Legendary artist Pak returns with his first piece since The Merge. Sort of. 

Created for the Alotta Money Tribute & Charity Auction, 404 delves into the profound theme of absence and loss. This piece is a unique exploration of the emotional void left by those no longer with us, juxtaposed against the backdrop of the digital realm.

What is 404?

The piece is intentionally designed to return no metadata, a deliberate nod to the ones we’ve lost, those who are now “not found.” Just as we notice the void left by their absence in our lives, this artwork makes that absence tangible in the digital world.

The concept revolves around the idea that the most profound feelings can be evoked not just by what is present, but also by what is conspicuously missing.

  • Metadata Status: Absent. When queried, the NFT doesn’t provide the typical title, description, or image, thus embodying the entire theme of something vital being missing.
  • Contract Behavior: The contract is deliberately crafted to give a “Not Found” or “404” error for the metadata, reinforcing this concept of absence.
  • Token Existence: Despite the lack of metadata, the token itself will still exist on the blockchain, mirroring the enduring impact and presence of those we’ve lost, even in their absence.

“The message I’ve chosen to return instead of the metadata is “In memory of the absent,” encapsulating its essence in a way that transcends language and resonates universally.” — Pak

What does any of this mean?

The token will intentionally look broken in all marketplaces. There is no metadata, and technically, there is no title of the token, image of the token, description of the token, or anything of the sort. However, the token on the contract will be token #404, so platforms will have to render it as 404.

In other words, 404 is the only token that exists on this contract, that returns a string message rather than a string metadata url. Every other token (that does not exist) returns “404.” 

Q&A With PAK

Q: In your 404 announcement tweet, you referenced a post from 2016. Was that the main reference for coming up with this concept? What does that tweet from 2016 mean to you?

PAK: The concept of Absence and Presence has always intrigued me. The theme of ‘presence through absence’ was something that frequently surfaced, especially in light of the recent events surrounding Alotta Money. So, I could say one of my inspirations was the representation or acknowledgment of absence. That tweet from 2016 encapsulates the duality of these concepts and serves as a reminder of the continuous exploration of these themes throughout my journey.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of developing this project?

PAK: Solidifying the concept was undeniably the most challenging aspect. From the outset, my aim was to emphasize absence. Initially, I approached this piece as an NFT that would autonomously change itself at specific dates. As the concept evolved, it began from a simple idea and progressed into a more complex structure, integrating contract-level mechanisms that offered different visuals daily. Yet, eventually, I realized that perhaps the real challenge was to represent absence with another form of absence. It felt right.

Q: Is there potential for this NFT to evolve at some point? While it is absent of metadata now, could metadata potentially be present in the future?

PAK: Technically, the metadata contract, which currently returns the string “In memory of the absent,” can always be altered. Whether this technical possibility translates into a conceptual need in the future remains to be seen.

Q: What do you think a collector should do with this, once they own it?

PAK: Ownership is an intriguing concept. What does one truly own when they possess something? What does ownership even mean?

Q: What is the impact that you want this project to have on the NFT community? How do you want it to be perceived?

PAK: In this medium, I’ve consistently championed the notion that the token is not the image it holds. Long-time followers of my body of work will already recognize this approach. For others, I hope this serves as an ‘aha moment’ to see beyond the conventional understanding of digital tokens.

Q: Do you think there are technical components of this project that would be interesting to apply more generally?

PAK: All contracts, including this one, are quite primitive. It’s less about the technical and more about the conceptual for me. I believe there’s a need for more unconventional ideas. Most are content to simply draw on the paper provided to them. Yet, so much more can be done with that same paper. We need to bend the medium to our will.

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