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Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted: March 18, 2019

Artist Description:  (none)

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Niche is a pleasant, dare I say thrilling, surprise. Throughout the piece’s three-minute loop (Three minutes!! That’s an eternity! At least artist Ilan Katin shows they’re deliberate with this speed, using hashtags #slow and #veryslow to describe their work), observers are placed at the mercy of forces, motivations, and metamorphoses that one cannot begin to anticipate. We continually expect the piece to become something, and it does, only it never becomes what we think it will, and no matter how much we try to predict what comes next, our predictions are thwarted. Niche cannot be guessed. It can hardly be described! It can really only be experienced.

Because it’s abjectly difficult to describe exactly what happens throughout the course of this loop. Movement is so painfully slow as to be meditative. Basic artistic principles like shape and color appear from out of a black oblivion, as if they are being created by God in the background, pushed out through the machinery behind the image. We begin and end in the same place, that’s easy enough to see: A perfect white circle sits stationary atop a black background. And then things get moving. The circle distends and stretches and becomes watery at its edges, amoebalike. Within the circle —which, at this point, we can’t help but impose attributes upon: It’s a telescope! No a lens! An eyeball?— a small dot appears and grows larger, larger still, larger yet, less as if it's growing and more as if it is rocketing closer from a distant point. The dot finally reaches the circle, but is not a dot, but a semi-cylindrical 3D abstraction. It enters the circle, 3-Dimensions entering into a 2-Dimensional object, and the object starts expanding. The circle disappears inside it. The Abstraction continues stretching outward, becoming circular, becoming cleaved, possessing a small black hole within it, and the circle is gone. As the abstraction slowly, dutifully morphs, color appears in its center and at its edges. Brilliant oranges and purples and yellows enter the frame, contained in small arcs that grow, expand, and slither about. Only briefly does anything here appear to be imitating a familiar object: from out of the muddle comes the brief shape of an Eye. The piece does not loop there, though we may consider this its zenith. The shapes continue to turn slowly and contract, and the colors begin to melt off the edge of the white abstractions beneath and around them, turning sideways, turning into slivers, turning smaller, shrinking and vanishing altogether. The remaining abstraction does the same. Gets smaller and smaller, turning itself towards nothingness. A faint shape appears in its belly, and becomes more and more defined, gets closer and closer, absorbs more and more of the frame, until we are left where we started: a perfect white circle sits stationary atop a black background.

What patience Niche demands of its observers! Sit still and watch raindrops fall for three minutes. Watch the wind blow blades of grass for half that long. 21st Century humans are not mentally built to watch something so slow proceed for such extended time. Most Crypto Art reflects our culture’s insatiable urge to divert our attention. Therein, colors flash and shapes explode and forms become other forms: knee-jerk, twitchy, sudden. Niche occupies, well, a niche in the ecosystem. It demands pace. It demands attention. It does not reward us with dopamine rushes. It rewards us with only itself, and the stillness it provides, the great surprises it continually puts forth.

We are so conditioned to expect form. To expect something concrete that we can point a finger at and say “There! I recognize that!” Niche never peddles in this kind of experience, and seems ultimately uninterested in whether observers understand what they’re looking at. It does not appear to be an overt exploration of color or of shape —the piece shifts its focus too often for that to be the case. It seems more interested in its own speed, in its own lazy movement than in anything it apparently shows. 

I’m tempted to categorize this piece as experiential. Watching it has a physical effect on the mind and body. You begin to feel yourself jittering, hoping for something to seize your attention. The piece goes on. You begin to observe how your mind expects certain forms and markers of identification to appear, only for these to be skirted. The piece goes on. You begin to feel like you’re being personally manipulated. The piece goes on. It doesn’t seem interested in holding your hand and showing you something. What does it have to show? It doesn’t seem interested in making any grand, sweeping philosophical statements? It simply goes on. And those who watch the whole thing, who remain for the colors and the 3D imagery and the soft, slow ballerina movement of the shapes are rewarded not with anything concrete, but with the experience they were exposed to.

Imagine, for a moment, this piece projected on a huge wall in a room filled with people. Imagine it projected from above onto the Hudson River. Imagine the silence of a rapt audience. Imagine the slow dance of these objects, these colors, these intonations so large as to be religious, so contrary to common Crypto Art as to be inconceivable. Niche urges us to watch, to listen, to sit still. It urges us to simply be. To be color. To be a morphing shape. To be a perfect white circle sitting stationary atop a black background.

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