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Art Disorders

Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted: November 30, 2018

Artist Description: Art Disorders describe a range of conditions that affect your heart and your mind. There is no cure.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Hackatao’s art is full of symbology. It’s an assault on the visual sense, the sheer amount of cryptic, tiny, highly-stylized information present in any of their 100+ pieces. Constantly, skin and faces and backgrounds and shapes are filled in by the same absurdist collage present all over Art Disorders, a pell-mell array of gonzo characters (pretty sure there’s a sentient watering can in there) and scribbles, shapes, patterns, faces, ghosts, squiggles, words, and more. It’s overwhelming. It’s impressive. It’s very very very cool. You’d need a magnifying glass and about an hour to sort through all the things present under the obvious surface of Hackatao’s pieces, but then again, by the end you might very well have forgotten what you saw when you started, and you’d need to begin again. Where Art Disorders breaks from Hackatao’s other pieces, however, is in its sheer glut of imagery. This is the artist’s impulses unrestricted. Not reserved for spaces between neat lines or the inner segment of shapes, this is the artist’s imagination unfettered, as splotches of drawing and color and character swim out to the very edges of this entire image, layered atop itself; Art Disorders literally pulsates with life. Only there’s so much of it, it’s somewhat hard to see.

Hackatao is a team of two artists, referred to on their own website as S & N, but preferring to work under the single pseudonym of Hackatao. Throughout their catalog, and their self-descriptions, is a reference to various Taoist concepts, the most poignant and appropriate of which is, “The Tao gives birth to One. One gives birth to yin and yang. Yin and yang give birth to all things. The complete whole is the complete whole. So also is any part the complete whole.” What we have here, I believe, is the impetus behind stuffing these pieces full of symbols and characters: For underneath that movement, that life, those lines and shapes and characters, is the single one thing that the artists are trying to get at, that ineffable quality of life that can only be understood from above, when looking down at all the moving parts that make up a totality. So totalities Hackatao makes. And totalities populate Art Disorders.

Take a look at the piece, and you’ll understand why it’s so hard to quantify. Upon a distending red background sits a central red heart, pumping unrhythmically, if not concerningly, as the background stretches and contracts behind it. That movement is somewhat disconcerting, warped and ugly. The heart itself seems less to be beating and more to be swelling, as if trying to pass a large kidney stone or as if bloated with gas. That sickliness underlies the piece, the bizarre and discomfiting sense of movement perpetrated by the background and foreground in lockstep.

That movement also makes it quite difficult to focus on any of the esoteric aspects of the piece, like those hundreds upon hundreds of shapes and figures which fill in the image. It really is difficult, between the movement and the glut of actual imagery here, to ground oneself. It’s hard to even remain looking at the same spot for more than a moment, as the edges of the piece are constantly eating the things within it, subject to the movement of a background which is as often pushing things out of frame as it is pulling them back in. 

One really has to appreciate the sheer power of Art Disorders to engulf us. It’s really hard to dive into any discussion of underlying meaning when, even after quite a bit of time examining this piece, it’s still massively difficult to parse out exactly what we’re seeing here. There’s simply so much, and perhaps no piece I’ve seen is as effective as dominating the borders of an online screen. All of Crypto Art is limited by the screen it’s on. But imagine this piece in VR Goggles, blown up huge in the MOCA museum itself, or on an LED screen overlooking Times Square, where one can be properly consumed by all the imagery, by the beautiful blood red color, by the warped and wonky and wonderful movement of the heart of the background behind it.

It’s like a funhouse, this piece, a complete degradation of our sense of seeing, and of our sense of stability. We are absolutely thrown off-balance by the amount and style of the things we’re seeing, by the interplay of black lines upon dark red background, by the constant, unpredictable movement back and forth, up and down, over and around. We are at the mercy of Art Disorders’ tacit desires: Does it want us to see? Does it want us to understand? Are there aspects of itself it deems important, that it places front and center? It warps itself, hides itself, shuffles itself away. We glom on to whatever we can, entranced by the dance before us. Is that the Art Disorder in question? Here we are, desperately searching for a hand-hold of form or meaning; is the Disorder on our part or is it on the artists’ part? Do they know what they’re doing to us when they enrapture us with so much imagery and then hide it away? One could see a semicolon at home in the piece’s title. Art; Disorders. The piece definitely seems to be communicating both. Which one does it communicate more? It’s a rabbit hole we have neither time (a lifetime) nor patience to explore. 

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