NFTs are in the news again. This time along with frequent inhabitants of the headlines -- Artist Matt Furie and his creation, Pepe the Frog. (photo below of from the documentary "Feels Good Man"
Furie's earliest efforts to reclaim his art are summarized in this Oct 2016 article "Pepe the Frog's creator wants him to be a symbol of chillaxing again" by Michel Cavna in The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2016/10/26/pepe-the-frogs-creator-wants-him-to-be-a-symbol-of-chillaxing-again/
"Can Matt Furie return his comic frog to a happy place?
His character Pepe has gone from slacker to meme to unwilling hate symbol — and now Furie is trying to reclaim him.
Furie created Pepe the Frog about a decade ago in his psychedelic comic “Boy’s Club,” which depicted the character as a chill, “feels good, man” amphibian — before Pepe was launched into a second life as a meme-friendly image. Furie was like the kind owner who was happy to let others play with his pet — until this bizarre election cycle, when Pepe was cast squarely into the Trump and Clinton showdown after the frog was co-opted on 4chan and soon swimming in a cesspool of swastikas and white-supremacist symbols.
Pepe was thrust onto the presidential center stage last month after one of Donald Trump’s sons Instagrammed a Photoshopped image that included Pepe in a lineup of “Deplorables.” As the media picked up the story, Hillary Clinton’s campaign website wrote: “In recent months, Pepe’s been almost entirely co-opted by the white supremacists who call themselves the ‘alt-right.’ ”
Furie's struggles went on for years, and can be seen in the award-winning documentary "Feels Good Man" now streaming on PBS https://www.pbs.org/independentlens/documentaries/feels-good-man/
This summary is from the PBS website:
"Feels Good Man is the story of how artist Matt Furie, creator of a trippy, once-benign comic character named Pepe the Frog, fought an uphill battle to reclaim his iconic creation from those who turned it into a symbol of hate. An exploration of the power of online imagery and the fascinating spin cycle of memes in a culture where ownership and meaning can be wrested away from creators, Feels Good Man is a thought-provoking, wild ride through an Internet that transformed an unlucky cartoon frog, and then the rest of the world.
Created by Furie as a character in his comic Boy’s Club, Pepe was originally an embodiment of the laid-back lifestyles of young male college graduates finding their footing in the real world. After popping up in meme form on various fitness blogs, Pepe eventually started appearing on the anonymous online message board 4chan, where his image was quickly replicated and adopted as a symbol of misfits everywhere.
Feels Good Man follows Pepe’s surreal journey of being co-opted and twisted into an image of hate by extreme online communities through the eyes of his horrified creator, who finds himself increasingly powerless to stop this co-optation as it spirals out of his control. The film asks the questions: Does anyone truly own anything on the internet? Can an image that has been transformed into one of hate be transformed once again into one of hope?"
Furie's story was also highlighted previously here on the blog
https://stuartngbooks.blogspot.com/2019/05/art-theft-case-study-update-pepe-frog.html (Photo from The Times of Israel).
In 2021, Furie's creative rights odyssey has taken him into NFT territory.
Here's a long excerpt from the 5.21.21 article " Matt Furie is trying to reclaim his famous cartoon Pepe the Frog — through NFTs" by Michael Cavna in The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2021/05/30/pepe-frog-nft-matt-furie-crypto-art/ (photo from the documentary "Feels Good Man")
"Matt Furie is a patient man. After many on the Internet co-opted his most famous cartoon creation more than a decade ago, he was long willing to live and let live. And when his same Pepe the Frog character popped up on the forefront on the crypto-art scene about five years ago, Furie watched from the sidelines and waited.
Now, he’s moving fully into the world of NFTs and their experimental possibilities.
Last month, an image of Pepe — the first authentic crypto-art of Furie’s iconic character — sold at auction for about $1 million. And the artist is planning to unveil a universe of collectible NFT characters — some of them his latest takes on Pepe.
To Furie, the NFT realm is about more than coin. During the era of Donald Trump, extremist social media users adapted Pepe so often that the Anti-Defamation League deemed it a hate symbol. But the exploding world of crypto-art is allowing the cartoonist to reclaim a character who was never meant to stand for much beyond love, peace, hedonism and altered-state chillaxin’.
“The NFT world is new, and there are a lot of optimistic people creating cool things,” Furie says of his interest in exploring non-fungible tokens — unique digital files whose origins and ownership can be verified. “Pepe does not have the baggage here that he does in the 'real world,’ and I like working with utopians and optimistic freethinkers. There are so many possibilities.”
Furie became intrigued when his cousin Frank Musarra, a Brooklyn-based multimedia artist, contacted him in February with an invitation to show his work on Chain/Saw, a new online gallery of crypto-art featuring like-minded creators. Musarra envisioned a “middle ground between crypto-utopian zealotry and grouchy anti-tech naysayers.”
They soon were on a Zoom call with dozens of fellow artists, kicking around ideas about just what the site would look like. Furie embraced the opportunity to show the world he was much more than the Pepe Guy. Yet as the site’s April launch neared, Furie and Musarra, the site’s official founder, knew something was missing. “We both felt pressure to show a Pepe NFT,” says Furie, who’s based in Southern California….
….So why is ownership of a Furie art token called “1pantsdownpee.jpg” worth a million bucks? “It’s my view that this will eventually be one of the most valuable digital originals in the world,” punk4156 told Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art last month, noting that given how widely the Pepe image has been copied, the original “should rightfully be our generation’s Mona Lisa.”
This week, Furie is planning to unveil PEGZ — Pog-like digital portraits of his creature characters in 2-D, 3-D and animated form. “Everything else is a bootleg, and I’m very inspired by bootlegs in my life and in my art,” he says — including Grateful Dead mix tapes — “but nothing beats the real thing.”
Furie enters this world fascinated, too, by its sense of community — intrigued by how NFTs can “provide a tangible connection between a digital artwork and a collector who owns it.”
Many people are minting their unique works as NFTs because blockchain technology — as a ledger of transactions across a network of computer systems — can now create a fixed digital record proving who owns each work. So creators are selling electronic tokens of everything from music to social media content — including the viral “Charlie Bit My Finger” video (which fetched $760,999 at auction) and Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey’s first tweet ($2.9 million).
“This new space is laying the groundwork for the Internet 3.0,” Furie says. “In the future, you’ll be able to trace memes back to their source.”
And as Giorgio Angelini, writer-producer of the documentary “Feels Good Man,” puts it: “Pepe is the ur-meme.”
As chronicled in that film, Pepe has had many online lives: The anthropomorphic frog jumped from the panels of a relatively obscure comic about benign bro-creatures, transmogrified into a meme on the forums of 4chan and was posted on social media by such pop singers as Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj. But Pepe’s image was also swiped by the alt-right and white supremacist groups and plunged into the political mainstream during the 2016 presidential election cycle, with Donald Trump Jr. sharing an image of Pepe among GOP figures, in a spoof movie poster titled “The Deplorables.” In 2018, Furie sued Infowars host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones over unauthorized use of Pepe; the case was settled the next year"
More on NFTs here: http://stuartngbooks.blogspot.com/2021/04/nfts-in-news-case-studies.html