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Creation of the Blockchain

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Date Minted: January 23, 2019

Artist Description: Part of a series. Creation of the Blockchain technology.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

I think it’s fair to wonder whether art is realistically meant to hold its aesthetic value forever. All art, after all, is a product of its time period, and represents (or subverts) the aesthetics and sociocultural norms of that moment. I think when we look at art made after the 1950’s, say, when Modernism more or less ended, there’s appears an obvious sea change in terms of artistic movements beginning and ending much more rapidly than those previously. As such, the tastes of art connoisseurship change much more rapidly, and styles come into prevalence and fall into obsolescence with much more rapidity. But with art that predates this contemporary period, and especially art that predates it substantially as in the case of Renaissance art, there’s this underlying assumption that this, yes this, will have eternal aesthetic value; it will always be art of the moment because it represents not a specific era’s standards of beauty, but a kind of underlying essence of the thing, the ur-beauty of the ur-universe. After all, culturally we are still fascinated with Renaissance-era art. Raphael, and Da Vinci, and Donatello. Michelangelo’s name instills as much reverence today as it did when he was painting the Sistine Chapel in the late 1400’s. And when we look up at the Sistine Chapel, we are still taken with it, smitten by it, even though we are eons away from Michelangelo’s world, and classical Christian imagery is not as dominant a force in everyday life as it was then, even though the place itself —the Vatican City— does not, for many of us, communicate the same all-encompassing piousness that it would have 550 years ago. 

To remix or otherwise undermine these Renaissance-era pieces is to force us as observers to redefine what specific aspects of them we’re attracted to beyond their generally-regarded “beauty.” And when looking at the blocky, exaggeratedly-pixelated version of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, here titled Creation of the Blockchain, brought to us by artist Albert, we are being asked to do more than identify an image from its underlying composition but to question whether the “essence of beauty” the original painting theoretically purveys is something solid and immovable, or whether it’s a product of many centuries of reinforcement. Is Michelangelo the apex? Or have we only been told thus?

In Michelangelo’s favor is the fact that, even when stripped of its extraneous detail and reduced to colors and blurry shapes, there is still a certain pleasing aestheticism to the composition. Or perhaps that’s due to the fact that the shapes themselves have ingratiated themselves as iconography in the public imagination. This sequence of shapes can never not be understood as Michelangelo’s creation, not unless enough filters and metamorphic mechanisms have been placed upon it that it loses all of its initially recognizable aspects.

Albert isn’t interested in destroying the original piece, only in deconstructing it just enough to make us aware of its iconographic tendencies. Think of the McDonalds logo reduced to juxtaposed hues of yellow and red. Grade schoolers would continue to recognize it. Think of the green marble of planet earth and take away its recognizable geographic landmarks. We couldn’t escape the understanding of what it represents. 

Creation of the Blockchain does no more to remix the original Michelangelo masterpiece than to reduce its intricately-painted parts to blockiness, to take the static, flat surface of the original fresco and impart upon it an artificial texture. Here, it is made of protruding cube beams of varying length, which provides an appearance almost like looking upon Manhattan from the top down. 

Rather overtly, the artist is drawing a religiously-themed parallel between the creation of man and the creation of blockchain technology. To an artist theoretically making their living through Crypto Art, invested emotionally and mentally and physically and financially in the blockchain, it would seem an appropriate analogy. If this technology is providing one’s entire livelihood, which it is for so many, and if it seems to have appeared one day as if by divine miracle, which judging by the still-anonymous nature of Bitcoin’s founder it does, then how can we ignore the parallels between the sudden divine spark of man and the sudden spark of blockchain? 

It’s not for me to say whether the remixing of Michelangelo’s piece devalues the original, but it certainly adds a greater level of meaning to it by revealing-through-exaggeration its iconographic place in the artistic lexicon. And it also places Michelangelo’s original once again in a contemporary sociocultural context. We prove not only aware of the piece aesthetically but also aware of the piece metaphorically, representationally, and that allows us to impart its multilayered religious texture onto anything present-day. Whatever it is, denoted only by the title, perhaps, or by slight changes to its overt composition. Simply by giving it a digital overlay, religious connotations are imparted upon the digital. Simply by titling it Creation of the Blockchain,  the artist is elucidating their opinion onto the technology. Michelangelo is not erased from the piece, but made omnipresent and omnipotent not only over his own era, but of ours. 

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