Introducing the Merme.eth Exhibition

In the world of blockchain art, unique concepts continuously emerge, pushing boundaries and challenging our understanding of artistic value and ownership. One such project was Sea of Redemption (SoR), a recent and inventive collaboration between renowned artist Shezad Dawood and the web3 art platform Zien.

SoR presents an underwater fantasy NFT collection, and prospective collectors, including from the JPG community, were encouraged to “sacrifice” their NFTs, metaphorically casting them into the depths of the Sea of Redemption, via donations to the merme.eth address. This act of sacrifice served as a form of redemption, allowing the contributors to be allowlisted for the drop while the sacrificed NFTs found a new life within the merme.eth living collection.

Yet the journey doesn't end there. The sacrificed NFTs, each representing a unique artistic endeavor, have now resurfaced in an exhibition aptly named Merme.eth, co-curated by Shezad Dawood, Zien, and JPG. This exhibition showcases a diverse range of NFTs — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and the exhibition’s curatorial statement perfectly encapsulates this concept:

"This exhibition delves into the vast ocean of merme.eth's sacrificed tokens, revealing an eclectic array of artistic endeavors from the exceptional to the downright dubious in the ever-evolving world of NFTs."

Accordingly, the Merme.eth exhibition invites viewers to embark on a journey through the depths of the sacrificed NFT ocean, offering an exploration of the vibrant, sometimes bizarre , world of blockchain creativity. Below, please enjoy accompanying statements from Shezad Dawood, Zien, and JPG sharing our thoughts on the exhibition and its curation process.

Shezad Dawood’s perspective

One of the key mechanisms of Sea of Redemption for all of us, was to think about religious iconography and this idea of sacrifice and renewal. As we were developing the project, the emerging crypto bear market — especially around PFP projects — actively encouraged us down this route. And to think of whether digital or analogue icons persist.

These don’t have to be specifically Christian icons, and we were thinking more broadly in terms of the use of votive objects in specific cultures that interest me, whether Tupilaks in Greenlandic culture that have a specific relationship to the sea, and were used against enemies in their fishing vessels, or Nkisi in the Congo Basin that are objects that spirits could inhabit and be propitiated through. Or of course the wrathful deities of Tibetan Buddhism that I have referenced in previous projects and can help the devotee overcome obstacles.

I see redemption as a key energy in art-making and creation, and believe in the power of art as transformative potential and of spirit in action.

I personally loved the idea of people being able to trade in their PFP sins (or dethroned icons), for a randomized redemptive token (based on marine species) that in turn would help fund Marine research and conservation. It synched so well as an alternative system of value and meaning, that up-ended more traditional labels of value and meaning (like decentralized finance itself first set out to do). As the project evolved, and in discussion with MP, she kindly proposed that we make more of this aspect of the project in partnership with JPG, which led us to collaborate on the exhibition as yet another tentacle (or set of possibilities) emerging from the Sea of Redemption.

Zien’s perspective

merme.eth, known also as the Redemption Wallet, began life as a blockchain-native mechanism, formulated by Zien to garner hype around their drop Sea of Redemption from artist Shezad Dawood.

In total, Sea of Redemption is an ocean-crypto fantasy world, an Expanded PFP project, a chance at redemption, and an onchain game that plays with how artwork is collected. We wanted mechanisms that combined active participation, NFT-native tech, and the sweeping narrative of the project. Hoping to engage online audiences, we made calls to “Cleanse your degen sins” by sacrificing unwanted NFTs to this crypto wallet. Eventually this proposition was refined: Send any NFT to merme.eth and be added to the allowlist for Sea of Redemption.

What was only tangentially discussed then was that the NFTs transferred into merme.eth were going to become a sort of living archive of the recent history of NFTs. merme.eth is a repository, a checkered history, a look at the underbelly of NFTs.

There are many exhibitions, both URL and IRL, that intend to curate a selection of outstanding NFTs, but these are rarely truly representative of the space (and nor do they want to be, which is fine!). merme.eth is now a kind of unintentionally community curated collection of NFTs that both individually and collectively represent an authentic and realistic cross-section look at the contemporary NFT space. And in all of it’s ugly, unsettling, brash, surprising, thought-provoking, alluring and challenging glory. Finally, since  it remains open to donations: long live merme.eth!

JPG’s perspective

In requesting sacrifices to merme.eth in order to get allowlisted for the Sea of Redemption drop, Shezad Dawood and Zien posed an interesting implicit question to the NFT ecosystem, which was “what token are you willing to part with forever for a chance at a new adventure?”

At first, Redegens — NFT community leaders a.k.a. “degens with redemptive powers” — were tasked with the sacrifices. In this capacity, JPG co-founder Trent Elmore metaphorically skipped one of Figure’s UNSHADED rock NFTs into the address to allowlist the JPG community. Shortly thereafter, the proposition was expanded so that anyone could send any NFT they wished to merme.eth to get allowlisted.

With this widened purview, the sacrifices that came into The Redemption Wallet over the coming days made for a truly eclectic mix of NFTs, from high to low, from the memetically enticing — e.g. a Based Ghoul — to the egregiously hideous — e.g. Angry Meerkat 5620.

In this way, the merme.eth collection has now come to represent a slice of the NFT space’s collective unconscious, its overlooked creations and hidden realities. And this “slice” is only just beginning to grow. As such, these NFTs may have been sacrificed, so to speak, but they are not dead; they will live on in this new context in a way they never would have without it.

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