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Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted:  August 21, 2020

Artist Description: yrdgz (2020)

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

I said “I feel like I’ve seen this piece before,” and I was right. Months ago, I wrote about another piece in MOCA’s Genesis Collection: Message About Digital Garbage by FabianoSpeziari. Both that piece and this one, whatever by yrdgz, are facsimiles of each other, both monochrome backgrounds bearing the following white-lettered phrase upon them: “Photoshop filters are not a good reason to create digital garbage.” Speziari’s piece (multiple versions of it, actually) emerged from the crypto art ether more than a year before Yrdgz’ piece did, a fact that has large implications about their underlying meanings which stems from the various context they found themselves in. Speziari minted Digital Garbage well before ROBNESS had brought the formal Trash Art to a kind of “mainstream” crypto art audience, and so when analyzing that piece, one shouldn’t really take the Trash Art movement into full consideration. Yrdgz’ piece, however, is situated right in the middle of the Trash Art explosion, and would undoubtedly have been aware of —if not overtly inspired by— the works of Jay Delay or ROBNESS or Max Osiris. And so even though whatever appears to be a visual facsimile of Digital Garbage, its implications are entirely different based on the when and why of its creation. 

Speaking on context, whatever sits in a collection of yrdgz’ titled “expyrd,” and which includes the description, “EXPerimental works by YRDgz .. anything goes in this collection.” It’s almost as if the artist is giving themselves permission to indulge, in this one confined spot, the silliest whims of their creative instinct. And how that manifests is often in pieces exactly like whatever: seemingly low-effort, Trash Art oriented (and sometimes overtly referential), and with a biting sense of humor. Unlike a lot of the other artistry within this sphere, the works in Yrdgz’ collection here are often self deprecating or self-exploratory. Like Love in the Time of Covid, which immortalizes a tweet of Yrdgz’ from 2020. Or ((( wealth transfer ))) which spotlights a filter placed over an Etherscan transaction, and wherein Yrdgz makes fun of their own lack of income, a giant, encircled word —”Broke”— slapped down right in the center of the piece. Whatever fits into this context of not-so-serious, quasi-referential art. Within this collection, Yrdgz gives themselves permission to create such art without judgment, self-judgment included. 

So no wonder Yrdgz felt confident enough to create whatever, a play on (an outright theft of) Fabiano Speziari’s style and output. I can’t guess at the exact inspiration —friendship or animosity— that led to the creation of whatever. If you told me that it arose as a means of playfully poking fun, I’d believe it. Ditto if it were created out of a sense of deference. And if you said it was all an artistic “Fuck you,” that would track as well. Part of the general ethos I’ve found within those who create Trash Art or Trash-adjacent Art is a satisfaction in capturing moments. Not just world moments or important events, but minute internal moments. Perhaps Yrdgz felt any of the above three ways for only a sliver of a day once in a blue moon, but that moment existed, was recognized, and is now immortalized forever in whatever. 

Ultimately, with a highly-conceptual piece like whatever, we’re each going to find deeply different ways of interacting with it based on our own previous experiences. “phOtOshOP FiLTerS ArE nOT a gOOd rEAsoN to cReaTE digITAL garBÄge” is exactly how the words appear in whatever, and I wonder if there will be experiential allusions pulled from this piece based on the nature of the lettering itself, how much it reminds an observer of a certain meme, and whether, potentially, they’ve seen that meme deployed more frequently in a playful sense or in a haranguing one. Judging from the title of whatever, Yrdgz doesn’t much care what kinds of emotions this piece engenders, or what kinds of associations people make with it. An artwork’s title isn’t the most important thing about it, but it’s often a lens into the artist’s mindset in one way shape or form. And titling a piece whatever tacitly communicates that its long-term effects or concerns are outside the artist’s purview. But maybe that just emphasizes the momentary aspect of its creation. 

I do wonder what kind of interaction someone would have with whatever if they were to stumble upon it with no previous exposure to Speziari’s work, or to Trash Art in general. There are greater questions that evaporate off the surface of this work, questions about ownership and context, questions about whether, if an audience for an artwork needs to be “initiated” into a group to understand the nature of its composition, then isn’t it exclusionary by nature? I won’t try to answer those questions, but to the artist’s credit, neither does Yrdgz. Within the free-range experimental zone of the “expyrd” collection, the artist has given themselves freedom to explore whatever the hell they want without considering the larger questions their pieces imply. I fear some would say that creation in this capacity is somehow negligent, but I disagree. Do not we, as observers of artwork, have agency in what questions these pieces raise? Are not we somewhat responsible? Does every artist not have the God-given right to create and mint any piece they wish, fearing not that an observer might twist its meaning in ways they did not intend, desire, or direct to?

Yrdgz doesn’t answer that question either, but I’m glad we’re asking it. 

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