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Date Minted:  October 16, 2020

Artist Description: Into the Ether - Open Edition: DAY #4917 of BEEPLE’S EVERYDAY PROJECT (10.16.20)\n Artist notes: down the rabbit hole

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

It’s one of those things where, if you don’t know about it, it’ll never bother you, but once someone directs your attention to it, it’ll always be the first and most prominent thing you see. Like a person who whistles when they talk. Or someone who licks their lips a lot. That’s how Beeple’s (Mike Winkelmann’s) work feels to me ever since Colborn Bell described how, basically, every one of Beeple’s pieces center on a huge, singular totem, and people gathering around to pay it respects, in some way, shape, or form. Not that the trope is bothersome, but I can’t help but notice it now, and indeed, it’s there in almost every single one of Beeple’s works: The great centralized objects, and the smaller human or quasi-human figures gathering around it, either in exultation, interrogation, or destruction. INTO THE ETHER is no different, a quintessential Beeply piece. However, where Beeple will oftentimes use some kind of disgusting or mutated or sickly humorous image as his chosen totem, in INTO THE ETHER, the object of his artistry takes the form of a classic crypto art Icon, the Ethereum symbol, here portrayed not as a grey series of interlocking shapes, but as a giant cosmic crystal suspended in midair over the surface of an alien planet. Its observers are not zombies or worshippers, but other recognizable cryptocurrency symbols, the HODL astronauts, as denoted not only by their clothes but by the bright green word “HODL” imprinted onto their oxygen tanks. INTO THE ETHER is one of the 5000 individual images, one created each day, that together made up Everydays: The First 5000 Days, collage artwork, the one that famously sold for $69-million in early 2021 and, in the estimation of many, accelerated NFTs into the mainstream. Though INTO THE ETHER is, as mentioned, only one of 5000 panels that went into creating this larger artwork, it’s rather symbolic of the whole of Beeple’s artistry, not just compositionally, but in terms of subject matter as well. What it lacks of Beeple’s often grotesque characterization of forms and bodies, it makes up for in the artist’s oft-unspoken but never-forgotten commitment to the community which first rallied around his crypto art.

INTO THE ETHER is a slow-moving loop; two different views of the same piece that dissolve one into the other. The first, a zoomed-out view. The second, more personal, closer to the characters. In this cosmic, quasi-religious piece, an enormous purple crystalline Ethereum symbol floats above the blue-grey surface of a cobalt planet, a planet which itself pulses and crusts over with many other splintered crystals; they are the flora of this alien world. The Ethereum symbol is a cosmic version of Beeple’s classic totem, with a similar effect to the black obelisk in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and equally an object of fascination. It gives off rainbow auras of light at its edges, bits of light which reflect the colors of the orange-green-yellow sky that extends, dark and ominous, into the far-reaches of a world which remains otherwise unknown to us. Only the Ethereum symbol is knowable. But even it contains secrets. As it floats, it betrays some kind of darker purple form within it. Maybe these are just bubbles. Maybe it is a trick of the light. But there seems to be something within the totem, perhaps alive, who’s to say, but sinister nonetheless. Gazing up at the Ethereum symbol —and the jagged sporadic rocks which have exploded, still floating, off its eastern and western tips— are two astronauts in white suits, with black gloves, with oxygen packs emblazoned, as mentioned, with the word “HODL,” as well as some kind of advanced filtration mask, though we can’t see many details —only a pair of tubes— as the two are facing away from us. They are enraptured (no wonder) with the Ethereum symbol. The first one, closer to the thing, has one hand raised in the air, perhaps to touch, perhaps as a gesture of salutation, or perhaps it is a kneejerk reaction, the hand that raises to cover the eye as the sun emerges from behind thick clouds. The other astronaut is more wary, stands further away, does not betray any emotion with their body language. Purple light from all the crystals shines upon their well-pleated suits. Are they being drawn closer to the symbol? Driven from it? All the supernatural, hypercosmic possibilities are there. In truth, if there’s no abstraction in imagery, there’s certainly abstraction in intent.

Perhaps there is no need to read further into the piece than this. Beeple famously composed a piece a day for many years —INTO THE ETHER was number 4917 out of the first 5000— and may still be doing so; therefore, I don’t want to be a blowhard and suggest some deep meaning to be gleaned from each one. I actually think INTO THE ETHER works best as a piece of iconography more than anything. It is homage, slightly cheeky, not inaccessible to those unfamiliar with the symbols contained, but certainly richer for those that have experience with them. And this is all without mentioning the aesthetic beauty of the image, the colors and lighting and forms themselves. 

It speaks, I think, to Beeple’s well-known and well-admired skill as a technical artist that these things go without saying. He’s able to make real his own imagination, and has done so time and time again. By now, or by attempt 4917 rather, such skill almost seems blasé. We gloss it over because it’s assumed. That’s a special level of artistry it takes ages for one to elevate themselves too. Almost 13-and-a-half years of daily work, to get to number 4917.

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