A conversation about NFTs: QLU Collective
Worthwhile things can only grow out of great needs, and this cross-European art collective grew out of the greatest need of all — the one for the companionship of like-minded peers, the one for friendship. These four digital natives shared they’ve become friends probably the first time they shook hands with each other. Studying together at the Art Academy they hang out around a lot and did art together even before they’ve become the collective. When they got separated (some went to Brussels while others stayed in Split), they missed each other and tried to stay constantly in contact. So the idea was born to do something with the possibilities they had at the time — working from home, sending each other stuff and then combining it — that idea became QLU.
In the first Endemic AMA hosted on Dec 09, the QLU collective were our guests sharing their insights about NFTs in general and their collections that will be minted on the Endemic marketplace. More accurately, two of the four of their members were our guests — Bambino and Xenpai. Read what they said.
Q: What do you think gives value to NFTs?
Bambino: Asking what makes NFT relevant, valuable or even good is rather a part of the question of what makes ART relevant, valuable or good. What’s happening in the broader mainstream with NFTs is what happened 5000 years ago when people came up with the paper for the first time. It’s not like they haven’t been doing art painting the walls of caves, it’s just that new technology came along and they weren’t anymore tied to, you know, a cave wall. You could exhibit it somewhere, carry it home and so on.
NFT is a new thing and that’s partially why it attracted us. We are lured to new things, to this punk mentality of trying new stuff and experimenting with whatever we can — we experimented with video projection, music, and NFTs are kind of the ultimate experimentation technique. It’s a completely new medium, it’s something that legitimizes the current art form (at the moment digital folk art if I may call memes like that), as an expression of the current culture and mainstream culture. This is what we liked. NFTs are available, democratic (meaning that anyone can do it and anyone can access it), but it also nourishes this punk mindset we’re trying to adhere to. And we think it’s the core of the thing.
Q: Are NFTs the future of art?
Xenapi: Yes, they already are and will be. It’s not the question at all. As it was in the past with all-new mediums and concepts, NFTs will be a part of our lives but to what extent we cannot know. If you ask me, I believe it will be a big part of everyday life, too. We know a guy who converted his diploma to NFT. So, everything is possible, maybe our everyday documents will be in that form — possibilities are endless and we will see it in time. It’s hard to predict because technology is developing so fast.
Q: How do you rate the quality of the current artwork in the NFT sphere?
Bambino: Regarding art, we’re still living in the era of postmodernism. The main principle of art, culture and pop culture is deconstruction. Everything is being deconstructed. You saw it in the early 2000s on TV — everything that came up just made fun of things. There was no plot to anything, you just take something that happened recently and laugh at it and deconstruct. Art is very much the same. Everyone who turned on Netflix in the past month could see that Marina Abramović is dominating the streaming sphere there. We’re still living in that era of a culture where you’re not allowed to be nostalgic, emotional, naive — any of these genuine human traits. That being said, I believe this is changing with NFTs. The producers are artists but also everyday people who inject everyday situations in the NFTs and some of their interests. So you have NFTs on anything — from high conceptual visual art to anime, Hello Kitty and memes. Of course, a lot of it is going to be artistically irrelevant, just garbage. But a lot of it is going to be relevant. And in this context, the NFT world is going to have a lot of good and a lot of bad art, just as the paper had and canvas and collage or film. But I believe NFT as a movement brings something new and relevant which will raise the principles of the art.
“If you think about what really makes up your personality — did you create your personality or was it created with all the people or moments that surround you? It’s weird to think about what defines us. If you think about it long enough, you’ll realize that even you only know one version of yourself. So if everybody knows only one version of you, does anybody really know you at all?”
Q: Diggin’ into what awaits us at the Endemic launch. What is the ‘Where do I know you from’ project?
Bambino: The ‘Where do I know you from?’ project started from a wish of all of us in the collective to do an analogue collage with a digital twist. We firstly produced it as an analogue, then worked it digitally and the whole reason why we were doing that is that we were experimenting with the idea of identity.
There are people in our lives we think we remember — an ex, a family member we haven’t seen for several days, people we hung out with but suddenly disappeared and even if they fell off the cliff you wouldn’t hear or know… The truth is we don’t really remember them. Remembering people doesn’t mean you have the complete image of that person in your head. That’s not how memory and neuroplasticity works. Your brain is a vocabulary. You have a given number of words or references in your brain and you combine them in different ways to form the image of a person. For example, Xenpai and I yesterday spoke of a guy that we used to know while we were at college and the first thing that came to our mind was — he has this kind of a Neanderthal look — strong with a very high forehead, rugged facial features, hairy, rough skin. And to be honest, we couldn’t remember anything else so vivid about him, only this element that came to the forefront. This is not to be offensive, just to explain how neuroplasticity works. Once you remember someone, you start piecing them together out of the fragments you have in your head. And that’s how college works. So, for the ‘Where do I know you from’ we started to piece people out of pictures of fish, fashion, jewellery or whatever we found in the newspapers that resonated with us and reminded us of these people. We saw this as an exploration of identity.
We all know how we look because we see ourselves in the mirror every day, but that’s not the only ‘us’ that exists. With every person you ever met in your life, a different version of you exists in their mind. And who knows, maybe someone remembers you particularly looking like a fish, Brad Pit or something else. They will piece these different images of you in their mind and they are the owners of those images. If I made a Neanderthal out of jeans and tweed, I’d be the owner of that image. So, that’s what we’ve been doing. We made alternative identity avatars of people out of the small pieces that they’ve impressed on us. There are people with beautiful eyes that you’ll never forget once you meet them and you’ll remember nothing else. And all of this became even more relevant as the pandemic hit and you couldn’t see anyone. You started struggling to remember what people looked like. We wanted to share this project with people because we think it’s very relevant not just in the sense of exploring identity but also given the digital context. We hear a lot about the Metaverse where you’ll get to choose who you are online and create this new life. And that’s kind of what we were exploring. What is identity? How much of it can you choose and how much of it is chosen for you?
Q: Can you explain a bit further the subprojects of this collection?
Bambino: Once you start experimenting with people you end up with animals because there are certain people you don’t remember just particular details like — ok, this girl is fox-like, or this guy has something which reminds me of an ant. So we started experimenting with animal forms and baroque concepts, a little sub initiative we call psycho-baroque where we just start adding and adding everything that reminds you of someone that could be interpreted as identity. We’ve even recreated our favourite dishes and food we kinda remembered from our childhoods. It’s all just a part of this one big exploration of identity and neuroplasticity that was meant to be created as NFT and the ‘Where do I know you from’ project. The people are going to see all this I’m talking about and I hope it’s going to resonate with them when they do.
Q: What about the second collection called ‘Shrooms 2 the moon’?
Xenpai: It was our first project of this kind. Every picture you see in this collection is unique — there is no other version, different colour or anything. Each mushroom has a different look and different characteristics we tried to combine with similar people’s personalities. They are fully digital and handmade, each member of the collective worked together because each of us has strengths in something else — one searched for materials, another did the digital high lifting, the third one improved the concept, etc. Models are people from our lives (even my dog) and names are something exquisite that can make someone’s day. Also, there will be an interactive model for this collection and NFT or ETH rewards.
Let us explain…
Every single one of NFTs has a small part of the planet shown in its background. QLU have selected 10 planets (9 planets and a Moon) each with a custom made 9 NFT grid for each planet. When the buyer collects all 9 NFTs, he can put them together like a puzzle assembling the planet in its entirety. If a collector manages to collect all 9 NFTs into a single planet will get a special rare NFT depicting the whole planet like a filled album. The fastest 5 collectors of each planet series will also get a special ultra-rare NFT that is thematically related to the planet. Best collectors that manage to collect all 10 planets and 90 unique NFTs will receive the rarest NFT of the whole galaxy and Shrooms 2 the Moon ecosystem.
Q: Your collective has been brought together by their love of pop culture, artistic inclinations, and a general sense of irreverence towards any kind of expressive form. Is there any meaning to the QLU name?
Bambino: We remember that it used to mean something when we came up with it, we just can’t remember what. And we think this is entirely appropriate because we all have names and our parents didn’t name us by something gigantic, they didn’t give names with the hope you’ll be president of the state because of it. They just gave us a name which they think is cool or hopefully had some tradition. It’s up to us to fill out that name. In that context, as soon as we forgot what QLU meant, we just realized it sounds really cool and we started filling out this name with meaning — punk aesthetic, experimental stuff, the irreverence of the traditional art form, etc…
With that in mind, we present you each of the QLU collective members with their description (from the left to right):
Legend has it that Xenpai was born completely naked, and ever since then, this convinced nudist has only worn the clothes that society forced him to. Xenpai’s passion for art is only rivalled by his determination to never be “old enough to understand ‘.
Jaune is the woman of many names, each leading a life of its own, and each of those lives a wild adventure. Well… Except “Amanda”. She uses Amanda to order in Starbucks since her real name is unpronounceable. Amanda is boring. The others are cool, though.
Beenude be nude. Seriously. At this very moment, most likely. The witch of the group, Beenude’s hexes provide for the quartet’s good luck and health. She is fearless, except for the existential dread caused by the realization that’s she’s only a brain trapped in a skeleton that will only be dry when she dies
While all people are indeed “born”, it feels more accurate to use “found” in Bambino’s case. This conservative anarchist and aspiring pro-wrestler play a key role in QLU’s day-to-day operations, as without him they’d have to call themselves a trio.
Follow this awesome collective on their Instagram account and be first to possess their artwork when Endemic launches 🚀