Four months ago FarCats was unleashed onto the Farcaster ecosystem and the NFT art world at large. 1661 unique NFTs created using AI, FarCats represent a new genre of NFT and occupy a novel space in the broader art world - with some precedents. Let’s explore.
First, a little background on Farcaster and my time in the ecosystem. Farcaster was launched in 2021 and is a ‘protocol for building decentralized social apps.’ Core users of its flagship client, Warpcast, are currently mostly crypto natives, though not exclusively. A reformed airdrop hunter and enthusiastic crypto early adopter, I joined as user #528, early, as they say. Early enough that there was very little art being shared on the platform and so I started sharing my own and eventually began making some of the first Farcaster themed NFTs.
Every burgeoning internet ecosystem needs its own memetic arsenal, and while the FarCaster arch is formally strong, it doesn’t lend itself to playful whimsy. Some users suggested FarCaster needed a mascot. I began to think what if, like Farcaster itself, the mascot was not one, but many. Sufficiently decentralized. Enter FarCats.
2. FarCats are Smart.
FarCats leverage the power of AI to achieve something not possible before, genre exploration and output diversity at scale - and they were one of the first to do it.
Three main threads ran through the digital art/NFT space from 2021 to 2023: code based Generative Art, PFP collectibles, and AI Art. The first expanded on the foundation of the decades old Generative Art genre and saw innovations in style and monetization via NFTs. Notable examples from Tyler Hobbs and Matt Deslauriers illustrate the iterative power of code based generative art like silkscreening did with Pop Art 70 years prior. PFPs hold mostly a dubious claim as ‘art,’ however there are exceptions and the layered generative minting mechanics and collective nature of the projects is notable and interesting in its own right. With AI, an astonishing new consumer technology was unleashed on the world, the implications we’re still grappling with. Everyone could now seemingly create art, for better or worse. A popular phenomena was Twitter threads mashing up well known movie or cartoon characters with movies. e.g. Kermit the Frog in Bladerunner. I imagined FarCats as a collection that mashed up something simple, a purple cat, with everything; a new type of collection that combined the iterative nature and scale of generative art, the collective and memetic energy of PFPs and the stylistic diversity and range unlock of AI.
3. FarCats are Dumb.
FarCats lean into the idiosyncratic and absurdist nature of AI technology in 2023. They have three legs, smoke cigarettes from the wrong end, comfortably occupy the uncanny and unnatural. A common criticism of FarCaster is that the users are a little too nice, too polite. FarCats aren't afraid to mix it up, FarCats are the gremlins to the FarCaster mogwai, Garbage Pail Kids to the cuddly Cabbage Patch. But they can be cute and cuddly too! Sometimes they're even food.
4. Corporate Art, Er… I Mean Creative Collaboration.
FarCats is an independent art project that also explicitly endorses a product; it’s the self-proclaimed ‘decentralized mascot of Farcaster.’ There’s a lot of that these days in the NFT world. We see voluntary ‘remixing,’ and ‘co-creating,’ of popular crypto brands. Sometimes these are human brands. Many artists do it because they find it fun and believe in the projects, some do it to get noticed, occasionally there’s some pretty good money to be made. Almost all are voluntary acts and almost always the brand benefits more than the individual artist. There’s no malevolent force tricking people in to creating work like this, again many enjoy creating something for a brand or cause they believe in, but it’s worth noting and acknowledging the slight-of-hand phrasing that often encourages this work. It’s constructive to interrogate the motivations and incentives of this new wave of voluntary corporate art - what are artists saying, if anything. Warhol made cans of soup because they were simply something you see every day and for him that was interesting and novel. It’s my ambition that FarCats represent an interesting and notable union between endorsement and inspiration.
5. What Now?
Currently there are roughly 470 FarCats minted with over 1k sitting in the Zora contract waiting for adoption. These are rookie numbers. FarCats were created to unlock a kind of anarchic fun and vitality I perceived as lacking in the more buttoned-up FarCaster universe - while also being a truly unique and innovative art project in its own right. I hope more will join in on the fun! There’s a new FarCats channel where I’d love to see the FarCats ecosystem take on a life of its own - memes, merch, and yes, remixes. I encourage anyone who believes in FarCaster to use their imagination and jump in to the world of the furry, fashionable, fucked up, FarCats!
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