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With the ‘Moves’ NFT Series, Visual Artists and Musicians Lift Each Other Up

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Artists Amina El Kabbany, Heno and Tara Rose Morris (left to right) are using NFTs to collaborate and help each other get paid fairly for their work. (Left: Iman Benet, center: courtesy of the artist, right: Amina El Kabbany)

The inaugural installment of Moves, an ongoing NFT series, features an animated portrait of multidisciplinary artist Amina El Kabbany in a virtual, neon-lit room, swaying back and forth to a looped snippet of her song “Can’t Be There For You.” At a glance, the scene looks familiar: a musician dances to the beat of their own track as they perform, similar to COLORS or NPR’s Tiny Desk. But what’s completely novel about the work is its place in the metaverse—what many are calling the next version of the internet or cyberspace more generally.

Before Facebook changed its company name to Meta, the concept of the metaverse entered the mainstream with the rise of NFTs (non-fungible tokens), cryptographic assets that allow people to own digital items. NFTs had a massive spike in popularity in early 2021, opening up a broader conversation around how digital art can be collected, much like fine art. They’ve opened new opportunities for musicians, too. According to research by music tech writer Cherie Hu, more than $60.2 million in music NFTs sold between June 2020 and April 2021.

Critics have raised concerns about the NFTs’ environmental impact and their potentially unsustainable growth, but there’s an undeniable excitement about their potential to open doors and earn revenue for artists. Moves aims to do exactly that. 

The project is led by Oakland-based artist and educator Tara Rose Morris, who has a background in animation and experience teaching about web3 and NFTs. Dropping multiple installments over the coming months, Moves will feature music by artists like AroMa, Clear Mortifee, Yosef Gebre and more, accompanied by Morris’ animations. “I’m bringing those animations into the NFT space specifically to help onboard folks and bring existing community into a space that can feel kind of inaccessible,” Morris says.

Launching with Morris and El Kabbany’s collaboration, “NymphaeaMoves,” Moves aims first and foremost to help artists build equity: For each installment of the series, one piece gets sold to the public and another goes to the artist’s personal collection, which means they get an NFT in their wallet. When each piece sells, the value of the collection as a whole will go up. Each artist can then choose to keep their share or sell their NFT at any point. Additionally, with each public sale, 10% of the proceeds will be put aside into a wallet dedicated to future artist minting costs or collective projects. 


For El Kabbany, this new way of interacting with digital technology is an opportunity for a major paradigm shift. “I just think that our mindset in the NFT space is being shifted so much into one of collective support and cooperative economy,” she says. “And that’s really, really cool to me, that people are helping uplift each other to create a network of abundance and sharing.” 

One specific use case El Kabbany recounts took place just the night before we spoke, when a friend let her know that they were giving away free NFTs on Twitter, and she jumped in and got one. Given that NFTs can appreciate in value over time, the small action can ultimately have a big long-term impact. “The same way that people came together during the beginning of the pandemic to really support each other,” says El Kabbany, “I see people really coming together and being like, ‘Does anyone need help?’”

Rapper and producer Heno, whose piece for Moves will debut on Dec. 10, is also very interested making the NFT space more accessible. “I feel like information is the difference between doing something right and not doing something at all sometimes. There are a lot of dope, talented people who don’t even have access to be able to mint,” Heno shares. 

Beyond access to information, the sheer cost of minting an NFT can be a barrier for artists. Gas fees can be notoriously high, and are required to execute any transaction on the Ethereum blockchain platform (including minting, buying or even collecting funds from a sale).

“That’s why I point people in the right direction or put my folks on, because I think that it’s important to empower folks to be able to actually make a living off their work,” Heno says. “And seeing folks do that for others has been really telling of the type of people that are in this space and what they’re what they’re trying to do, because it’s so open for collaboration.”

Similar to “NympheaMoves,” Heno’s piece will feature a virtual version of him dancing to his single “Parallel Timelines (ft. Mick Jenkins).” Heno’s genesis, or first-ever, NFT by the same name sold in mid-November for 0.5 ETH ($2,181.47 at the time of publication), and he’s already raised 3.75 ETH (or over $16,200) in crowdfunded donations for his upcoming album. He hopes his work will open a new path for redefining how artists look at and value their work beyond traditional systems. 

One tangible example is an NFT smart contract: rather than spending thousands in legal fees to determine royalties, musicians can put together a simple, easy-to-understand contract that stipulates how earnings are handled. “Just like how it should be,” Heno exclaims. “It’s like, why are we subscribing to certain systems that just don’t fucking make sense anymore? It’s exciting to again be on the cusp of seeing and understanding our value, and [to] be able to empower other folks—especially marginalized folks—to do the same.” 

For Morris, accessibility is at the core of Moves and all her work in the web3 space. “It’s extremely important in order to not just mirror and repeat the systems that already exist,” she says. “And you can already see that the people who are making the most money in the tech space are the wealthy, white men that have been in the space for a long time and can afford to put their savings into risky things.”

Beyond digital works alone, Morris is looking to expand to different platforms to increase accessibility for different audiences. Platforms built on Tezos (another cryptocurrency rising in popularity) have very cheap fees, and the cryptocurrency is one of the least damaging to the environment. And ones like POAP cross the line between the virtual and reality by letting users mint proof-of-attendance tokens for events.

“It’s these little touch points that allow folks to enter the space and have it be less tech jargon that I think will allow folks to feel more comfortable—along with a lot of educational resources,” Morris says.


When NFTs like Moves are created intentionally, there is unbounded potential for artists to tangibly benefit from their work. “One of the key terms in the NFT space is, ‘We’re all gonna make it,’” El Kabbany says. “I think that’s so cool. And I just feel like I found creative communities who understand the vision that I have.”

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