Second-year Advertising & Beyond student Stijn van Schaik sold his soul as an NFT via the online marketplace OpenSea. It is the world’s very first human soul ever sold via NFT. 'Soul of Stinus' was sold for a sum of 0,1 Ethereum, which is a cryptocurrency, that’s worth 330 euros. “It was never my intention to do it for the money, I did this for the sake of art and to share my vision. I wanted the NFT to be accessible so I did not overprice it, but I also did not want to make it too cheap, so people would think twice before buying it. There’s a deeper message to this NFT than you would think at first.”
The creation of this NFT was part of a school project where students had to think about financial insecurity and inequality. The world of cryptocurrency is a perfect example of ways to rethink money, value and power. An NFT is a Non-Fungible Token. Basically, they are individual tokens with information stored in them. They can be bought and sold through cryptocurrency, just like other physical types of art. “To me, NFT is about democratizing the financial world by enabling people to exchange monetary value without the need for a third party like a bank. Cryptocurrency is more fair and accessible. You don’t need a lot of money to engage with it, you just need to educate yourself a little.”
With this project, Stijn wants to draw attention to the endless posibilities of the technology around cryptocurrency and shares his critical stance towards to current uses of NFT’s. “The digital space has a lot of possibilities for artists, but with NFTs now it seems to be all about the hype and the money. I want to criticize this from the inside of the system. Because how is it even possible for someone to upload his soul? What does it mean for someone to buy it and have ownership? What does it mean to decentralize a soul? And.. how can a soul be worth less than a digital image of a monkey? I have a lot of questions.”
Not everyone will get this layer of critical substance that the NFT holds, but the artwork sure has set something in motion. Both national and international media picked up on the news pretty quickly. Everyone is talking about Stijn’s soul.
Stijn receives a lot of comments on his work, and not all of them are positive. “Half of the messages I get are from religious people that tell me that it is not too late to save myself. They want to prevent me from going to hell. What I also hear a lot is that people find it stupid that I sold my soul, especially for this amount of money. I do not care about the negativity, it only shows me how unique this project is. Art and controversiality are good friends. I think a lot of people just do not get my point. ”
During the interview, Stijn shows the small room full of moving boxes he is surrounded with. The room is currently functioning as his working space, storage and bedroom. “Ever since I sold my soul, my life has become so chaotic. I feel as decentralized as my soul right now. I am super grateful for all the attention my soul received. I am busy with it everyday and I get a lot of requests and messages. I even missed one of the most important exams ever. It sure turned everything upside down, but I would not want it to be different.”
So what does it mean for a soul to be decentralized by selling it as an NFT? Stijn does not know the final answer to this question yet, as it is an ongoing research. “Everybody is watching what is going to happen with my soul now. They can even decide what is going to happen with it. It is out of my control, it is happening to me and I’m just going with it. The faith of my soul is being decided for me now. ”