Do you want to build a rocket ship but don’t have the deep pockets of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson?
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You might want to turn to the Rocket Factory, “a trans-dimensional manufacturing plant” created by artist Tom Sachs, in which you can build and own a personalized rocket in both the physical and virtual world. The project is one of the most inventive uses of NFTs, a groundbreaking technology that makes digital items one-of-a-kind by giving them a unique code that can’t be duplicated or forged. It stands at the intersection of cryptocurrency, the metaverse, and persistent human longing for the new frontier. You create a unique rocket online that gets minted as an NFT, he builds a meatspace replica and launches it, and you decide what happens next to the art.
Sachs’ ongoing project makes use of the new form of digital commons called the blockchain, which is the shared public database that make it possible to prove that you and you alone own an NFT; of the metaverse, or the 3D virtual world where some believe a great deal of human interaction will soon be migrating; and of our persistent longing for a new frontier, all of which are characteristics of what is often referred to as web3—the next phase in the evolution of the internet.
Sachs is an internationally recognized artist and sculptor best known for making painstakingly realistic reproductions of familiar objects that exist in the real world. One of his most acclaimed projects, for instance, included creating a scale replica of Le Corbusier’s modernist housing project The Radiant City out of foamcore. Other memorable pieces include creating a full-scale model of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki and, in a nod to Andy Warhol, a series of shipping boxes for household items such as Kellogg’s corn flakes, Brillo pads, and Heinz ketchup. Long obsessed with space flight, he has created three different “Space Program” installations, each of which represents what it means to fly to the moon, Mars, and beyond.
Reason’s Nick Gillespie spoke with Sachs in his studio in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood to talk about the role of psychedelics in his creative process, how the internet has radically flattened and improved the relationship between artist and audience, and why his meticulously handcrafted NFT rockets can be just as exciting, innovative, and inspiring as the ones made by Bezos, Musk, and Branson.