Last weekend, at the Sound View Hotel in Greenport, on the North Fork of Long Island, a couple embraced passionately by the head of a table where a large dinner had been laid out. At first I was concerned–had something happened? Some bad news? And then I remembered that these were performers. All evening, two male dancers and one woman — the influencer and performer Violetta — draped themselves on the walls and chairs, and on each other, for a piece called Furniture Intimacy by Brendan Fernandes.
The performance was one of many seemingly random events staged for NFT Weekend, a gathering of NFT aficionadoes organized by Brian Gorman, the creative marketer for the Greenport properties of the hotel impresario Erik Warner, who owns hotels across Hawaii, Wyoming, California, and Colorado.
NFT tourism doesn’t seem such a solid concept, except that it kind of is. Ever since NFT.NYC last November, where the online social networks of the NFT community first congregated into a physical place, the taste for in-person conventions has prompted those with means in the community to fly from place to place: to link, to build, to drink.
The NFT crowd has blown through Miami for Art Basel, Denver for Eth.Denver, and Austin for the SXSW festival. Now, its members are on their way to LA for NFT.LA. The effects this community has on tourism are palpable as venues are rented out for pop up galleries and local DJs are booked for parties, and yet it’s difficult to capture the value of events like these, spurring hundreds of tech bros to descend upon a town is not a simple task. Initiatives that succeed in doing so come from within the community, and that extends beyond travel. This is why, for example, NFTs by established artists realize embarrassing figures while previously anonymous figures like Beeple, Pak, or XCOPY rake in digital gold. Initiatives have to be native to the space to truly thrive.
But why bring NFTs to Greenport, a small town known to New Yorkers primarily for its wineries and its beaches, at the tail end of the off-season? When I asked, I heard a lot about community.
“Erik believes that we make our lives meaningful by spreading compassion,” Gorman said. “Erik believes in the leisure of learning, in developing community. Erik grows deep roots in the places he’s involved in.” Hence the habit of buying multiple properties in one town.
As Gorman described, it was his job to “drive the vision of community-building.” Gorman had inaugurated an initiative known as the Beach Fire Series, where an industry leader was invited to have a casual conversation on the beach with whomever was likely to engage. Jonathan Rosen, an artist who makes Tracey Emin–like light and text works, many of them involving mirrors, had recently gotten in the NFT game and was invited to give one of these talks. Gorman was inspired by what he had learned, and decided to create a weekend-long event around the theme of NFTs.
All weekend there were NFT bike rides and NFT gin-making. There were NFT talks and NFT music. What do these things mean? Not much, it turns out.
In some ways, the gin-making and bike riding were meant to introduce the concepts of NFTs to the layman, except everyone in attendance was basically an expert. As I eventually realized, all the people I met at these events were those who had, like me, been invited to attend. They were taking advantage of the seafront hotel, a room for the weekend had been their compensation for their presence. “Due to their passion,” a press contact explained, they had been happy to do it for free.
Kelly Levalley Hunt, a former employee of BlockApps, whose ex-employees Charles and John Crain would go on to found SuperRare, was in attendance and gave a talk on the basics of blockchain. Mike Kriak, of ConsenSys, and visual studies professor Charlotte Kent were also invited to speak. Taras Kravtchouk was in attendance because his electric bike company Tarform had lent out two vehicles for NFT bike rides; he also gave a talk.
In the end, the NFT tourism experiment in Greenport was an interesting one even if it was a bit fringe, that is, it was interesting because it was fringe. The hotel, at least, was beautiful.