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Date Minted:  August 2, 2020

Artist Description: "Vira" is a visualisation of how social media can be compared to a virus. It can consume people and rule their lives. Often this is encouraged and glorified by social media but I think it is important that the negatives are made apparent.  

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

The human form corrupted nearly beyond recognition, certainly past the point of individual identification. What could be the cause of this, and what is artist Fraemwerk trying to assert? “Vira is a visualization of how social media can be compared to a virus. It can consume people and rule their lives. Often this is encouraged and glorified by social media but I think it is important that the negatives are made apparent,” the artist writes in their Artist Description. Certainly Vira is a rather horrific and pessimistic vision of social media’s effects, but this is what the artist does, self-describing their artwork as “a surreal prediction of a dark, inevitable future awaiting our planet…[which] immerses viewers in dystopian visions of a world that has turned against humanity.” That ominous baseline inflects everything in Fraemwerk’s oeuvre, from their dusky color palettes to their sometimes-grotesque obfuscation of humanity, to the various social ills the artist seeks to decode and illuminate within their artworks. Vira is itself a kind of irony, if only because —and perhaps Fraemwerk couldn’t have predicted as much when the artwork was minted in August of 2020— so much of crypto art itself has become entangled not only with social media itself (aesthetically, culturally, ideologically) but with the mass leveraging of social media’s powers. It takes a rather blind eye to not notice the intense correlation between success in crypto art and social media skill; marketing and artmaking have become more than just words made of mostly rearranged letters. They are oftentimes sides of the same coin, much to the chagrin of artists everywhere. The question on my mind is, Who does Vira depict?: The social media gifted, or the not? 

As an addiction mechanism, social media works a lot like gambling does. They say those who win big on their first bets are those who end up gambling their whole lives. One can never forget the big wins, and the omnipresent knowledge of “This is possible.” Say, for the sake of argument, the same premise exists with social media. The unfollowed, the unfamous, the unliked, well, would they really find themselves so attached? The daily communication of their lack of popularity, well, that wouldn’t incentivize their usage of the product, now would it? I myself am more addicted to social media than I’ve ever been in my life, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I have the most engagement and follower-ship now of any time until now. It’s the success that pulls you in, the dopamine rush of engagement, and the genius of Vira is in accurately depicting what that feels like from within. From the outside, of course, the effect is horrifying, a giant purple glowing growth amassed on one’s face, and the rest of the body beside it spurned of its color, drained into a cancerous grey, lined all over with strange and grotesque squiggles. But from within that jewel-like mask, one can only see the jewel-like influence. A pink jewel = a pink world, bright and shining. The body decaying, literally sapped of its color, its energy; but the eyes can’t see that reality, they are distracted, infected even, by the glistening jewel of their addiction. Within that jewel —at least from our outside perspective— is even further obfuscation. And the face, keeper of identity, literally dissolves into imperceptibility behind its chosen mask.

A piece lined with anxious shadows. A piece bathed in dark tones. And gazing at it, we as viewers reckon with the interaction between shapes we know and find familiar with those we don’t. And naturally, all that we cannot identify we find discomfiting. Vira is an intensely discomfiting piece of art. I’m reminded, for reason I’ll mention in a moment, of a scene from the film The Mummy, that epic Brendan Frasier action flick, where a scarab beetle burrows into one of the character’s skin, and we can see its outline moving around under their arm, its exoskeleton bulging, which creates a feeling as unpleasant and nauseating as one would imagine. It’s not that the effects are especially realistic here. I think the movie was from the early 2000s, and CGI simply wasn’t up to today’s standards. And it’s not that the acting is especially convincing. A lot of screaming and flailing around. The effect comes from the way we insert ourselves automatically into the situation. It is our arm we’re seeing. It is the beetle burrowing under our skin that we feel. And we shiver all over because we can’t help imagining that this is happening to us. I’m shivering even now.

It’s the effect of walking through a cobweb and feeling your skin crawling all over with spiders. A very bizarre and sensual kind of empathy. Vira works off of that same power. Because the figure depicted is so nondescript, it’s us. And because it’s riddled with thin pustules of unknown origin, we feel the same on our skin, and the crystal is affixed to our face, crushing our nose, absorbing our breath, and all we can see is colored by the way it clings to our vision. And we wonder whether this is what we look like from the outside, and how much of our own perspective is clouded by a glowing pink crystal we don’t even know is there. 

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