Art toys, or collectibles have always been intricately intertwined with pop culture. As the different eras come and go, the wonderful form of collectibles stays relevant over the passage of time and there is just something magical about watching a different world come to life.
With the growth of the Internet as its biggest driver, the role of collectibles as an art form has evolved to not only to provide entertainment for people from all walks of life and across different cultures. It also now serves as an important medium in promoting social and political awareness by communicating alternative perspectives on complex issues such as politics and social inequality, especially for Gen-Z and millennials.
As human beings, there is an instinctive need to communicate our ideas and opinions, to share our reflections of the events happening around us and the things we are personally engaged with.
With wide ranging traditional and digital content platforms available nowadays, there are no lack of mediums for accessing content. Interestingly, with collectibles as a medium, content is freed from the need of appealing to anyone and everyone and a thoroughly wonderful way to involve the consumer and getting them to directly use their imagination to world-build on their own.
By catering to the innate human trait of collecting and supercharging it with technology, be it AI, VR or AR, we will be able to take the next step in the evolutionary cycle of collectibles by creating a social, friendly mass-market platform that engages every age and gender.
It might not be as far fetched as it seems, because within the next five years collectibles will become the medium of choice for communicating casual content phygitally across different major markets – think art, sports, gaming and music – bringing customised content directly to fans while simultaneously creating unique interactive moments controlled by fans themselves.
In other words, there will now be a whole playground of experiences to unlock via collectibles. It is so powerful, everyone will want one.
Quoting a familiar example – think of the 2018 movie, ‘Ready Player One’ by Steven Spielberg. In the movie, groups of friends and communities interact in fantastic environments with their collectible avatar, giving consumers wide ranging access to the consumption of all manners of entertainment, be it movies, music or games.
To be clear, we do not expect to use collectibles and immediately allow consumers to plug in via an avatar and explore the virtual world live, in real time. That could eventually be possible but the focus right now is on creating quality content both online and offline and delivering timeless, invaluable experiences channelled towards consumers.
Seamlessly integrating collectibles and licensed IP with original media will bring us one step closer to realising the movie’s vision of creating a whole new immersive experience and/or environment for the consumer in the real world and giving them the thrilling high of an awesome experience.
Even long after content is consumed, the consumer can revisit anytime or simply be reminded of the great experience they had each and every time they look at their collectible, thereby owning this integrated and cohesive content experience as long as they desire.
Letting collectibles spark dialogue
Another great example would be for the communication of social issues. Take our Alice in Wasteland piece for example that we created in 2019 based on the fine art print we are all so familiar with. The story of Alice is that she goes down a rabbit hole and keeps discovering all these beautiful places – but what happens when a wonderland becomes a wasteland?
Stepping back and looking at the entire picture, it probably reflects the biggest global environmental issue right now – the pollution of waste leading to growth of mountainous landfills. Assuming that Alice portrays the Earth and is sitting in between all the trash, she holds a dying stem of flower with great sadness in her eyes is sad and disappointed because humans are destroying her (also visible in her tattered & hopeless look).
A lack of education on the proper ways of disposal and recycling of e-waste is a direct contributor to an ever growing problem of waste and pollution. Forests get cut down and in their place stand huge factories, the earth is mined for precious metals that help these devices tick. Old devices pile up high in landfills as we regularly change out what we already own for shiny new gadgets. Alice In Wasteland is a visual representation of the waste filled near future. The earth is full of natural wonder and when it all gets replaced with waste, will we still look at the world with wonder or will we only feel sadness for what was?
Collectibles are often a reflection of its creator’s views and experiences, with its striking artistic and thematic styles transcending cultural barriers and at the same time, depicting whatever the artist wants them to, whether a completely innocent theme for children or a socially charged message to spark dialogue.
Using our Liberty Girl as another example, We all know that the Statue of Liberty is a universal symbol of freedom. The torch is a symbol of enlightenment, and the Statue of Liberty’s torch lights the way to freedom showing us the path to Liberty.
Our Liberty Girl piece is unique because it is a physical manifestation (and a sly dig at the current state of world events) of how people in general have come to learn that the very people we trust with our liberty cannot actually be trusted – and not the majestic symbol of freedom and hope that we have come to associate it with. Our other pieces of work with Brandalised like the Crayon Shooter and Kissing Coppers all carry similarly loaded social commentary and messages that we try to convey with our work.
By utilising collectibles, creators can actually develop clear storylines for characters that are both rich in culture and strong in impact, immediately making an important and long-lasting impression on consumers globally and providing visually arresting yet simple explanations on sensitive socio-political issues.
The history of collectibles and how we have traditionally interacted with them as toys has not entirely helped us see them as a relatively accessible form of content. The globalisation of content however, has successfully freed it from having to appeal to everyone but it still requires the acceptance and ability of consumers to filter their own experiences to their liking.
Eventually, if people do realise that they cannot change their circumstance overnight, it might actually be helpful if they could change their perspective instead – by embracing the fact that there will soon be a whole new way for people to consume, experience and share rich digital content in this exciting digital age – via collectibles.
Jackson Aw is a 2018 Forbes 30 under 30 honouree and Founder & CEO of Singapore-based Mighty Jaxx, a technology-driven integrated future culture platform that designs and manufactures collectibles and lifestyle products in partnership with the greatest talents in the world as well as global brands such as Hasbro, Nickelodeon and Sesame Street. Outside of work, Jackson is passionate about giving back to the next generation of youths and creatives.
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