NFT on the blockchain Ethereum, it offers a dynamic portrait of today’s Sweden. It fuses folklore with literary legacy, while at the same time raising important questions about the impact of new technologies on the art world and society at large.
FolkFigur is a commission by Public Art Agency Sweden as the winning proposal of an Open Call in 2021 for art in the digital sphere. It is found online at folkfigur.com and folkfigur.se and in the blockchain network Ethereum.
FolkFigur is experienced by visiting the website, accessible through a browser on your computer or mobile device. The audience can interact with the work at any time during its two-month journey, and can choose to generate an NFT of its current state, thus becoming a co-owner of the artwork. The custom coded smart contract and web design allows FolkFigur to be imprinted forever on the Ethereum blockchain. All the NFTs of FolkFigur are distributed for free, and require only a token wallet.
In the words of the curator Edi Muka
The NFT project FolkFigur by Ilja Karilampi is a multi-layered artwork. Aiming to create a representational symbol, or mascot, as he prefers to call it, that paints a portrait of today’s Sweden, the artist established a collective process working with various teams. As a result of long discussions, they developed a symbolical character that takes inspiration from both Swedish literature and Scandinavian folklore. The literary reference comes from Selma Lagerlöf’s beloved book The Wonderful Adventures of Nils Holgersson. The folkloric reference can be found in the character of the troll – a timeless, often ridiculed figure that could also be considered a bearer of Swedish traditions. FolkFigur thus becomes a new symbiotic figure, a queer troll on the back of the flying bird, travelling around the nation.
The figure emerges through a cloud of dots – a reference to the number of people living in Sweden. Light and colour changes roam through the figure’s body, making it exist in a constant flow of change. The glimmering bursts and behaviors are caused by real-time streams of public data, such as air quality, school food menus, energy production, public radio playlists and more. The figure also travels around Sweden in its own way: the background image changes every day and comes from public webcams placed around Sweden. The portrait of today’s Sweden is thus painted through these streams of data from people’s interactions, and their impact on the surrounding environment.
As a public art project FolkFigur raises important questions about the impact of new technologies on society and everyday life, on the role of artists and art institutions today and in the future, and on new forms of ownership, community, and the sense of belonging that they may create.
What is an NFT?
An NFT (Non-Fungible Token) can be described as a unique, digital piece of art, created in a combination of images and coding. Each token is a unit of data on a blockchain, and each NFT represents a unique, digital object. Therefore, NFTs are not interchangeable. An NFT can represent digital files such as art, sound, video, or other types of creative work. NFTs can also be used as avatars to show connection to a community or to create an art collection. Tokens can also be changed or sold using digital currencies.
Why is the Public Art Agency producing NFT art?
The digital evolution affects our time and our society. The public space has expanded and is no longer constricted to physical spaces. This is also reflected in art. NFT is a new phenomenon and a new field of art that has grown fast, creating new possibilities as well as challenges for artists.
In 2021, Public Art Agency Sweden launched an Open Call for art in the digital sphere. FolkFigur was commissioned as the winning proposal of this Open Call. The aim was to explore the development of this field and its effects on art and society at large.
How can I access FolkFigur?
FolkFigur is experienced by visiting the website, accessible through a browser on your computer or mobile device. The audience can interact with the work at any time during its two-month journey and choose to generate an NFT of its current state, thus becoming a co-owner of the artwork. The custom coded smart contract and web design allows FolkFigur to be imprinted forever on the Ethereum blockchain. All the NFTs of FolkFigur are distributed for free and require only a token wallet.
Software concept and smart contracts by Benoit Baudry and Martin Monperrus.
About Public Art Agency
Public Art Agency Sweden explores the interaction between contemporary art and public space. Together with artists and partner institutions we engage in producing art that reflects the time we live in, and strive to make art a part of people’s lives throughout the country. Founded in 1937, Public Art Agency Sweden is a governmental agency under the Ministry of Culture.