Kintsugi Upgrades is an NFT collection that uses the Japanese mending technique called kintsugi to combine medieval and post classical artifacts with high-tech fixtures to create a product that exists for a purely digital realm. Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery by adhering the pieces back together and dusting the cracks with gold powder. The result is an entirely unique creation that is functional once again, but in the case of Kintsugi Upgrades, the original functionality has completely changed.
The Kintsugi Upgrades collection was initially inspired by ancient artifacts found in the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Malopolska's Virtual Museums. Imagining an ancient world revived with modern technology has been a driving theme in our NFT series. As technology for virtual reality and the metaverse grows more potent, Kintsugi Upgrades is made to represent a clash of the old and the new but ultimately works in service of the future by creating objects that will populate virtual worlds.
Broken to Rebuild
One of our goals with this NFT series is to capture the tension between democratizing digital spaces and the unique ability to own and possess digital assets. Each NFT is modeled after a real-world artifact that has been digitally scanned and uploaded online. We then artificially shattered the digital renderings to create a new object with upgraded capabilities that could only exist in the metaverse. While the core utility of the object still serves a purpose, like vases and water containers, the technology required to elevate their functionality is still far from reality. The metaverse will be fraught with these types of challenges, determining what is accessible and what is exclusive in a purely virtual form.
Innovation is a core value of our design studio so we have begun designing for a virtual world that is soon to be our future. Our NFTs are a way to show the innovation behind turning physical assets into digital commodities. They also serve to show the plausibility of transitioning more of our lives from the physical world into the digital.
A purely digital artifact
The purpose of Kintsugi Upgrades is to help old products find new functions. Many of the original artifacts served some form of domestic purpose, like vases, water jugs, and food containers. By transitioning these artifacts into the digital realm through their Kintsugi Upgrades, they can no longer serve the same functional purposes as their real world counterparts. To mediate this tension, we designed each NFT to retain some aspect of a functional purpose, even in the metaverse. There is no current plan to create these NFTs as physical objects because the technology required to create them is not yet possible. For this reason, they remain confined to the metaverse.
The collection of 12 Kintsugi Upgrades selects objects from different cultures and historical periods to deconstruct and rebuild. The strength of each concepts are being able to see the beauty of the original historical object and then build off of that as we imagine the futuristic functionality that is embedded into the upgraded parts of the artifact.
The names of the KU’s are also chosen with the intention of retaining part of the object’s past identity while also referencing the new upgrade. KU10: Azote is named for its new function that utilizes nitrogen. Azote is another word for nitrogen, although outdated, and the functionality of KU10 involves extracting nitrogen from the air and compressing it into liquid nitrogen that can be used to preserve and freeze food. Another example is KU06: Botellones whose original artifact was a water container, or a botellones de agua, which we attempted to recapture in the upgraded version. KU06 builds off of the original utility by introducing nutrient supplements into the water container.