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A Day of Soft Construction

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Date Minted: December 25, 2020

Artist Description: A Day Of Soft Construction' is a 3D painting interpretation of Salvador Dali 1936 painting 'Soft Construction with Boiled Beans'. The interpretation consists of 24 images that represent 24hours of the day. The interpretation is able to show us this painting from never seen before perspectives and experienced in completely new light as it is 'living' through the day and night

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

I’d originally set out to write about A Day of Soft Construction yesterday, after examining it for a short while. But Manards, the piece’s artist, has essentially hidden the piece’s true value from anyone who isn’t interested in looking at it for a lengthy period. A Day of Soft Construction is one of those changeling pieces, one with a physically different form depending on certain factors, in this case time of day. It is a 3-D representation of a famous Salvador Dali painting, Soft Construction with Baked Beans (Premonition of Civil War), but one taken to another level of aesthetic exploration. Dali would be proud. Really, there are 24 different versions of A Day of Soft Construction with the piece changing every hour on the hour, not just in the angle which we are shown the piece, but in the background, the lighting, the colors; everything about the piece is constantly in flux —changes following the movement of an assumed sun— and stationary for only an hour before changing again. That’s an intimidating amount of visual information to process, examine, and interrogate, and it takes a lot of commitment to see this piece in its 24-faceted entirety. It demands an observer’s attention for much longer than the initial moment of contact we’re accustomed to spending with a given piece. Manards make of us a tacit request to see Soft Construction in its every form, and withhold judgment until we do. Manards says that this piece is “living.” I see their point.

As mentioned, A Day of Soft Construction is an inexact 3-D rendering of Salvador Dali’s Soft Construction with Baked Beans (Premonition of Civil War), a piece made 6 months before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, but which Dali claimed prophetically captured the horrors that would come out of it,. In both pieces, surrealism reigns, making it hard to render an overly-accurate description. It’s the kind of thing that must be seen and experienced as opposed to genuinely understood via description. I suppose that’s more or less in keeping with the ethos of the surrealists, who aimed to place in their paintings a kind of dream impression, one which doesn’t just subvert rationality but which skirts it altogether, placing import instead on ineffable experience.

Within the piece, two gnarled body parts cling to each other in a closed. Part One: an abject, blocky limb with a nipple on one end and a disgusting, grimacing head poking archaically from it. Part Two: What appears to be a long arm, only it’s got two gnarled, mangled, shriveled hands coming from a single end of it, and though it maintains a semi-realistic muscular appearance, it culminates in a single, globular bulge at the opposite end. The two segments meet in two places. One of the second segment’s hands is wrapped around the first segment’s nipple, squeezing down around it. Elsewhere, the first segment juts down sharply and becomes a skeletal foot, a foot which bears down upon the other segment’s bulge. If this is hard to follow, that’s kind of the point. Trying to describe surrealism is like trying to taste fog: doable in theory, I suppose, but it’s hard to get a real sense of what the thing actually is.

Another foot holds the whole strange structure aloft. Abstract items which might be peanuts are scattered over the ground. The entire scene takes place atop a desert, a small crag visible in the back, and a cloudy sky roiling by overhead.

Manards was not satisfied with a stagnant composition. By placing so much variety around the piece itself, by changing its colors and patterns and play of light along with the time change, Manards has ungrounded observers in a way even Dali, with his unshackled surrealism, could. It’s magnitudes more difficult to ground oneself rationally in this piece, especially when there is visual information clouded from us by angles and color palettes. Seeing this piece front-wise, in the open light of day, as Dali’s piece presented to us, is a different experience than seeing it from the back-left in the dark, because in this second style, less visual information is available to us from which to create even a crude understanding of the image we’re seeing. Soft Construction is an experiment in forced perspectivism, one that Dali would be proud of. It is less a reimagining of Dali’s piece than an evolution of it, using technological advancements to poke and provoke and pull the pieces of Dali’s perceptive puzzle, now without limit in its ability to disconcert the observer. 

Which is a singular ability of digital and crypto art, the possibilities inherent in a piece when it is untethered from the stability of physical form. A Day of Soft Construction takes advantage of all these possibilities. By tying these digitally-freeing techniques to a well-known physical artwork, Manards’ techniques are emphasized and easier to appreciate. My gut says there are only a handful of individuals who can claim, or will be able to claim, to have seen A Day of Soft Construction fully. It’d require an unprecedented level of commitment, each of the day’s 24 hours spent awake and seeing this piece. 

But would the composition expose itself even then? Would the piece, fully seen, still fail to be fully exposed? After all, it can’t ever be experienced all at once, only in fragments. Like Dali’s original, A Day of Soft Construction forces observers to confront their own forever-incomplete comprehension. Both Dali and Manards make such a realization unavoidable; they hang it over our heads. They stomp us with it. A stomp that’s better experienced than spoken of. 

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