Curatorial Note on “Dawn of the Metaverse”

by Max Haarich & Gleb Divov

 

The temporary gallery “Dawn of the Metaverse” offers a glimpse into the world of NFT-based digital art as well as an outlook on the technological possibilities of Web 3.0 and the social vision of the metaverse.

 

The term “metaverse” originates from the science fiction novel “Snow Crash” by Neil Stephenson” and describes the idea of completely virtual parallel worlds created by hackers, into which we humans can enter more and more immersively. Today, the term metaverse is applied to a variety of 3D digital architectures created by artists, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO), and even global sporting goods corporations. Many metaverses seem visually outdated compared to current computer games, but technological advances are enabling increasingly realistic experiences through increasingly complex online interaction capabilities but also through increased physical experiences e.g. through haptic feedback. Currently, the most important driver of the metaverse concept is probably the link with blockchain technology. It enables the convenient management of online profiles, but most importantly, it allows digital property to be claimed and traded in the form of NFTs.

 

For the temporary gallery “Dawn of the Metaverse”, we choose five digital artists each to highlight different aspects of metaverses with NFT-based works. For example, they address questions such as: What are metaverses? How are they created? What are they made of? What do they mean for us as people and society?

 

Round 1 // 7 May to 28 May

Gleb Divov’s work “Messier 87” provides the cosmic reference frame of the metaverse concept. His work uses NASA sound data of the black hole “Messier 87” to create a visual image that is superior in detail to most optical representations. This work, for one, puts the visual focus of most metaverse projects into perspective. However, the world consists of more than light waves and metaverses offer the possibility to integrate further information into our visible architecture. At the same time, the work shows with what great degree of imprecision and ignorance we still face our own universe, while we are already trying to build universes or metaverses ourselves. His second work ??? is an animation of digitally generated image motifs generated with artificial intelligence: one recognizes the fluid transition from heart to brain and/or vice versa. The work shifts the focus to the constitutive role of the visitor of the respective metaverse. The potential of the metaverse technology is presented as a function of the physical and mental constitution of the visitor, whose active participation appears as an indispensable prerequisite of the metaverse.

 

From artist sp4ce we show “Tile #20 (“Decentralized Mona”)”, which is part of an international collaboration project. The work proclaims the dilution of classical notions of value in the realm of art and culture. Instead of historical provenance, short-term crypto-financial usability now counts. The face of the Mona Lisa is obscured by the logo of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. The brand symbol has the function of sunglasses at the same time and is a fashion accessory actually traded as NFT for avatars in the metaverse. Culture consumption becomes consumer culture.

 

Betty Menu’s works “VORTEX SKYTRIAL #1” and “Vortex // WaterMovement” draw the viewer into a vortex of visual stimuli that must be deciphered. These video loops allude to the tension between attractiveness and aloofness of the artificially created metaverses. The optical impressions invite the eyes to rest, while the partly synthetic partly natural parts urge constant reinterpretation. This attempt, however, comes to nothing and gets lost in the infinity of repetition. This addresses a constitutive difference between real and virtual worlds: while we can examine the real world ever more precisely and accurately, the virtual world is limited by computing power, at which point the immersive experience ends.

 

Max Haarich’s work “Urinal” is a teletext page mined as NFT that was broadcast on SAT.1. The urinal, rendered in clearly digitized 7bit graphics, references Duchamp’s work “Fountain.” Just as Duchamp showed over 100 years ago that anything can be a work of art, NFTs today show that anything can be a digital asset – even a teletext page. His second work, “It’s Love O’Clock,” is a charity NFT for Ukraine. It is a special edition “pixel chronometer” a collection of binary, trinary, quaternary and quinary coded timepieces consisting of only a few pixels. This collection is an experiment on the metaphysics of the metaverse. It shows how a fully functional timepiece could look like, in a world where energy and information are ubiquitous, and material and dimensions are only fiction. This special edition is binary coded in blue and yellow and starts every full hour with the red letters “LV” as a reminder that love is the strongest weapon.

 

From the CryptoWiener we show on the one hand “Oida!” from the series “Pixelrebellen”. In the animation, which is only a few pixels in size, a figure can be seen raising a sign with the inscription “Oida”. The figure invites you to emulate her without copying her. It offers a template, a model to become active oneself. This image manifests the revolutionary spirit of many NFT communities, who are currently trying out new ideas of society both in reality and in metaverses. That these speculations and explorations do not run in isolation from each other is evidenced by CryptoWiener’s second work, “The Fluffy Krapfen.” This 3D rendering of a very roughly pixelated doughnut is mined as an NFT. The owner of the NFT not only receives the rendering, but also five doughnuts from a Viennese bakery every Shrove Tuesday for life. This work reminds us that every virtual metaverse always exists in a real universe and should be developed as an extension rather than a competition to each other.