An actor, poet, producer, and composer, Laurence Fuller is part of a community of artists carving out space for poetry in web3. He sat down with Leo Nasskau to talk about the interplay between culture, poetry, film, and web3. Léa Rose Emery tells the story.
“I think a universal will always be universal: what is essentially pleasurable to the human eyes and ears will never change, but the ways of telling those stories absolutely is changing every day.” If there is one person adapting to those changes at lightning speed, it’s Laurence Fuller. The actor, producer, writer, and poet saw the potential of NFTs in an instant — and embraced the space with enthusiasm, curiousity and, perhaps most importantly, a deeply embedded instinct for how to tell stories.
“I'd been doing theatre and film up until that point of moving into web3. I had a lot of experience in the art world as well, in the family business,” Laurence explains. “When lockdown happened, I was already a bit in crypto and a lot in writing poetry and making films.” He took the period to expand his literary horizons. He wrote a novella, The Fortune, about whaling in Leith Harbour, while delving deeper into poetry and finishing the screenplay about his late father, Modern Art — which would go on to be celebrated on the screenwriting circuit.
But in the midst of his creative spurt, the first moment he heard about NFTs still burns bright in his mind. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, that's like, that's it’. It just blew my mind open. I think that energy and that moment of revelation of what it could be has never really died.”
With that, Laurence hit the ground running, immersing himself “24/7” in the web3 space after minting his first spoken word poetry and art collaboration in March 2021. Captured by the boundary-pushing, interdisciplinary potential of the space, he fused the mediums of poetry and art in a way that he hadn’t been able to realise in traditional forms. “It just wasn't really a doable thing, in the art world, in the traditional world, in the worlds that I come from, in the world of Netflix and Amazon, or even in commercial galleries.”
Dubbed “the first NFT poet”, Laurence not only combines mediums, he seeks to synthesise the old and new, the classics and technology. “Initially it was just painting in poetry because I was very inspired by Baudelaire and my late father's writings, who both were just passionate writers about art and were really trying to find the connection between writing and painting. Baudelaire has some amazing poems about paintings and painters... I just have always thought that if he had the technology, he would take it further.”
And Laurence certainly takes it further. NFTs have given him the space to move beyond the discussion of how poetry and art are linked — and provided a space to explore, play, and create. His curiousity and deft hand are evident in works like The Signature, where subtle animation of a Vermeer painting, crafted with an anonymous poem performed by Laurence, melds new words with old masters.
But while celebrating and exploring the past, Laurence is excited by the future of the NFT space — not just as an evolving medium, but as a vehicle for emerging talent. Already an established actor (being a Heath Ledger scholar and having recently played the iconic painter David Hockney in MINX from HBO Max), Laurence sees huge potential in the relationship between NFTs and film, most notably shorts, which share the pioneering artistic spirit inherent within NFTs.
“It's surprising there isn't a short film platform already where you can buy an NFT of a short film,” he explains. “That would be perfect because the ecosystem for short films and the festival circuit has always been emerging and always been sort of ‘roll up your sleeves and get it done’. It's all about the talent and the art and putting passion into it, almost a showcase for, ‘this is who I am as a filmmaker’.”
"I just have always thought that if he had the technology, he (Baudelaire, the poet) would take it further."
— Laurence Fuller
To Laurence, NFTs are not just a platform to highlight yourself as an artist, they’re a platform where artists recognise, support, and amplify each other. And a community has grown through that shared ethos. “My collaborators and my collectors: we've all really risen together this past year. It's amazing to see everyone's follower count grow and their influence grow. And we're all sharing each other's works or a collector's point of view. To see my good friend Tanya Rivilis winning the top awards – she just won the Royal Society of Portraiture award – incredible, it's like winning an Oscar. I mean, we all saw it coming, but wow.” There’s a palpable enthusiasm for the success of others that comes across in Laurence’s vision for the space. “I think it's really been about lifting up the other artists that I really believe in and connecting with the folk who share a very similar ethos, which is just art first.”
That said, Laurence is keen to stress that the art community on Tezos is a lot more than “just artists collecting each other’s stuff”. Pointing out that the list of the top 200 collectors contains barely a handful of artists, Laurence explains that “this impression comes about because it is possible for artists to collect other artists because there is no gas and because artist discovery is so good, but we absolutely have a lot of entrepreneurs and business people and collectors out here.”
Instead, it’s the community of artists that has attracted a broader collector ecosystem, even if it’s the artists that are more active on Twitter. Laurence has witnessed this community growing in real-time, welcoming to opportunity to see art celebrated for being “just great art,” artists and celebrated for their craft, even if they do not come from a place of privilege. And he is ready to push forward the capacity and momentum of the space in any way he can.
Next up is an arresting and ambitious collaboration with Val Kilmer, continuing to explore the interlinking of forms of expression. “After he recovered from cancer he's no longer really able to use his voice as well and to perform as much,” Laurence says. “He's been a renaissance man all his life and did a lot of paintings and poetry, and so I've been asked to give voice to his poetry with what I do in poetry and art collaborations.” The first three pieces will be a collaboration with Michele Petrelli, Tanya Rivilis, and Goldcat, featuring portraits of Val in the settings of his poetry.
With an enormous breadth of ideas and projects in the pipeline, there is a determined propulsion to Laurence. He remains as focused and passionate about every individual project as he is about the potential of the NFT space and “pushing the medium of what spoken word poetry and performance and art collaborations can be.” He’s ready, with a willing talent and an open mind. “Let's see what the next job looks like.”
"What is essentially pleasurable to the human eyes and ears will never change, but the ways of telling those stories absolutely is changing every day."
— Laurence Fuller