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You Are Here

Museum Link: https://app.museumofcryptoart.com/collection/the-permanent-collection?collection=0x5e30b1d6f920364c847512e2528efdadf72a97a9&token=45104407153160646017629726751674327448158564560041641437858089882905181421668&page=4

Source Link: https://opensea.io/assets/ethereum/0x5e30b1d6f920364c847512e2528efdadf72a97a9/45104407153160646017629726751674327448158564560041641437858089882905181421668

Date Minted:  November 18, 2020

Artist Description: You Are Here Limited Edition Digital Print --- 3000x4000 / Black & White / PNG

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

You know, he’s not usually this stark. David O’Reilly, that is. In terms of larger artistic output, You Are Here is rather, well, tepid for what the artist is usually assembling. Even the more famous piece of the same name, minted on SuperRare, has the benefit of being interactive, a zoomable view of the Milky Way Galaxy as seen from a God’s perspective, way way the hell up above it. Even his other pieces with little visual information, like another 1/1 titled Star, has the benefit of interactivity, and it becomes increasingly more complex —the piece is an interactive video sculpture— the longer you look at it, as planets and other celestial bodies fall into the orbit of the eponymous star. In his commissioned works of non crypto art and his animation, there’s a wider breadth of sensibilities on display, the artist proving capable of creating across genres and moods, with a special interest in pixel art and cartoon, master of a unique visual style that places pixelation —and thus the presence of technology— front and center. With this context, You Are Here, the static and monochromatic version before us, appears even more peculiar. It is entirely an outlier among the pieces that I can find of O’Reilly’s, in both its lack of movement and its lack of overt life. You Are Here is a dramatically lifeless piece, and could conceivably be an advertisement as much as a piece of crypto art, an in-joke perhaps. None of those descriptors are meant to be negative, but only to describe the tongue-in-cheek nature of O’Reilly’s creation. Unlike its twin namesake, our You Are Here does little to inspire awe. It is neither interactive nor outwardly forthcoming. It veers towards full abstraction, and, indeed, for some viewers I bet it would appear as such, especially without the benefit of full context. But there’s something seismic within this piece too, a power I have a tough time trying to describe. Perhaps by the end of this analysis, I’ll have found my way closer to its source. Or perhaps I will remain as far from it as, according to O’Reilly, I am from the center of our dear universe.

What is first noticeable to me is the comedic undertone of the piece, how it posits itself almost like a trail map. “You are here” it reads along its southern edge, with a line extending outward to denote the point in the piece where “we” are meant to be. Abstraction indeed if you’re unfamiliar with astronomy, but from the context of his other pieces, we know that in You Are Here, O’Reilly is substantiating the Milky Way Galaxy, though the way it’s presented here is unprecedented. Normally, when visualizing our galaxy, it is affixed with certain cosmic colors: oranges and purples and streaks of greenish-white, almost as if our galaxy is glowing with radioactivity. Maybe it is. In O’Reilly’s rendition, all the color has been stripped away, and so has most of the recognizable shape, the spiral galaxy’s recognizable arms, those which we are able to see on clear, moonless nights in certain darkened parts of the world. Devoid of the identifiability that color provides, the entire galaxy becomes a sequence of scattered white dots, in some places very close together and approximating the sheer white glow of the sun, elsewhere a bit further apart, with plenty of empty space between them. “We,” the piece tells us, exist as a species somewhere towards the outskirts of the galaxy, orbiting just one of the many many (many many many) stars that make up the galaxy.

You Are Here deadens that galaxy. Drained of color and movement, it is drained of its individuality and its personality. That’s neither good nor bad, it’s just a stark depiction of a place that we know from personal experience has life within it, perhaps exclusively. Here, O’Reilly is clearly trying to emphasize the insignificance of things, and not just humans in the context of a galaxy, but a galaxy in the context of itself. What is this thing we call a galaxy, O’Reilly seems to ask. A collection of stars: to us, so high and mighty, but to a being outside of the galaxy, looking down from above, it may very well be a collection of entirely uninteresting objects. You Are Here has us looking upon the grandest of cosmic constructions with the same malaise we would look at an overgrown patch of weeds and crabgrass on the roadside. To the insects and arachnids within it, there is nothing grander or more lifegiving. But to us, large and with capacity for sufficient scale, it is just another small spot in the world overrun with unspectacular objects: weeds, dandelions, grasses, ants, spiders, beetles. You Are Here is O’Reilly’s specific way of communicating that, yeah, well, that’s basically what we —and the Milky Way itself— are too.

Unlike, say, Carl Sagan, O’Reilly is uninterested in sympathizing with us through our insignificance. This is not something the artist is feeling with us, but something he’s revealing for us, and then politely walking away while we reckon with it. And yet, there’s still something extraordinary about being “here” regardless. This galaxy made of so many like parts, unexciting and ordinary, and yet, there’s only one dot where we are, only one dot among thousands with a line coming from it, and though from this distance we can’t see the color, the writhing movement of all these bodies, we know there is a world underneath all that. There is no single vantage point from which one can see everything. O’Reilly proves either unaware of or uninterested in providing that context. Not in this piece at least. 

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