Decades ago, a friend ran over to me excitedly at university: “RepRage! I’ve joined a band and I’m playing synthesizer!” He proceeded to rock out with a bit of air keyboard while making robot noises. I was hyped for him and wondered what the band was called. When he replied, “Debaser”, my puzzled look prompted further explanation: “It’s when someone destroys value – like when a government does something to make their money worth less. Like burning a five-buck note.”

For a while, I felt like I was a debaser. I’d buy a sheet of plywood, paint it, cut it to pieces and screw it together in some new shape. When I stepped back, I’d speculate, “That plywood probably had greater value as a sheet than what it does now.”

I was wrong though; I had completely discounted the educational value of my actions. Fifty bucks for the opportunity to practice my craft? What a bargain. But those ideas around materials and value still linger, and that’s why I love creating with my computer. I shuffle around stuff that costs me nothing – numbers and instructions – and upload them as ideas into the brain of a digital machine.

I think that’s one of the exciting promises of Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) – the ability to extract value from almost nothing more than your own labour. It’s the total opposite of a debaser, and maybe it’s an artist’s final form. Someone who can increase the significance of the materials around them.

A Tom Sachs tie clip engraved with the word debaser.

Originally written for the Sachsian Syndicate.

Previously: TGIM 25 - …this is technology that gives us a seat at the table. All we need is enough courage to place a value on our own voice, our own art, and list it for sale.