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Museum Link:

Source Link:$ugarwhale-%F0%9F%90%8B-u-r-my-%CE%BEtherdaddy-%E2%9D%A4%EF%B8%8F-8391

Date Minted: February 27, 2020

Artist Description: self explanatory

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

While I presume that scholars will spend the next many decades debating the exact heritage of meme culture —where it came from, what it means, how it mutates— any true definition will note that memes are constructed via repetition and subtle differentiation, essentially variations upon a form ala the composers of great symphonies. While loud and juvenile and candy-coated in color, BE MY $UGARWHALE 🐋 U R MY ΞTHERDADDY ❤️ by Berk is an astoundingly successful visual exemplification of the birth, life, and decay of a Meme. We watch as it is born into the world suddenly, feverishly, bright and beautiful and new…repeated once, twice, again and again and again to the point of exhaustion…until the entire sequence fades into itself, the words reduced to colors, the meaning gone, only the aesthetics remaining.

In $UGARWHALE we’re confronted by a constant stream of copy-pasted text repeated countless times as if a mantra. ““Buy me and be my $ugarwhale. *Whale Emoji* Send me sum coins and U R my Etherdaddy *Heart Emoji*.” That phrase written back-to-back-to-back in various colors, sprawling along the frame like words upon a document, line by line,  is more-or-less the entirety of this piece. As the phrase is repeated, it is rendered in various colors of the rainbow, which, when the words fill up the entire screen, paint colorful diagonals across the length of the image. Pride flag vibes. Subtle differences in emoji use  (for instance, while there’s always some kind of emoji heart at the end of the mantra, that heart changes from mantra to mantra) ensure a cogent color spectrum, and that coupled with changing placement of the phrases ensures that no line of text is exactly the same as that which came before it. With a piece like this, we (I) wait and wait and wait to see if the image will loop or if it will continue or if it will change. Perhaps I’ve been too molded by too many videogames over too many years and now go chasing easter eggs everywhere. And yet, eventually the frame is filled, the phrase ceases to repeat itself, all the words vanish, and we’re left with a, well, lo-and-behold, an easter egg. In the half-second which elapses between the end of one loop and the start of the next, a number of command boxes, in old Windows-99 style, appear on the screen, too quickly to really be examined, as if an automatic computer command must physically boot and re-render the piece once more, or as if the computer itself is overloaded by the sheer mishmash of all that visual information. 

The color and movement, while somewhat exhausting, provide this piece with a ceaseless pace and a toddler’s enthusiasm. In mood, $UGARWHALE does seem to mimic an impetuous, sugar-stuffed child, flashing about in a variety of colors, screaming the same thought again and again, bratty and self-obsessed but nevertheless bright and somewhat endearing. That the repetitive phrase is begging for an allowance, more or less, or for a $UGARWHALE —presumably a derivative of the term “Sugar Daddy”— i.e. someone to bankroll crypto transactions in exchange for romantic or sexual reprisal, only accentuates this juvenile intonation.  

That’s not to say that this is a childish piece, because I’d argue that this veneer of juvenility is just that, a veneer. Let’s return to the idea of memes. Memes are often superficially juvenile. So is much of the crypto art landscape. Take the famous and beloved Rare Pepes, or look at any number of high-priced PFP tokens, be that Bored Ape Yacht Club or Doodles, and you’ll find a cartoonishness that stands in stark irony to the amount of money being generated.  Many famous memes are likewise plays on certain cartoon themes. That, or many which end up having a (relatively) long life, utilize a comic-book style of panels and light narratives. This is all simply to point out that an overt, and usually exaggerated, silliness does not necessarily exempt a meme from serious social observation or, just as this piece’s outward infantility of form and verbiage does not exempt it from communicating valid cultural commentary.

$UGARWHALE  presents a theme, perhaps flippantly, and then presents it again, changed ever so slightly. No matter how many times it is changed in this way, however, it maintains the original idea and DNA of its origin. Meme culture elaborates on a thing, but never destroys it altogether. Until, of course, the whole cycle dies ala the sudden and inexplicable repetition of $UGARWHALE ‘s loop. Memes die without warning, and when they die, something new takes its place. We are, for an instant, shown the mechanisms behind the creation of the next meme, and then the cycle begins again.

Yes, this piece also exhausts me. It also gets old after a while. And I can imagine sitting in front of it for hours, the same thing again and again, a repetitive performance where we’re treated only to minor costume changes. I can’t speak to how enveloped crypto art was in Twitter at the time of this piece’s minting, but I can certainly speak to how entangled they are now. That exhaustion is real. That feeling of repetition is really real. Berk manages to capture that ennui. Berk manages to dress it up in the brightest of colors and still communicate that ennui effectively and powerfully. I get asked all the time by normies to explain crypto art. If I wanted to be real I could show them an XCOPY. If I wanted to be cynical (and I certainly sometimes want to be) I should show them this. 



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