Japan-based digital artist and creator behind the virtual reality (VR) space Infinite Art Museum (IAM), Nigel Fogden tells us about his upcoming pieces and how NFT and crypto technologies breakthrough hierarchical art market barriers.

Francesca Miller  |  Ed Cristina Brooks  | 28 April 2021

Infinite Art Museum Special Collection – Cryptoarts.org  (2019) © Courtesy of the Cryptoarts.

Canadian-born digital artist Fogden has created a VR environment to showcase works by male and female digital artists alike. The IAM was born from a desire to see his mother’s paintings at an exhibition in the US that he couldn’t attend. “I was only interested in using VR as a platform to make the gallery experience available for artists who would otherwise never be able to showcase their work, and also visitors who wouldn’t have access to it,” Fogden tells Agora.

Aware that many talented artists never have their work hung up in a gallery, let alone a museum, Fogden set up the IAM as a free and permanent VR space, opening it up to various digital artists. The VR gallery now hosts thousands of original paintings and digital art, including crypto art from artists around the world.

Fogden worked on IAM for three solid years, creating custom galleries within the VR museum for digital artists such as Isabel Moya Camacho as well as crypto artist Sparrow, from Black Box Art, who talks about her collaboration with Fogden on Ethereum powered creative exchange platform, Cent. In return for customised space in his gallery, Fogden received Sparrow’s crypto art donations.

Over the last 18 months, however, Fogden has evolved his career journey as a digital artist in his own right; creating VR experiences of his own. Each experience is part of a series: in other words, a growing chain of interconnected NFTs.

Artist, Rosemary for Remembrance (yyyy) © Courtesy of the artist.

In this first series, Liminal Scenes, Fogden explores the contrast between what he calls “phenomenal art and epiphenomenal art” i.e. the gap between the code and the experience of it. “When you look at the code, you don’t feel anything but from the aesthetic, that stirs emotion in anyone who views or experiences the work,” says Fogden.

In addition to the above, each VR experience is a reflection on a theme. These themes are often human inner fears such as trauma, loneliness, insomnia or separation.

  • you should sleep 3 Infinite Museum NFT - Agora Digital Art
  • you should sleep 2 Infinite Museum NFT - Agora Digital Art
Artist, You Should Sleep (yyyy) © Courtesy of the artist.

So far, he has released a VR experience as an NFT every fortnight, connecting each of them as part of the growing chain. As you step into the scene, you realise that the work is a mise en abîme of different VR scenes that navigate from to another. Rosemary for Remembrance is the artist’s interpretation of Ophelia’s trauma, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. You Should Sleep is a meditation on sleep with Schumann’s music as a backdrop.

  • alone at the party - infinite museum NFT - Agora Digital Art
Artist, Alone at a Party (yyyy) © Courtesy of the artist.

In each VR scene, Fogden immerses you in dark muted tones, and adds a flash of light or shard of bright colour, stark geometric shapes, ambient textures and 3D floating sculptures. Music, a constant in these scenes, is spatially mirroring the atmosphere and mood of the space you’re in,  as it morphs into a different tune when you move around.

Reflecting on his journey, Fogden takes stock of the impact of crypto and NFT technologies on the digital art world as well as the wider art market. 

Although he believes you can achieve anything with a little bit of persistence and the right resource, he is under no illusion that they are no systemic barriers, particularly for female artists. However, he believes in the possibilities that NFT and crypto art unlock for digital artists that have traditionally been “invisibles”: women, people from ethnic minority groups, or with disabilities of all sorts are now on a more equal footing. 

The technologies have opened up platforms where digital artists can organise and make themselves and their art more visible.

“You can now have a network of women creators who can support each other, and they’re selling their NFTs, creating their own shows and can mobilise themselves without having to appeal to an establishment owned by a group that doesn’t have any empathy for them,” says Fogden.

With a market where so much is going on, especially NFTs and crypto where an overwhelming amount of art is produced and available for sale, some may argue that output should be curated so that people can make sense of it and make it more manageable for collectors. 

  • Collaboration with Rudy Paganini1 - Infinite Museum NFT - Agora Digital Art
  • Collaboration with Rudy Paganini2 - Infinite Museum NFT - Agora Digital Art
Artist, Collaboration with Rudy Paganini (yyyy) © Courtesy of the artist.

However, once you have curators, how do you stop them from recreating the hierarchies that still plague the traditional art world?

Fogden worries, “The problem is, just as it is for anyone on Soundcloud or Youtube, how do you create an egalitarian space that still allows people to find what they want without having to depend on somebody else’s opinion?” 

About the artist

Nigel Fogden - founder of the Infinite Museum in VR and NFT - Agora Digital Art
© Courtesy of the artist.

Fogden (b. 1975) is an autodidact who first taught himself programming on C# (pronounced see sharp) to design games to create VR experiences. His first piece was a game/ music app on the pentatonic scale.  

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