As China’s e-commerce giants engaged in a frenzy of flash sales and bargains on the day of the Double 11 (Nov. 11) shopping festival, a three-member NFT creative team named ROK made a debut onto its own digital stage that mirrors the consumer drama — in a decentralized, ironically humorous way.
“Double Eleven 2021: Common Prosperity,” an NFT project minted by ROK on Nov. 11, referenced internet memes, rumors, and conspiracy theories that have appeared on the Chinese internet over the past decade. Sly references include Jack Ma’s former life as a teacher before creating the Alibaba empire, and Tencent founder Huateng Ma’s English name “Pony.”
In a 48-second, computer-generated 3D animation, the NFT series alludes to the sprawling power of China’s tech giants.
“Many internet companies have joined this festival, thus making it one of the most fierce battlegrounds of the Chinese internet industry, and a perfect source for artistic inspiration,” ROK said on OpenSea, the world’s largest NFT marketplace.
Four versions of the “Double Eleven 2021: Common Prosperity” series celebrate the anniversary of the Double 11 shopping festival, which started in 2009. The NFT features four animated animals in front of a birthday cake taking turns to blow out the candles. Each animal figure corresponds to the mascot of China’s four major internet giants: Alibaba-operated TMall’s cat, Pingduoduo’s chicken, JD.com’s dog, and Tencent’s penguin.
“Decentralization [in the NFT series] becomes a metaphor by symbolizing these technology giants blowing candles as a ‘feast’ and it will become a ‘swan song,’” Gu Zhenqing, a Beijing-based NFT curator, said in a phone interview with Forkast.News.
“In a decentralized community, people can be users and shareholders. But in front of these tech giants that become more centralized, we are just their data contributors,” he added.
Gu explained some of the imagery in the series that has a social commentary: the yellow helmets under the stage floor represent “those working-class people who are the cornerstone of common prosperity” but got stepped under the feet of internet giants. Meanwhile, the pacifier shape of the birthday cake refers to the term “tittytainment” which means low-cost and vulgar entertainment content that is “easy to satisfy.”
Integrating China’s top theme of 2021 “common prosperity” which encourages large businesses and entrepreneurs to help improve wealth inequality, ROK uses the NFT’s decentralized format to reflect on the irony of these internet giants rushing to host the shopping festivals.
“On the stage full of rumors and smokescreens, the capital magnates stepped on the working class and competed with each other for something nihilistic, but this was called ‘common prosperity!’” ROK wrote in its work description.
The price for the first version of “Double Eleven 2021: Common Prosperity” series was US$100,000, according to Gu, who plans to invite ROK to an upcoming NFT exhibit he will curate in Wuhan next May.
“The parallel topic of ‘Double Eleven 2021’ and ‘Common Prosperity’ really raises a question for the public: does Double-11 mark the vision of “common prosperity” or is it drifting away from this vision?” Gu said.
“Going forward, every detail in an NFT piece should contain a meaningful context. It’s a cultural gene,” he added.