The beginning of March brought a heavy feeling and a flashback to how COVID-19 all started two years ago. While I would be remiss not to mention that a lot has changed between then and now, the feelings of heaviness, grief, anxiety, and acknowledgement of all that has been lost are not quite gone. And it’s going to take some time. Artist Kristina Libby, founder of the Floral Heart project, strongly believes that COVID-19 Memorial Day should exist as a day to remember all that has been lost. “It is important for our social fabric to recognize the lost of nearly 1M American lives,” she says. “But, making that a reality is expensive and time consuming and the organizations advocating for a day of remembrance need ongoing support.”
Heartbleed in action. Courtesy of the artist.
In lieu of immediate national legislation support, Libby has taken matters into her own hands to create an NFT memorial titled Heartbleed. Heartbleed was imagined and created through Libby’s The Floral Heart project, which began during the height of the pandemic to to provide support and comfort for those affected by COVID. The Heartbleed digital display shows a rose petal dropping for every life lost to COVID-19 time to each day of loss. Every two seconds represents one day since the start of the pandemic. Libby’s piece, which has appeared in the prestigious NYC-based SPRING/BREAK art show and been on display at the Arizona Historical Society, is a collection of five pieces. This is the only one that will be sold as a NFT and the first-ever minted NFT Memorial. The sale will run from March 1st through March 7th. Most importantly, For this project, 10% of funds will go to the community fighting for COVID Memorial Day Legislation with each sale.
I sat down with Libby to discuss all things NFT, her feelings on why a COVID-19 Memorial Day is important, and her hopes that iterations of the Heartbleed project will carry on. For those who aren’t familiar with the Floral Heart project, you can read my first interview with Libby here.
You started the Floral Heart project during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as a connecting tool to help people grieve and process. In honor of Covid 19 Memorial Day, what made you decide to pursue an NFT? What do you hope potential NFT buyers will get from Heartbleed?
COVID-19 Memorial Day is something that I hope will be made into national legislation in the next few years.
Floral hearts are effective but temporary by the very nature of their material. In opposition, NFTs theoretically live forever and they can provide a source of revenue each time they change hands. NFTs, as such, are an enduring new medium that can continue to give back to the community. And, in that way I wanted to explore them.
One of the interesting things about NFTs is that hopefully each time you sell them, you’ll make a bit of profit. Therefore, early supporters of the project can see their investment in the community also net a return for them. In that case, it’s not so much a donation but rather an endorsement and an investment in the potential of that community to grow. It’s not just showing support but also being rewarded for helping others reach their goals. I love that aspect of the medium.
“With nearly 1 million deaths in the U.S., I wanted to do something to support the creation of a memorial day that would live beyond the sale of a single piece of art. Taking time to recognize these losses is important to our society and our overall well-being and creating a COVID-19 Memorial Day is a simple and profound way to recognize the losses collectively.”Kristina Libby
Seeing Heartbleed in person at SPRING/BREAK was just, wow. For those who aren’t familiar with Heartbleed, can you tell us a little bit more about the piece?
Thank you! Heartbleed was created for a pandemic gallery show in 2020. It effectively is a timeline for those we’ve lost to COVID. Each rose petal falling represents one life and every two seconds of time represents the passage of one day. So, what you see is a timeline of loss from January where we had just a few recorded deaths, to the onslaught of May and then an easing in the fall. It’s a momento mori, of sorts, and a way for us to help visualize what we experienced.
Heartbleed projected in Austin, TX on January 20, 2021.
NFT’s are everywhere, and are definitely shifting the art market. Do you think that NFT’s can be collected in the same way that people would traditionally collect art and grow their collection? Or is the thinking behind buying and developing NFT’s totally different? Can someone actually display an NFT?
Yes, NFTs can be collected like art. You are buying something on speculation that you either a.) like or b.) think will increase in value. In that way, it’s similar to the art market.
However, there is more complexity to NFT buying and trading. That stems from the crypto environment where people are focused on creating different systems for.. nearly… everything. Cryptocurrencies largely came out of the 2008 housing crisis where people realized that a lot of things happened without their consent or awareness. So there was a desire for more transparency about ownership and how things changed hands. That desire is effectively the blockchain – an accessible ledger of the history of transactions. NFTs are an asset class that rely on cryptocurrencies. An NFT brings in investors who perhaps are not interested in decentralized finance but are interested in say… art or collectibles. I like to think of NFTs more like baseball cards.
NFTs extend beyond art in a number of ways. NFTs are personal brand statements because NFTs are often tied to communities who are highlighting or sharing specific value statements. This can also be true of art – if you purchase a Jeff Koons, that says a lot about you. However, you are not also in an open community of other Koons purchasers who are all working together to increase the value of your specific pieces. In this way, NFTs communities can act as aggregate hype communities for their collected images thereby trying to increase the value of the work in a way that art could but doesn’t.
Beyond that, think of NFTs as staking a claim or getting dividends in a community or individual. By buying an NFT, I’m buying my way into a community of people who espouse a similar value ideal. The hope is that the more our community grows, the more our NFTs become valuable. Or, I could buy an NFT that is supporting a specific cause, person or individual. I could say buy an NFT based on a college basketball player on the hopes that as his career rises, so too does the value of my holding. This is not dissimilar to art again, but it’s more transaction and evident. In this way an NFT could be more like a baseball card.
And, finally, yes: a lot of people are printing out NFTs and hanging them on their walls. Flow NFT is one of several service providers that helps collectors exhibit their NFTs in physical space.
So, you want to create an NFT. Can you tell me a little bit more about how you actually make an NFT and the process? I saw Heartbleed in person at Spring Break, will this NFT version look a little bit different?
I found creating an NFT easier than it seemed. But, this is because I spent the last many months diving deep into Web3, further into crypto and NFTs. To create one, you must first own crypto, have a wallet and then determine what you are going to create.
For Heartbleed, I’m selling thirteen pieces. One piece is the full work that you saw at Spring/Break. The other twelve pieces are clips from each month of time within the work. So there is a piece for Jan, Feb, March, etc. This was intended to set the price point a bit lower and also to make it easier for someone who lost someone to be able to memorialize their specific loss during the time period in which it happened. I really hope the COVID loss community will buy pieces to remember their loved ones and that they can join together in that loss in this new Web3 world as well as in other aspects of their lives.
A lot has changed since the onset of the pandemic (thank you vaccines and science!). That being said, people are still grieving, transitioning back to pre covid activities and processing the events from the past two years. Do you think Heartbleed is something that will live on? After it’s existence as an NFT, do you envision turning Heartbleed into something else? For example, a public sculpture or monument inspired by Heartbleed or the video permanently living somewhere visible to the public?
I think so. I have three more copies of Heartbleed that I would like to find a home for. One place that would be really meaningful to me is to have a sanctuary space where people could come and watch the video installation. This happened in a temporary fashion for a few months at the Arizona Historical Society Museum. A lot of people found it comforting to visualize the losses of so many. I hope someday it will be part of a permanent exhibit dedicated to the impact that COVID had on our lives.
We may be able to get past this moment but compound grieving has a long term impact on society. Following Hurricane Katrina 18% of the population suffered extreme PTSD. We would be foolish to think that will not happen as we get out of the pandemic as well.
What else is coming down the pipeline for you? Can we expect to see any other NFT’s in the future?
I have an exhibit coming up in April curated by Melinda Wang where I will be showing Heartbleed and a few of my sculptural exhibits as well.
And, in June I’ll be part of a multi-block public art exhibit in Greenwich Village called In Plain Sight that is focused on creativity and imagination using animal-related art as the reference. That will be sculptural as well.
However, I’m also discussing a few NFT projects and have one that I’m extremely excited about. More on that soon! Thank you for asking!
The NFT sale will be up through Monday, March 7th.
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Alexandra Israel graduated from Bates College in 2010. A museum aficionado since her introduction to Jean Dominque Ingres' portraits as a small child, she enjoys spending her free time at museums and finding off-the-beaten-track gallery shows. Israel has been working in PR for over seven years, primarily within book publishing and in the art world. She has held positions at Penguin Book Group, Aperture Foundation, and Third Eye among others. l Instagram l