Web3 Galaxy Brain 🌌🧠

Web3 Galaxy Brain

Finiliar with Ed Fornieles, Sam Spike, and Jake Allen

23 May 2023


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Nicholas: Welcome to Web3 Galaxy Brain. My name is Nicholas. Each week I sit down with some of the brightest people building Web3 to talk about what they're working on right now. My guests today are Ed Fornielis, Sam Spike, and Jake Allen, three of the four co-founders of Finelier. Finelier is an NFT collection of cute 3D characters whose mood and animations are driven by price action of popular cryptocurrencies. Ed Fornielis created the project first as a gallery exhibited artwork, and it has since grown into a character brand and software company. On this episode, we discuss Ed's career making fine art installation and sculptural work in London, Sam's art production and curation work at Fingerprints DAO, and Jake's experience as head of product at Cameo, the premium short form video platform. We discuss how their experiences informed their work on Finelier, and why faces are both the past and perhaps the future of interface design. I really enjoyed this conversation with the Finelier team. We covered a lot of material concerning the making of art, and I really hope you enjoy the show. This episode of Web3 Galaxy Brain is brought to you by Mint.Fun Fundrop. Fundrop is Mint.Fun's brand new weekly rewards program. Gas rewards are the first Fundrop reward. With gas rewards, every Friday, users with a seven-day mint streak earn a gas refund for one NFT minted per day. Fundrop rewards drop every Friday and are claimable for one week. To get started, mint a Fundrop pass at Mint.Fun. slash Fundrop. My thanks to Mint.Fun for sponsoring this episode. If you'd like to sponsor the show, visit Web3GalaxyBrain.com for details. It's as simple as minting an NFT. As always, this show is provided for entertainment and education purposes only and does not constitute financial advice or any form of endorsement or suggestion. Crypto is risky and you alone are responsible for doing your research and making your own decisions. And now, on to the show. Hey Sam. Hey Jake. How's it going?

Sam Spike: Hey.

Jake Allen: Doing well.

Nicholas: Hi. Welcome. I'm just getting things ready. So there's a sponsor for today's show. Mint.Fun is sponsoring the show, but I don't have a thing to say, so I have to try and mint their new NFT right now. So I can say what it's about. Have you guys minted this thing yet?

Sam Spike: We love Mint.Fun and I did see the NFT announcement and I thought it looked really cool.

Nicholas: Yeah, I think it looks cool. They're paying for people's gas if they keep a streak up or something. Anyway, I have to try it. But welcome. Jake, did you see that?

Jake Allen: I didn't see that. No, I'm looking now. Sounds cool. I'm searching to read about it.

Nicholas: All right, they got their ad already. They got what they needed. I plugged it. Well, welcome. Welcome. Do you think Ed and Dollar are going to be able to make it?

Sam Spike: So I think Ed is definitely going to try and make it. I failed to probably communicate to him what time it was and Ed, both Ed and I are based in the UK and it's 10pm right now on a Friday night. So I think he had other plans, but he did say that he was going to try and make at least some of it. And Dollar is...

Nicholas: Ed is out doing cool things in London.

Sam Spike: Ed is out doing cool... Well, he's actually climbing, I think, which is what he said the first time during an evening. Dollar is... I thought would make it. I realized actually he's abroad. I think he's on vacation. So he may or may not, but definitely the two of us. and then I think Ed will definitely be here for a little bit.

Nicholas: All right, great. Well, I guess let's take it away then. So for people who don't know, Sam, you're an artistic director. You were artistic director at Fingerprints, maybe still are in some capacity. Actually, I'm not sure about that. But you've done many artistic collaborations with... I didn't realize you collaborated with Tim Berners-Lee. That's so cool.

Sam Spike: I did. I did. Okay, you've done some research.

Nicholas: I did a little bit of research this time.

Sam Spike: I did a thing with Tim Berners-Lee, actually. It was... Yeah, anyway. Yes, I did.

Nicholas: And NFT associated with the source code for the original HTTP server or something?

Sam Spike: Yeah, it's the original World Wide Web application. It was basically, it was like early 2021. And, you know, it was fashionable to sell NFTs of sort of web artifacts.

Nicholas: Point blank. Yeah, it was fashionable to sell NFTs.

Sam Spike: And you know, Jack Dorsey sold his tweet or whatever. And I don't know, there was a bunch of stuff like that happening. And I had only pretty recently gotten into the whole thing. And I had this idea when I was in the bath. I was like, wouldn't it be cool, or at least wouldn't it interest people if Tim Berners-Lee were to sell, you know, some kind of code to the original web. And through several removes, I had a connection to him. But I did not think that he would... I hadn't met him or anything, but I didn't think that he would go for it either. But anyway, I managed to kind of pitch it to him.

Nicholas: And he was game, to my surprise.

Sam Spike: So we did it. And we ended up doing it with Sotheby's. And it was a really interesting experience for me, just in terms of doing a project of that kind of... It's like no other NFT project that I've done since, right? Obviously, it was like in terms of just kind of like media and working with Sotheby's as well, which was sort of interesting, maybe not in the most positive way, a lot of it, but it was still very interesting.

Nicholas: But also working with Tim, I mean, he's someone who's so humble relative to the paradigm of the tech founder. And yet, creation ended up being one of the coolest things that we use all the time, really.

Sam Spike: A hundred percent.

Nicholas: So much cooler than products with, you know, walled gardens and such. So, so cool. And also so human a journey, like based on other, you know, there were other things happening at the time also. So it's very cool to get to work with someone like that.

Sam Spike: Yeah, it was amazing to work with him. It was amazing and to have a relationship with him now.

Nicholas: Is that typical of the kind of work that you do? That project?

Sam Spike: I don't know. I guess now it is. I guess I mean now obviously I do for me, but I think in general,

Ed Fornieles: I've realized in the last few years that the

Sam Spike: thing that I enjoy

Ed Fornieles: most is kind of

Sam Spike: working with people

Ed Fornieles: who are creative

Sam Spike: like him and Ed and others, and sort of helping them sort of strategically figure out how to kind of bring their work to an audience in some way, I guess.

Nicholas: Very cool. Very cool. And Jake, you were head of product at Cameo. Is that right? Before we're getting on familiar?

Jake Allen: Yeah. Yeah. I think I kind of entered the Web3 crypto space like two or three years ago now maybe. And yeah, prior to that, I was at Cameo. So yeah, I was an early employee there. I think it was like one of the kind of first 10 or so people to join the company.

Nicholas: I really have a lot of respect for Cameo because it really democratized acting. And actually, I was really inspired by it partly for a collaboration I did with Gabriel Haynes. We did these together, we did these Rants4U tokens where he would sell basically requests for him to do a video. In the form of an NFT. And part of what I found very inspiring about Cameo is the way that you, and I imagine you played a role in this, define the types of videos that a person can sell, which just like rationalizes it in a way that makes it easier to negotiate the relationship. Like an Uber, you know what you're getting. And this kind of offers like, I think it was like birthday wishes and some other different categories of things that make it more comfortable. Is that the kind of thing that you worked on there?

Jake Allen: Yeah, totally. Well, we had this kind of issue where we sort of became known as the birthday app.

Nicholas: Oh, really?

Jake Allen: Well, yeah, because I mean, it was one of the earliest use cases and it's pretty, you know, it's just an obvious thing. It's like, OK, I'd love to use this celebrity to wish you, my friend, a birthday. And a happy birthday. And like, that's great. It was awesome. It's an amazing product market fit. But the problem is that birthdays only happen once a year. So we're kind of like, OK, well, there's all these other things people can do. You know, they could do a rant or like you say, it can be a roast. Like it's a really common use case.

Nicholas: Yeah, totally.

Jake Allen: So like delineating all these kind of helps people imagine, you know, imagine themselves out of just that one use case. So it was a good way for us to kind of expand the surface area of what people are actually going to do with Cameo, which was important for us, you know, to kind of get out of that birthday app thing.

Nicholas: That's interesting. Because to me, I see it as the weird thing to me with Cameo is that it's like it sort of just lays bare how everyone is a puppet for whatever meme will pay them the most. Which is cool also as a performance, but it's a little weird to see the the reality of how the sausage of Hollywood is made or whatever at this micro scale. It's cool.

Jake Allen: No, it is weird. And like it's it was really interesting to see that change because when I first joined, like first of all, no one had really heard of it. But when we would approach people to join the platform, you know, celebrities or whatever, they're not all celebrities. We used to call them talent. But when we used to approach these people to join the platform, they were a lot of times very turned off by it because it does have this kind of like, I don't know, you know, this veneer of sleaze or something to it.

Nicholas: Well, it's sort of this the influencer status is earned by being unreachable. So by being total, like at the other end of a credit card, it's it's a little, yeah, it can be crass or it could come off.

Jake Allen: Absolutely.

Nicholas: Yeah.

Jake Allen: And then it was just wild to see that change. I mean, I don't know exactly even all that contributed to it changing. It was just a bunch of factors came together. I mean, even things we didn't have control over, like the pandemic and stuff. But it just it slowly became more and more, I don't know, mainstream or acceptable to do this. And bigger and bigger names got on the platform. And then, you know, those names kind of bring in other names. We used to call that the halo effect. It's like you bring in like a really big name celebrity and then other people. Someone's almost like they're given permission to do it now. And so I don't know, just became more and more of a common thing. And that it became. it was really weird because at first it was a completely bizarre concept to people. And now it's fairly commonplace. And I still kind of laugh when I hear the name Cameo spoken like, you know, on TV or on the media. It's just like super surreal to hear that.

Nicholas: Yeah, absolutely. It's fascinating coming up in this rise of all these different video, paid video things happening at the same time in English speaking markets.

Jake Allen: Yeah. And that's what I think. the thing that basically kind of drew me to crypto is like this idea that, you know, it might enable new ways for creators to connect with their fans and their, you know, their communities. I agree. I still think that's the case.

Nicholas: Yeah. Yeah, totally. I came to. I think what made me decide to quit my job was having a shower thought of PewDiePie saying at the end of a video, like, drop your address in the comments below. And, you know, one lucky person next episode will be announced the winner of something. It's like a free like the inventory is free. It's a digital thing. There's very little platform capture over creating the things. So yeah, it's just like a free thing to layer in. It seems obvious. But then something like Cameo, it's if there were years where people were observing like, oh, China, live streaming in China and like selling products is has been popular there for years and not in the West. And it took time to find the version that was appropriate, I guess, for this market.

Jake Allen: Yeah. And we're still behind them, honestly. I still think a product like what you just described can work in the United States that it might just take a little bit more time.

Nicholas: But yeah, it will just be TikTok as they integrate live streaming more.

Jake Allen: Yeah, yeah, totally. Some kind of TikTok QVC. Yeah.

Nicholas: But it is it's funny how in China and parts of Asia, the QVC style is much more common than here. It's more, I guess, Instagram somehow, which has become video. But anyway, so that drew you to Finale. So for people who don't know, would one of you like to explain what is Finale? What are Finale?

Jake Allen: Let's kick that one to Sam for sure.

Sam Spike: Okay, I can be sure. And I can also say very happily that Ed is on the bus home and will be joining shortly in hopefully about five minutes or so.

Nicholas: I have questions. You know, he worked with Yves Capur. I have questions. I did my research.

Sam Spike: Yeah, I know. This is why the Finale sculptures that you've seen, not you specifically, but people may have seen on Twitter and stuff. We've posted them. I posted one of them yesterday. He's really good at making physical objects. Because he was a studio assistant for Yves Capur. He used to, you know, participate in making those sculptures.

Nicholas: So what are Finale?

Sam Spike: Anyway, I'll let Ed speak to himself. But Finale are Finnies, now we call them. But Finale are adorable digital creatures or digital animals, as I like to call them, whose moods and whose actions are tied to different sources of data, like real time data feeds. Specifically, financial asset prices. So I'm sure Ed will share a bit of the story. But basically, when Ed conceived of Finale about six or seven years ago, he imagined them as these very cute kind of avatars that were the embodiment of different currency markets. So there was a Finale for USD, there was a Finale for the Canadian dollar. There was even back then a Finale for the price of ETH, actually. And I think Ed's kind of driving interest in this as a work of conceptual art was the question of how to foster some kind of empathy between people and these sort

Ed Fornieles: of vast,

Sam Spike: abstract, usually extremely impersonal sets of data or sets of information

Ed Fornieles: that

Sam Spike: play such a powerful part in all of our lives, sort of behind the scenes. And how could we have some kind of emotional relationship with those things? And so Ed created them as video works, attached them to our assess feeds. And then there's sort of an exhibition history since then. And then in 2022, last year, we launched the Finale NFT collection.

Nicholas: Wait, just a quick question before you go on. Did the aesthetics change substantially between the gallery work that he was doing previously and the NFT collection that we're familiar with through more images recently?

Sam Spike: Yes, they did. They did. I haven't actually seen the exact chronology of their forms mapped out in a linear way. But you can see definitely if you look up like Finale exhibitions, or Finale at Forniela's or whatever on Google, and you go to Google Images, you'll find installation photographs and stuff of them in galleries and stuff. And they were much, much more basic back then. They were kind of just like these monochrome kind of like blobby forms. They were super cute. And the ones I particularly like have these kind of like floppy ears.

Nicholas: Yes, they're very, very cute.

Sam Spike: Which I think are super cute. And the collection that we developed, the Finale that people will have seen more recently, are way more kind of like detail intensive. And way more kind of, I suppose, characterful and individuated.

Nicholas: Amazing. I'm seeing, yeah, there's lots of interesting, I mean, there's even some Finnies in like a 3D world, a meadow of flowers. I don't know if that, I think that was an exhibition still. So yeah, very cool. Okay, so they've evolved to have more specificity from the gallery work. There's actually like a ton of assets in the collection, right? And many, many, many animations. Can you talk a little bit about what the variety of their aesthetics are?

Sam Spike: Yeah, sure. So yeah, so the Finale that you would have seen in a kind of metaverse environment, that was a video that I recommend anybody who's interested in the project go and watch. It's called Tulip Fever, and you can find it on YouTube. I think it's on Vimeo as well. And it's a video work that I've made, I think back in 2017, that sort of tells the story of what Finny or Finalia are from a variety of different points of view. So it's actually the same three minute video that's animated by Lamel, who's still our sort of lead modeler and was the artist who Edward worked with to develop the original Finalia form. And on top of the video, which replays several times, there are different voice tracks. So one of them is sort of like an anthropologist talking about Finalia as a society. One is like an advert selling Finalia as a product or as a kind of company. So that's worth checking out Tulip Fever. But yeah, the specificity has grown massively. And from just these sort of fairly similar looking, super cute, but fairly kind of generic things, the collection now consists of 150 different clans, we call them, which are kind of like different types. Just like, I suppose you could compare them to the, I think the original Pokédex was 151 different Pokémon. So each clan is kind of like a different type of Pokémon, I suppose. And 151 of ones. But then within the clans, there's variation, which isn't indexed in the metadata. So you can only really discover by eye. And in total, through the collection, we have 10,000 tokens, there's 11,000 individual traits. And actually, there's also over 1,000 unique textures that were all handmade by the 3D artist that we're working with in the collection too. So yeah, masses of variation and masses of invisible rarity, where there's like a clan of 100 and something Bitcoin soldiers, but only four or three of them are red. And you would only know that if you really sort of dug into the collection.

Nicholas: Got it. I'm curious, are they sculptures? Do you think of them as sculptures? Maybe this is a question for Ed, you tell me.

Sam Spike: Yeah, I think that's probably a question for Ed, honestly. I don't think he does think of them as sculptures. I think he thinks of them as something much more alive.

Nicholas: Are you there, Ed? I'm here.

Ed Fornieles: I'm here. Ah, Ed. Can you hear me okay?

Nicholas: Yes, welcome.

Ed Fornieles: I was on a London bus very late at night, but I've managed to get off it.

Nicholas: That's all right. We're glad to have you. Oh, hold on before you answer this question. So I've introduced the others already. So I'll introduce you. So Ed Fornielis is a very accomplished artist. You have an MA in sculpture from Royal College of Art. You're a technical assistant to Anish Kapoor in his studio for several years. You've done a lot of curation work, but also a lot of work, and correct me if I'm wrong, but interactive installation and sculptural work. Is that right?

Ed Fornieles: I come from the land of traditional art, I guess. And so I've spent many years making art and making shows and galleries and museums. And I've always used technology within the work. So it was a very natural crossover that I come from, I suppose, a more traditional place.

Nicholas: Are Fornielis sculptures?

Ed Fornieles: Well, it's funny. Yeah, it's interesting to think about that. Because I think that the livingness of Finney is the digital and the animated and the thing that is plugged in. And the sculptors have sat beside or alongside these things, almost like representations of living things, I guess. So I think Finney sculptures are sculptures and digital Finneys are living, curious entities. That might be the answer.

Nicholas: But maybe even their formal qualities of the design of a Finney, is it a continuation of your sculpting practice, do you feel?

Ed Fornieles: I guess. I mean, I come from quite a conceptual place. And so form is often dictated by intent or desire for effect. And so Finney's really come out of conceptual framework of thinking about how to best invoke empathy within a viewer. How, yeah, like how might a piece of work connect on that kind of guttural level? And that's where the form is really born out of. Yeah, I'm an art artist and I don't really necessarily have very strict aesthetic that got developed over time. It's more project specific.

Nicholas: I see. And from what I was reading, a lot of your work concerns relationships, at least a certain period of your work concerns relationships, family, and evoking these in the work. Is there a through line between that and this desire to anthropomorphize data that is not has no emotional value, at least in terms of its representation prior to Finney's?

Ed Fornieles: Yeah, it's funny, the through line that exists in someone's work, in a way, I think the main concern for me has always been like the pressures and forces which sort of shape us and sort of create our identity. And so when looking at like families or other structures, that is sort of unseen narrative protocol that creates both like identity and society. And then the Finneys were really thinking about these abstract forces that often go unseen and even unthought about. And I think it's just interesting to try and give them a body and for you to suddenly have this weird relationship with this thing, which is suddenly very cute and cuddly and next to you, but potentially could make you will be part of you losing all your money and becoming whatever it might be.

Nicholas: It's interesting because there is an emotional dimension to the price of Bitcoin, but it's more like people freaking out on Twitter, looking at the numerical graphical representation of the charts. But here it's, is it always the mood of the Finney? Or how does that mapping work? And what's important in that mapping for you?

Ed Fornieles: Yeah, the mood and the health is dictated, I guess, by the ups and downs of a currency. And obviously, there's a value judgment that's already been baked into the whole system by saying that Bitcoin going up is necessarily good. But yeah, it's funny, when I was first exhibiting the work in 2016, 17, I did a show in New York and this currency trader came in and he ended up actually getting a sculpture. But he described how like him and his friends would describe a currency vomiting if it started to crash. And at the time, the British pound Finney was vomiting in the gallery. So it seems sort of fitting.

Nicholas: So people resonate with the direct correlation of price and mood.

Ed Fornieles: Yeah, definitely. And I know, maybe there's a future generation, future types of Finney that perhaps like have reverse values where like up is down and down is up or, you know, different values could be baked into different Finneys potentially.

Nicholas: And, but Finneys are your creation, you as an artist and the team of people who've come together to make it happen. But do you see them as individually artworks? Or are they characters more? Or are they sculptures, perhaps?

Ed Fornieles: I mean, at this point, I don't know. I feel like as an idea, it's like a conceptual project that's run amok and it has a life of its own now. And I think that, you know, Sam and Jake here and Darla and everyone on the team is much kind of the creators at this point. And I think it's strange. I don't know, it's strange. I think it's all of it is art. And it's just different types of art depending on where you're looking at how you're kind of interacting with it.

Nicholas: Yeah, we had the exact same conversation last week. I spoke with Paul Seidler and Sam Hart about specifically about his work, building infrastructure and also having done art in the past and also having done biochemistry in the past. But especially this like spectrum between it can all be art, you know, at the infrastructural type development work through to the very conceptual artistic work that has no like follow on use for somebody else. It's interesting that you describe it as kind of having run amok. It's now got a will of its own. that's beyond. Maybe another way of asking the question would be, would you think that an owner of a Finney should be able to write the mapping between that Finney's mood and some market feed? Or is it something that they're born with, which maybe puts them more towards the artwork side of the spectrum?

Ed Fornieles: I think that there is a plasticity in Finney's, which I think is being expanded. Like at the moment, you can now train your Finney's to different assets. And I think, you know, so they are becoming a more generalized kind of tool or entity. Like I almost think of the data as a kind of spirit that passes into the Finney body. And the Finney is just the conduit that sort of crystallizes this thing. As to whether or not someone could like sort of hack a Finney, I think they probably could and it'd be totally fine.

Nicholas: So do you think of like future, we talked a little bit about future generations having different functionality or different, it's possible that even mutability could be something that's accepted within the system. They function kind of like interfaces to something that could change potentially.

Ed Fornieles: Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, bodies and faces are the original interfaces. And I think that Finney's are evolving, quite literally evolving. And hopefully we'll see that in the coming months slash years, you know, that they can become more complex, potentially.

Nicholas: And I have to ask, how did working with Anish Kapoor change your intentions as an artist? And can we see any of that in this work?

Ed Fornieles: Well, I spent most of my time sanding down abstracts, vaginas and penises, listening to podcasts. I mean, it's interesting, actually. So what I experienced with him, which is kind of interesting, because it's not so common is it's a type of production. It's like a factory style production, where this very clear aesthetic is created, this set of sort of themes are touched upon. And then, you know, he's dedicated his life to this thing, this whatever it is. And then I suppose there's about 100 people. I was in his main studio, about 10 people. But it's a real business in operation. And perhaps there is crossover there where, you know, when art gets that scale, it becomes a company in the same way that Finney's become a company. And we have, you know, 12 people working for us. That's really exciting. And I suppose we can operate differently at that point or something.

Nicholas: You remind me of the Chinese artist who works with fire and fireworks. I don't know if I'm pronouncing his name right. Sai Guo Chang. There's a film about him. And one of the themes in it is this sort of transition from an independent kind of crazy art project into a really industrial thing. that's designing buildings for the Olympics or what have you.

Ed Fornieles: It changes everything. My dog's going a bit crazy. I've seen two foxes.

Nicholas: That's great.

Ed Fornieles: I was going to say, oh yeah, fuck Seth Price. So Seth Price is, I think, a very good artist. And he's wrote a book called Fuck Seth Price. And in that, he outlines what freedom is for an artist. Freedom is for an artist. And he talks about how often they get trapped in these structures, which means they just have to sort of produce the same thing ad infinitum. Whereas actually what is interesting is when these structures facilitate different types of production that could otherwise never be imagined. And I think that's what you see often in the NFT space, or the NFT space can definitely point to, is different modes of making and thinking that would not otherwise be possible.

Nicholas: What do you mean by that? What do you mean would not otherwise be possible?

Ed Fornieles: I mean, just even on the technological level, I mean, not just even just having a company, being able to do things and make things. But the fact is that before, like collectors in New York who could possibly, or maybe a few more, but not that many more collectors who could buy your sculpture or be in the kind of networks that would be interested in that kind of conceptual art. And if they did buy it, it would exist in their collection or in their home and mostly in storage, to be honest. Whereas NFTs, suddenly there are 2000 collectors who think about them. Some of them look at them on a regular basis, are part of a community and part of an ongoing conversation. And so it's a larger, more resilient network of support with a different kind of attitude, I guess.

Nicholas: That's very interesting. you say that because everybody's always got this in a sort of crypto. Twitter has this inferiority complex about not yet being mass market. But you're actually presenting it as much bigger market than the traditional fine art market.

Ed Fornieles: Compared to the fine art market.

Nicholas: It's a thousand X or something. It's a hundred X.

Ed Fornieles: Exactly. Yeah, exactly.

Nicholas: I read a little bit that some of your work in London addresses like, it sort of has a dark humor to it, mocking the seriousness of the art scene. I just started watching the latest Bridgerton thing. I'm reminded of watching Bridgerton and what the economy or the politics of the gays of, I don't know, London life. I can only imagine what it's like. It must have been difficult in that environment to be playing also with, or maybe not, maybe it's part of the tradition, but playing with financial mechanisms is often like, you wouldn't do that. Did you experience that?

Ed Fornieles: Yeah. So I mean, first of all, the art world is a funny, weird place for the strange. I mean, there's a whole culture that's formed primarily out of art schools and the gallery system. And it's this, it's discursive, it's very performative. It breeds quite interesting characters, I guess, and ways of thinking. And so I don't know what I'm saying about that other than it's kind of...

Nicholas: Do you find there's like a high school-ness about it or something?

Ed Fornieles: I mean, art school is a real thing. And has certain kind of grungy modes to it that are attached to it. So yeah, on that front, it has that kind of quality. And then what else?

Nicholas: Are there also like real etiquette constraints around what kinds of subjects art can address?

Ed Fornieles: You mentioned finance, which is interesting. So yeah, like often money is never really spoken about. And there's a system that was born out of, I don't know, I suppose the Victorian era is maybe when like the contemporary art system, the gallery system that we know was kind of maybe born. And it's not changed a huge amount, I think, in that time. And there is something, I don't know, disruptive or discursive or strange about an artist being willing to talk about money and to actually sort of engage in their own economy. I suppose so much is often given over to the gallery.

Nicholas: I'm reading this Invention of the Atomic Bomb book. I can't remember what it's called, but they describe Ernest Rutherford's journey from New Zealand to being in the academic system, studying radio waves and nuclear phenomena and wanting to, if I remember it correctly, commercialize some of the stuff for radio. And it was very looked down upon that a scientist in the highest level of British Academy would be concerned with something like making money. But he came from very modest background in New Zealand. So I can only imagine the amount of... But at the same time, there is a tradition within British art to be concerned with reproduction and sale in the market, right? There's quite a bit of that.

Ed Fornieles: Yeah. Yeah, there's definitely a bunch of that. It just normally fits within a particular structure and system, which involves galleries and auction houses and stuff. And I love my gallery. I care about my gallery a lot. And that relationship to me is important. It's family. It's just a different economy. And NFTs are a bit like paintings, or maybe the reinvention of painting, in that in the art world, paintings are a thing that are legible to cash for money. Because they are easily traded, easily stored. And there's just a culture around it. Whereas digital art has existed for a very long time. And there's a lineage to internet art and digital art more generally from post-war onwards. But it's always been a strange thing in the shadows that hasn't really ever had a market. And that's not been necessarily a bad thing for it. It's very interesting stuff happened. But now... That's a good point.

Nicholas: In the traditional physical art market, digital art was a bit weird or hard to show.

Ed Fornieles: Very hard to show, hard to sell, hard to make, hard to foster a culture. And what's interesting about it, yeah, it's hard if you're a digital artist, for instance, or doing that stuff, to survive, essentially. Often artists end up in academia and the rest of it. And so it was very hard to build momentum and energy around movements. Whereas I think NFTs, at least on the financial side of things, I don't know, they create energy or momentum or gravity around stuff, which is interesting.

Nicholas: Yeah, this is definitely one of the reasons I was drawn to Web3. I believed very early on that it could happen much faster because the financial dimension is inherent to the thing. And so it doesn't need to tack it on to be able to collect energy and make new things happen, which the art world makes very difficult in some ways. It depends on where you are, I guess, here in Canada. You lived in Montreal for some time, right?

Ed Fornieles: I loved a bit of Montreal. I lived in Montreal for a year and spent a lot of time in Toronto wearing candy.

Nicholas: I'm in Montreal.

Ed Fornieles: Oh, OK. Oh, yeah, I know. And that's interesting because that's like, I mean, you have the Franco and Anglo scene there, but there are artists who have existed on the kind of tech side of things.

Nicholas: I'm like, there's funding, there's academic, a lot of artists are in academia as well, but there's funding, different funding environments from, say, an American fine art. There's more provincial and federal grants and maybe other kinds of grants you can cobble together. But it's another ecology of art that it creates with its own constraints and economic politics, etc.

Ed Fornieles: Yeah, and you have the need to really make it, I guess, that's the big thing about the Canadian system. You can either sort of stay in and it's quite isolated in its own little bubble or you can jump ship to new ones.

Nicholas: Definitely. And some people are much more successful outside and are unknown locally, using the funding as a jumping off point to achieve some notoriety elsewhere where they're perceived as exotic because they're from Montreal.

Ed Fornieles: I mean, but I think what you're pointing to is so interesting is there are like art worlds within art worlds within art worlds. And in each one of them, there's this force that is kind of in, you know, which is finance, which is money, which is liquidity. And it operates, I suppose, a little bit differently in each one.

Nicholas: So, but is there a dark humor in Finney's at all? Or is any of this devilish humor emerging in this project? Or is it more on a conceptual plane, perhaps rather than aesthetically expressed?

Ed Fornieles: I think that, you know, I think there is a humor to manifesting something. Like, you know, it's a very thin, cute mask to the most intense form of capitalism. And I think it points to that, not just in itself, but as a more of a common trend. And I suppose there might be humor to that. And I get, and there's also humor in the Finneys themselves, which I think as well will come out more, the more we develop characters and narratives and stuff. But I'm not saying it in a very funny way. So I don't know.

Sam Spike: I think there is. I think for what it's worth, I definitely think there's humor in it. And I mean, even just a spotlight, you know, some of the sort of subplots, you might call them within the collection. I mean, it's, first of all, I find it funny how Ed has characterized various crypto assets that are represented. I find it funny how he's sort of rendered, you know, Ethereum, but specifically kind of Doge as he's kind of this Victorian society of dogs. And then behind the scenes, there's this, this very sort of urbane world is the serial killer. There's a serial killer, one of one called Psycho, who is a dog who has this blood spattered face and coat and stuff. And then within the collection, in the specials, there are also two murder victims who are clearly the victims of the Psycho. And I think Ed, you said this was sort of based on a Jack the Ripper plot. But just stuff like that, you know, within the collection, there is definitely menace. And then there's a wonderful moment in Tulip Fever, which I mentioned earlier, which I often bring up. People ask about this where one of the voice tracks suggests that Phenelia may in fact be cannibals because with some assets that are inversely correlated, the health and happiness of one is dependent on the sickness of the other. And therefore, maybe they're eating one another.

Ed Fornieles: I mean, I honestly think that like seeing from one level, they are kind of, I am beginning to think of them more and more as sort of the spirits of, in this instance, Capital at play, you know, like they are exposing hopefully something or pointing to something.

Nicholas: I spent some time in Japan after ETH Tokyo, and I've always been really obsessed with the culture of anthropomorphization in Japan, at least as I've understood it through the internet. And there are a lot of beautiful, intriguing anthropomorphic representations of concepts that might not merit them in the West. I'm curious, Ed, if you have any particular interest in animals, well, animal software, I guess we might as well talk about it.

Ed Fornieles: Yeah, it's a meme and it's real. Yeah, no, I think that anthropomorphization actually that also existed in the West as specifically like, you know, medieval England or all of Europe, I guess. There's a lot of that. And I think that it's very natural that humans want to morphize the forces that surround them. And it's interesting, yes, obviously, it happens in Japan as well and in Asia more generally. And I think, I don't know, maybe now it's the time to bring it back to the end of the Enlightenment and bring back pagan rites.

Nicholas: I think there's some genius to it. Oh, sorry, go ahead, please.

Sam Spike: No, sorry. I just always think of the chapter in Marx's, this sounds like I'm extremely well read, but I'm not. But there's a chapter in Marx's Capital where he describes the commodity fetish. And within that, he talks about the commodity as being this kind of transcendent thing and this kind of religious thing. But I think pretty sure there's a moment where he describes it as though like a table started dancing or something like that. The kind of transcendent kind of aura that an object acquires when it is sort of inserted into the flow of capital and assumes some sort of exchange value. And I always think of Finney in relationship to that. I always think of the theme of animism and so on runs very heavily through that passage. And I always think of Finney as this kind of kawaii manifestation of the commodity fetish.

Nicholas: Yeah, but tell me more about animal software, Sam. Tell me more about animal software.

Sam Spike: Well, animal software is just a meme.

Nicholas: What is it pointing to, though?

Sam Spike: I mean, it's something that I came up with. I was sort of describing Finney as digital animals. And then I saw somebody's tweet, which was kind of, I have a tendency of sort of snarky commenting on people's tweets. And I remember quote tweeting it. And the tweet was saying like, who's building something completely ridiculous, blah, blah, And I quote tweeted it and said, we're building animal software or something like that. And I mean, I think the idea here is that, I mean, there is, you know, talking about personification and anthropomorphism, I think we're all really interested in avatars. And what they sort of represent psychologically and emotionally, and actually a lot of Ed's previous work involves avatars as well. But also these sort of relationships that are becoming more and more common now between, you know, people and inanimate things or people and digital things. So, you know, animal software is just this idea that, you know, Finneys are these digital animals that also have kind of utility and that play some kind of functional role in our lives in the sense of being an interface and being a coin tracker, in the sense of maybe being a host of whole other things, you know, as we continue to develop it. And, you know, it's a sort of virtual being of that kind. And I'm really interested in that. And I'm really interested in how we can clearly now see as people obsess over things like chat GPT, or as things like, you know, replica sort of come into the news, you know, that people are really sort of interested right now in putting a face and a body and some kind of relatable interface on top of technology. And I think it's something that, you know, if you're a millennial, and I'm a fairly, I'm a pretty young millennial, but I still grew up with, you know, a lot of sort of digital pets experiences and these sorts of things that where technology felt as a child, at least sort of very enchanted and magical. And I think, you know, in the era of web 2, technology has become to feel very disenchanted and very boring and samey and generic and flat and bland and whatever. And I think that really what crypto is partly about and also what, you know, what we're seeing with, I think, the way AI is manifesting and what we're trying to do with Finney is this desire to like re-enchant technology and make technology sort of magical again, make it feel like it did when we were kids, when we were growing up. And so I think this idea of there being these digital animals that are capable of these things is sort of one very nice kind of like narrative to explore.

Nicholas: Sam, I wanted to ask earlier, but did any of your work at Fingerprints lead you to Finnelier's? Is there a connection there?

Sam Spike: Yeah, for sure. I mean, like my work at Fingerprints was, you know, given my art background, I was kind of in charge of doing all the art stuff. So I kind of led acquisitions there and worked on a number of more of the experimental projects I did, including a great project I did with Paul Zeidler, who you had on last week, and Paul Colling, his partner at TerraZero. But I was really interested in collecting and working with artists who were exploring blockchain as a sort of a creative medium in its own right, as opposed to just a means of exchange. Maybe it's a means of exchange, but in being so it is an artistic gesture. And that's interesting to me. But this idea of blockchain as a kind of creative medium, I see that Finney's has a perfect kind of manifestation of this, not just because they're dynamic NFTs that use on-chain oracles to track crypto prices and so on, which is kind of the, I guess, the kind of obvious way to interpret them as that. But also because having spent now several years in this industry, I've really become much more interested in NFTs as a kind of form of a means of distribution and distributing meaning to a sort of large audience of people, as opposed to just a way of monetizing that content and the new kinds of relationships that are opened up by them. And Ed was describing that earlier. And when I met Ed, and I was sort of vaguely familiar with his work before I met him, and we met by chance, and he said that he wanted to turn this project into an NFT collection. I've been obsessed with this idea of more artists coming in and using this kind of canvas and this sort of scale of a large NFT collection and thousands of collectors and so on as a new kind of canvas to build upon, as a new kind of like epic, and a new kind of way, maybe a more participatory way to kind of build worlds

Ed Fornieles: and

Sam Spike: bootstrap emotional investment from your audience and your collectors. And I thought, well, this is a perfect opportunity to do that. That's so interesting. And that was really drew me to it and made me say, let me please be a part of this.

Nicholas: Awesome. I want to know more about the transition from a single person or I guess, Ed, you're maybe working with others as well, but you've been driven solely by you, small project into a product. And I really am curious about the iOS app, because I think what you're telling me is that the Finnies are an interface to meaning on the blockchain and software as a part of that. So I definitely want to get more into that. But first, it's time to thank the sponsor of this episode, which is Mint.Fun. Mint.Fun has a new project, Fun Drop, every Friday. And I'm reading this off. This is like hot news. I haven't played with this yet. But basically, you can have a streak of minting on Mint.Fun. And I think it's because they're using this new capacity that these mint aggregators and some websites are starting to use, which is to pass information in the mint transaction that identifies which site you minted from, which front end you minted from. So I think they've been like the first adopter of that, as far as I know. And I think they're using that to track if you've got a streak of minting on Mint.Fun. And if you do, you're entered into a... I guess every Friday, you can claim a gas refund and maybe some prizes and stuff from them, NFT related prizes. So I haven't tried it yet, but they're sponsoring this episode. And I thank them very much for that. You can obviously check that out. Mint.Fun. Every Friday. And it's Worm Wednesday and Fun Friday, they're calling it. So it makes sense. I'm going to have to try it. So maybe Jake or anybody, I'm curious about the product vision. Are they... Because I've played with the beta app on TestFlight and I'm curious, beyond like CoinGecko equivalents, do you have personal relationships with the Finnies in your own wallets? And can you name Finnies? Is another question I have. And how does that play into the design of a product that goes beyond being a way to monitor ticker prices and have a personal relationship with each independent one? How does that work?

Jake Allen: Yeah, that's a great question. Well, yeah, I think for us, the financial aspect is kind of like a low hanging fruit that we wanted to explore first, because it's sort of adjacent to the starting point of the project, the starting point of the concept. But there really is kind of a wide range of data we want to connect to. And I think personal data is among the most interesting. So when it comes to like connecting personally with a familiar over time, yeah, we think a lot about what kinds of data are particularly meaningful to a person. And with new devices that sort of enable tracking, what kinds of things can we connect into? So the obvious ones that come to mind are things like health tracking and exercise tracking, step tracking, things that tools that people have become used to using on a daily basis and that they use to kind of help them, I don't know, interpret the quality of their lives even. I mean, these tools become very, very, I don't know, sacred almost and personal. And there are things that you wear on your body. There are things that you keep on your wrist. You sleep with them sometimes and they're always near you. And so, yeah, I mean, and the kind of the scope of them is huge. I mean, so many people are using these things. My mom's using these. Like it's entered into a kind of ubiquity now. And so the question for us becomes, well, like, how can we, you know, how can we facilitate that connection and what kinds of things belong in that space? And I think familiar kind of a natural, intuitive fit to us because, you know, they're cute. And these kinds of data that you spend your entire life with, you know, you might want to have a kind of avatar of that experience that's with you all the time and explaining it to you and walking you through it or encouraging you, you know, if you're trying to complete rings, you know, step in complete rings. How much more interesting might it be if you're trying to complete your steps for the day to make your familiar happy or to get some encouragement from it or, you know, to receive a push notification from it. that's letting you know that, you know, that you haven't finished yet and helping you get through it.

Nicholas: For sure. For sure. Everything might as well be anthropomorphized. And actually, I think the one thing I've realized about anthropomorphization is that it's human scale affordance. It's like, I forget where I was reading, someone suggested sort of imagining some blight on human longevity as a monster. Of course, there's that parable about the dragon also. But it's difficult for us to, if we can't turn into a conceptual NFT, a concept, it can be difficult to get our hands on it. And anthropomorphizing, it can actually make that much easier. Yeah. So maybe even in the future, more complex algorithms could drive the things than just straight price.

Jake Allen: Yeah. And we think about AI too. I mean, it's sort of, you know, something that's just emerging now and it's maybe hard to like put all your arms around. But it does feel like, you know, the interfaces we deal with on a regular basis, these screens and, you know, buttons and that they're a sort of, you know, they're not ideal. And as I said, the original interface is, you know, the body, the face. So it sort of does seem interesting to imagine a future where, you know, with the emergence of artificial intelligence, you kind of see these interfaces we've become used to, these screens kind of disappear into more naturalistic kinds of interactions.

Nicholas: The new skeuomorphism is much more skeuomorphic than you would believe. Yeah. But so a couple of things. Can you name them? Can you, can I give a Finny a name?

Jake Allen: Well, no, not yet. Some of them have names, some of the specials, but it is something we thought about. And, you know, one thing we have been sort of weighing the pros and cons of is if you're someone who's going to own many of these things, you know, how do we single out a special kind of relationship with just one of them?

Nicholas: The Pikachu that follows you.

Jake Allen: Yeah, actually, it's funny that you say Pikachu because we talk about that a lot. Yeah. What's the Pikachu of your kind of your relationship to the Finnelier? And how do you...

Nicholas: Pikachu is God tier. Pikachu to achieve a Pikachu is incredible. It would be incredible if Finnies are there one day. Wow. OK, so you can't name them currently, but maybe in the future. And then my other question is, do you or any of you have a personal relationship with a specific Finny yet? Because you can definitely have personal relationships with NFTs that are not anthropomorphic. It's something more about the narrative relationship between you and it. But it is typically something like an object, maybe a spiritual object or a religious object. But Finnies also have this personality to them. So do you have any kind of pet like feelings towards them yet?

Jake Allen: I think Sam might. What do you think, Sam? Your Tezos Finny? I do.

Sam Spike: I do. Yeah, I do. I do. I mean, I do. But like, so I am the one I'm using as my profile picture right now on Twitter is the Tezos God. And every family in this 10 families in the familiar world and each family represents a different crypto asset. Tezos is one asset of the 10. And each family has, you know, plans and specials and then one God. And the Tezos God, which I'm wearing is one that I actually bought relatively recently for a fairly large sum of money.

Nicholas: That sounds like a get. That sounds like a pricey one.

Sam Spike: And I just couldn't resist. I mean, in my view, it was underpriced. I just couldn't resist it because I love this one so much. I think it's so beautiful. It's not just cute. It's beautiful. But the level of detail in the modeling, especially in the chest of this Finny is an entire world and sort of like landscape with mountains and everything else that is spinning around constantly when you watch it animated. And then, you know, there's this kind of gold egg sitting in a bird's nest in its hair. And it's just like so meticulously done. And so I do feel a special connection with this one and I like to use it. But I do think that at the moment, you know, the relationship that we have with Finnies is a very sort of dilute form of what it could be if a Finny was more representative of something that was more you and more personal to you. Because at the moment, it's this sort of impersonal asset and it's external. And if it were to be something that were more even like financial information that was more personal to you, you know, let alone other types, it would feel more like an extension of you, but also your friend. And I don't know.

Ed Fornieles: Yeah, I think the use for concept is a familiar, which is kind of where the original familiar name kind of came from a bit. Like, I don't know if you've read the Pullman books, Dark Materials, but in that everybody has their own familiar. It's both part of them, but also somehow separate. And so it allows within the books at least to have a relationship with yourself that is somehow manifested through, in this case, like these animals. But I think that's cool.

Nicholas: Yeah, that fits sort of the agent model of the AI stuff.

Ed Fornieles: Exactly. And I think that like having something that is both you but not you is quite powerful. And I think it's going to be interesting exploring that.

Nicholas: Yeah, it is interesting. We don't really have that notion in our software right now, I don't feel. There are daemons and there are cron jobs and things and cloud processes, but they're not somehow, there's still, there's no representational layer that describes them as such, at least.

Ed Fornieles: Yeah. And I think, yeah, I mean, I think going in so many different directions, and Jake was talking to the plethora of data that's kind of available and is part of our environments now. And you also mentioned like, you know, AI, I think all these things could be layered in a very effective way to give Finney a lot more depth.

Nicholas: I have to ask, do you have like a labor camp of 3D modelers? Or how do you make so many assets?

Ed Fornieles: We've closed labor camps. Though actually, so like at the moment, it's we have a very much kind of over one year where we produced the 10,000 Finney, we produced a lot and spent a lot of people and you know, a lot of different freelancers working internationally. And we really refined really great team by the end of that.

Nicholas: Must be so hard to keep things consistent across a wide variety of contributors.

Ed Fornieles: And that was a big learning curve. I was just sort of plugged in to it for one year. And we had people working, you know, we had like a studio working with us in Chile for like a few months. And then we had a more, you know, consistent animators and modelers that I've worked with previously. And yeah, so and there's some great people. Sam mentioned Lamel earlier, who's been working with us since 2016. He's so good. He can really like create something special. And then other modelers can look at that and use that as a template to move forward.

Nicholas: Concept art in 3D even. And what did you say? his name was?

Ed Fornieles: Lamel.

Nicholas: Lamel. And so maybe that speaks a little bit to the transition from the artwork gallery piece to the production scale NFT project. That he's consistent through both phases.

Ed Fornieles: Yeah, exactly. And I think that you all, whatever, you know, whatever you're making, if you're making a film or animated work, whatever it might be, concept art is important. And it's the stuff that things hang off. And I think that it's important to have that structure. And we seem to have developed a really strong team, as I said, over the last year. So it's exciting. Yeah, it's hard finding good people.

Nicholas: Yeah. Did the artwork actually come out? Was there a reveal process? Were you working on the 3D assets before the launch, I imagine?

Ed Fornieles: Well, we did it in a slightly odd way. We did a pre-launch of a thousand or so eggs, which sort of paid for the modeling over a year, basically, or nearly a year. And yeah, and that was really, what a beautiful way to fund something, you know, like that was so specific to NFTs. And then, yeah, then we did the whole launch of 10,000 once everything was in place.

Nicholas: And I must say of all the people who've shipped, who promised to ship something, I guess, metaverse, not animal software, Phineas has really delivered. I mean, the iOS app is very cool. And it's in test flight now. But yeah, I'm curious, Ed, if you have thoughts on the iOS experience or how people might think about having a Phinny of their own.

Ed Fornieles: Well, we always under promise and over Phinny, as we say. And yeah, what was the question again?

Nicholas: No, I mean, that's enough. Are there things you're excited about for your own personal Phinnies that you want, interactions that you would love to achieve with them? Or are you someone who has, do you have pets? You have a dog, right?

Ed Fornieles: I have a dog. Yeah, he's in my arms right now. And he's actually in the collection in the avalanche. doggy Phinny. He's trapped inside one of the jellies stomachs.

Nicholas: Wow. The jelly, which which asset is that? Avalanche. Avalanche. Oh, I see. Okay. Immortalized on the blockchain.

Ed Fornieles: He is. Has data. I don't know. There's so much like, I don't know, the health stuff to me is really tantalizing.

Sam Spike: Yes. We're also like, you know, I think it's great to have this sort of representation of yourself. And I think the reason that people use data tracking stuff is in large part just because people sort of enjoy seeing themselves represented in other forms. And I think there is a sort of like narcissism that lies beneath it. that is very natural.

Nicholas: So you'll be enabling that.

Sam Spike: Many of us have.

Nicholas: You'll be enabling that.

Sam Spike: Yeah, exactly. But I say this, I would say this and people are going to think I'm being, but I mean, I think it's true. And, and, and it's fine. And it's, you know, it is the truly the sort of narcissistic experience of looking down into the pond and seeing your own reflection. And we sort of think of theories as a Phinnies as a kind of mirror. But I do think they also...

Nicholas: The ultimate NFT is a flattering mirror.

Sam Spike: Yeah, well, quite exactly. But then, you know, I think it's also cool to be able to kind of make it more social, Be able to do things with your Phinnies, with all your friends Phinnies. So, you know, without giving too much away, the kind of, you know, what we're working on at the moment, it's sort of a more social experience for the app. So, you know, sort of going beyond transcending just this idea of a kind of cute coin gecko equivalent and introducing something that's entirely our own. It's more social. Multiplayer.

Nicholas: I'm picturing a 2016 Snapchat world filter where you can pose with your Phinnie. Maybe that already exists, though. Maybe I've seen that on Twitter.

Sam Spike: That would be cool. That would be cool. But no, even beyond that, it will be interactive beyond just you and your Phinnie for sure.

Nicholas: Awesome. Well, Sam, Jake, Ed, this was wonderful. I don't know if there's any last words you wanted to mention, anything in particular, but this was a great conversation and I'm really happy to have you all come through and talk about the project.

Ed Fornieles: It was good to just chat Phinnie and it was good to talk things through. Yeah, it's refreshing to actually do that once in a while because it's, you know, get your head stuck into building.

Sam Spike: Yeah, it's been great. I've really, really enjoyed this conversation.

Nicholas: Hold on, there is something I realized. So the sculptures, you've just been showing images of sculptures you've been working on as well, right? Maybe we sort of alluded to them, but we didn't really talk about them.

Ed Fornieles: Actually, one is being made in Montreal as well. But yeah, so I mean, that is something that's always been ongoing and the next day, so it's been 3D printing and resin stuff in London as well.

Nicholas: And so I think they look gorgeous. They really, yeah.

Ed Fornieles: And I'm really excited to have the new collection as well rendered sculpturally. So yeah, keep watching this space. There'll be more of that.

Nicholas: Awesome. Sam, sorry I cut you off.

Sam Spike: No, no, nothing. I was just going to say thanks so much for having us. And it's been really good to have you. That's all I was saying.

Nicholas: Of course. Jake, thank you also.

Jake Allen: Thank you. Yeah, it's been a pleasure.

Nicholas: Awesome. Well, thank you everybody for coming through to listen. Thank you again to Ed, Sam and Jake. Obviously, you can check out Vanilla Years. And next week, I forget who I'm interviewing. So you'll have to come back. Same time, same place. 5pm Eastern, Twitter spaces. Thanks everybody for coming. And thanks to Mint.fun for sponsoring. See y'all next week.

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