Tom Sachs’ NFT Rocket Factory wins Wallpaper* Design Award 2022
Tom Sachs’ brilliantly imaginative Rocket Factory marks the American artist’s foray into the world of NFTs and wins “Best Rocket Launch” at this year’s Wallpaper* Design Awards 2022
Tom Sachs is an art astro-conceptualist, NASA obsessive who designed and outfitted his own DIY space program. His New York studio is both a rocket workshop and a mission control center, assembling spacesuits and assembling landing modules, perfectly imperfect replicas of steel, plywood and foam that celebrate design and “good stuff” engineering that took man to the moon, if not far beyond. (Because he can, Sachs went further. In 2012 he sent astronauts to Mars and in 2016 he explored Europa, an ice-captured moon of Jupiter.) His latest exploration of the rocketeer myth, rocket factory, launched him into the next digital dimension of the art world, NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Sachs calls the project a “trans-dimensional manufacturing facility” that creates branded NFT rocket parts.
rocket factory created enough virtual inventory of nose cones, bodies, and tail assemblies to produce 1,000 different rockets. Each component features one of 30 different colorways and brand identities, with varying degrees of rarity (87 sets are branded Chanel, 27 McDonald’s, and three Hello Kitty). Space travel, after all, is now an entirely commercial enterprise. One hundred of the 3,000 components feature stickers, again of varying rarity.
Inside artist Tom Sachs’ studio in Manhattan, where he set up his Rocket Factory NFT project
There are over 113,000 possible component permutations, and collectors – or the “community” according to Sachs – can create a multi-brand Frankenrocket or a single-brand Perfect Rocket. (Sachs admits that the mechanics of his rocket market are absurdly arcane. “It’s byzantine and prohibitively complex. It’s definitely the Achilles’ heel of the whole thing, screwed up. “)
These components are ‘com-burned’ before a single new rocket is struck. Collectors can then select Launch Option, which scrambles Sachs and his team to create a physical replica of the digital rocket in the “world of meat”. Physical rockets are launched and, where possible, components are collected and returned to the collector in a custom presentation box, along with a video of the launch. There have been seven launches so far, including one on Governors Island in New York, another at Flamingo Park baseball stadium in Miami – which Sachs rented for the occasion – and one on the corner of Grand and Lafayette in SoHo. , which Sachs describes as ‘our secret place’.
Tom Sachs: Rocket Factory Rarity Chart, 2021. © Tom Sachs
Owners of an NFT rocket or completed component can become members of Rocket League and get their own Rocket Factory uniform. Sachs now plans to establish a digital Rocket Factory HQ, somewhere in the known or unknown metaverse, with special access clearance for Rocket League members.
Rocket Factory is another expression of Sachs’ fascination with the ambition, engineering, aesthetics and semiotics of the space program. “Rockets are a complex symbol because they are the symbol of our total destruction, but also of our redemption,” he says. “They are the ultimate symbol of science. And there is nothing more prestigious. Rockets require us to meet the highest standards of excellence.
It is also a challenge to accepted models of selling, owning and collecting art. NFTs, according to Sachs, represent a new creative space that is largely unregulated, unprivatized, vital and shared; a new frontier, less mapped, patrolled and controlled by traditional art guardians and power brokers. For Sachs, the digital space still holds utopian promise, and he is determined to both explore and protect that potential. “NFT culture is DIY culture,” he says. ‘It’s not since 1987, when I was exposed to the American hardcore punk scene, that I felt a greater sense of community and generosity. My strategy is just to do the best I can in space. That’s all we can do. §