The NFT is the Employee and the Corporation is Conceptual

Meta-Commentary from Hygienic Dress League Corporation

In their most ambitious project yet, The Hygienic Dress League Corporation (HDLC) filed an application with the Securities and Exchange Commission for Regulation A+ and a Tier 2 offering to issue up to $75 million in securities across a 12-month period. In other words, the public can be involved in HDLC’s newest performance art by becoming holders in 600,000 shares and/or 55,554 NFTs. 

Dorota and Steve Coy are the duo behind HDLC, the Detroit-based conceptual and performance artists whose works include sculptures, guerrilla performances, urban installations, and augmented realities. HDLC officially became a corporation in 2007 and has since hijacked the imagery, language, and other machinations of big business to critique, lampoon, and laugh along with our ever-mutating, late-stage capitalistic landscape. When the pair started HDLC 15 years ago, their scope was limited to the look and language of social conditioning, branding, and marketing. “That’s all still true,” says Steve Coy, “but now our vision has expanded and really we are asking what it means to be human. Corporations have so much control over how we view society and ourselves; it’s a legal fiction and it’s from the human imagination. So what are these tools we have made up and who benefits?” That query is at the heart of their current meta-commentary.

As is their way, this NFT launch manipulates language to highlight the absurdity of our institutions. In addition to the 600,000 stock certificates, the company will “hire” a collection of 55,554 employees, or NFTs. C-Suite, middle management, and workers are the current levels and promotions are possible through a system of exchange. Employees, including executives, can also be demoted. This specific HDLC system results in a unique, deflationary workforce. “We have been making digital art for years. We have already done things that would now qualify as an NFT, but with the NFT system we can now authenticate the work and it’s sale-able, just like a sculpture,” says Dorota Coy. “It’s given us a broader audience and an opportunity to engage with people who want to engage with us.” In fact, this “employee” launch is not the group’s first NFT. In December, HDLC minted their premier NFT titled First Contact, and it was immediately purchased by a supporter of their work for $100,000.

Despite Hygienic Dress League’s corporate pantomime, or any of the divisive art world discourse surrounding NFTs, the project is quite serious and holds a great deal of meaning for the artists. “Through this project we can engage and have a viable means to make art without barriers, we can leverage this to help ourselves as artists and keep making the work,” says Steve Coy.

Lauren Levato Coyne is an artist and writer working in Detroit, MI.