UBERMORGEN (UM) Interviewed by Sabine Himmelsbach

The artist duo UBERMORGEN in conversation with Sabine Himmelsbach, Director of the HEK, about the purchase of the NFTS The D1ck #0700 and The D1ck #5056 for the HEK collection. The conversation took place via e-mail.

The D1ck #0700, UBERMORGEN

Sabine Himmelsbach (SH): Dear Liz, Dear Luzius, the HEK is the proud owner of two NFTs from your series The D1cks. We have acquired The D1ck #0700 and The D1ck #5056 for our collection – the former is a colour reference to Ukraine and a statement on the current political situation in which we find ourselves; the latter is touted as the ‘first’ tapestry D1ck with reference to kilim carpet design.

Here is the text on how you promote the series of works on the objkt.com platform:

“The D1cks are hand-pixelated collectible D1cks with proof of ownership stored on the Tezos blockchain. These are the D1cks that inspire the modern CryptoArt movement. Selected press and appearances include well – everywhere. I mean have you ever seen anything relevant without a D1ck? The D1cks are one of the earliest examples of a “Non-Fungible Token” on Tezos and were inspiration for the ERC-721 standard that powers most digital art and collectibles. Every D1ck is hand-crafted by lizvlx’s tender feminine hands and sometimes their number has meaning. I guess everybody needs a d1ck, so go ahead, buy and be a d1ck. The D1ck #0770 features balls of steel and the Ukrainian flag.

The D1ck #5056 is a tapestry D1ck featuring a Kelim design. This D1ck is the first tapestry D1ck.”

PFPs (Profile Pictures) are changing the new online art world, as art scholar, author and curator, Anika Meier, writes. Would you like to tell us how this series came about? Why a PFP project?

The D1ck #5056, UBERMORGEN

UBERMORGEN (UM): The D1cks were created as part of the series #DontBuyThisNFT, which we have been producing since the beginning of the year. This series is a daily trash series, i.e. it refers to whatever happens, develops or emerges everyday. They are not edited and do not aim to produce Gold but rather to deliver a quasi image of what manifests daily. What is manifesting are many PFP projects and many men in the NFT world – this combination inspired me (lizvlx) to create the D1cks. The direct inspiration was the CryptoPunks from Larva Labs – but here especially the text about the punks, and some of the D1cks are also the quasi-genital extension of the faces of the Cryptopunks. And of course penises are the ultimate profile picture for the ‘brosphere’ on the net, so the ‘dickpic’ finally goes from being an unwanted harassment pic to the valuable image it always wanted to be.

SH: You are one of the pioneers of media art and have been making Internet art on and for the web since the beginning of it’s existence. Central to this is your EKMRZ trilogy with the works Gwei – Google Will Eat Itself, Amazon Noir – The Big Book Crime and The Sound of eBay, which was aimed at the three big net giants Google, Amazon and eBay. HEK also owns a work from The Sound of eBay series in its collection, which focuses on software and net-based art. Since the hype of NFTs in the last year and half has rapidly accelerated have you recognised any changes?

UM: To put it in Swiss terms: huregeil (swiss slang for awesome). Finally a breath of fresh air, a new beginning, a gold-digger mood on the web and the chaos, the misunderstandings about what is art and what is horribly bad craftsmanship, and the ups and downs of websites, the drama that follows when projects become huge and then collapse again, outstanding, great worldwide cinema in the form of blockchain (soap) operas, so to speak. At the same time, of course, everything is too much and too fast, but that’s totally ok, we’ve always been Formula 1 fans (#hatelove) and summer hits are sometimes the better hits anyway.

Screenshot: The Sound of Ebay, UBERMORGEN

SH: How has your work changed over the last few years?

UM: The work has changed since 2016 – deliberately and planned, that is. There are two things, firstly it was clear that with the establishment of fake news and the breakthrough of manipulative algorithms, many of our artifices (fake sites, total affirmation, shock/drama marketing & techniques, etc.) are no longer opportune, as they have now been directly adopted by the political culture and industry. It is no longer artistically interesting to produce like this, and obviously some of it would be completely misread. That’s why even before Trump we decided to produce differently, neo-Biedermeier and net-realism, not blood-and-soil but more flower-and-pixel, so to speak. Furthermore, the pandemic and the assertion of the NFTs have led to a formal change – further away from big projects and towards individual works that are partially networked but do not serve a big central project, but instead each image/text/script can stand on its own. The D1cks are the perfect example of this and we are currently developing the project conceptually in various directions, but in the end it’s all about the 24×24 pixels.

Screenshot: The Sound of Ebay, UBERMORGEN

SH: What interests you about the decentralised web?

UM: There are always stories that are totally mind blowing, for example the crypto mining industry and its global movement from China to Kazakhstan after bitcoin mining was banned in China in May 2021. This was such an extraordinary event that it led to serious problems with the national electricity supply in Kazakhstan, which then resulted in the absurd idea of building an extra nuclear power plant to prevent the electricity crisis triggered by crypto. We will release something about this in the next months, as there are already 2 projects in this cycle: Chinese Gold (2005) which deals with World of Warcraft sweat shops in China, and Chinese Coin (2015) which deals with the geographical shift of Bitcoin mining from central China to western China (mountainous region with cheaper hydropower). We intend to tell impossible stories and amplify the impossibility of its telling. The possibility of the impossible merges with the impossibility of the possible.

SH: How do you choose the platform and the Blockchain through which you position your works?

UM: We have two clear strategies – experiment with as much as possible but stay away from anything too horrible (be it the art or the environment too misogynistic/racist/otherwise-discriminatory-hateful & predatory inclusive). In terms of blockchains, we would love to make on ALL blockchains, but clearly Tezos is the home chain and Ethereum is the sin chain, the legal vice so to speak. However, we are convinced that the crypto ecosystem will soon develop via cross-chain bridges in the direction of standardisation and compatibility, if crypto art is to be sustainable and long-term, there must be such solutions soon, otherwise the environment is interesting for producers and developers, but not for collectors and investors: when we look at something, we don’t see it for what it is, we see it for what it could be. When we look at something we see how it ends…