Museum of American Art
JULY 28, 2023 – JANUARY 22, 2024
CURATOR: XUXA RODRIGUEZ
On view for the first time in a museum in the United States – following exhibitions at M+ in Hong Kong and Castello di Rivoli in Italy – HUMAN ONE allows visitors to virtually walk through endlessly transforming landscapes and asks them to look closely at the worlds they encounter.
M+ (Hong Kong)
DECEMBER 9, 2022 – JUNE 11, 2020
CURATOR: SUNNY CHEUNG
HUMAN ONE (2021), installed in the museum’s Focus Gallery, is Beeple’s first sculptural work. It is a four-channel video sculpture that focuses on the journey of a mysterious figure, informally named the ‘traveler’. This figure tirelessly treks forward through a virtual landscape capable of evolving from a dystopian war zone to a benevolent jungle and everything in between.
This seemingly endless digital world is confined within a physical box constructed from four LED panels. The structure is a virtual version of the time-traveling portal known as the TARDIS in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which contains a space much larger than the surrounding confines of the box.
Indeed, HUMAN ONE draws attention to the border between reality and virtuality through two structural devices, one is the rotating mechanical box that allows us only glimpses into the metaverse. The other is the synchronicity of time. Time as a technological tool is so subtle as to almost recede into the background, but the synced subtle colour filter applied to the piece linking the time of day between physical and virtual becomes the umbilical cord connecting the two realms—the virtual and the real.
The magic that holds the piece together is the application of the technique of projection mapping, commonly seen as high-power light projected to the side of buildings with perspective correction so as to cause the video played on them to look as if they fit correctly. In HUMAN ONE, the physical aluminium pillars on the outside of the sculpture become replaced as a 3D render inside the virtual realm, creating a trompe l’oeil effect akin to the phenomenological conundrum of staring at a drawing of a transparent-sided box. As a result, the box feels present both inside and out.
CASTELLO DI RIVOLI
APRIL 24, 2022 – NOVEMBER 27, 2022
CURATOR: CAROLYN CHRISTOV-BAKARGIEV
As part of the EXPRESSIONS exhibition program that characterizes the activities of Castello di Rivoli in the years 2021-2022, Castello di Rivoli presents an international museum preview of HUMAN ONE.
A kinetic video sculpture existing in both the physical and digital realms with perpetual dynamic animation of a person resembling an astronaut traversing an ever-changing landscape. Beeple created the artwork in association with new blockchain technologies known as “smart contracts.” In this case, the artist can modify the work remotely over time. Therefore, the viewer will have a unique experience of HUMAN ONE every time he returns to see the work of art.
The person walking in an ever-changing landscape represents the first human in the Metaverse. HUMAN ONE will be presented in visual dialogue with one of the most important paintings by Francis Bacon (1909–1992), Study for Portrait IX , 1956-1957, from the Cerruti Collection at Castello di Rivoli. In the unique setting of the Manica Lunga of the Castello di Rivoli, 147 meters long and six meters wide, the dynamism of the character walking in HUMAN ONE contrasts with the staticity of the man portrayed in Bacon’s painting, which reflects the existentialist anxieties of the modern era of after the Second World War, when it was created. With Study for Portrait IX Bacon portrays his subject with no hands and no agency, sitting in a chair against an emerald green background within a white linear geometric structure that Bacon often used to frame his figures.
In contrast, Beeple’s “astronaut” depicted in the artist’s evolving landscape is constantly moving, while the audience stands still. HUMAN ONE represents a new era of digital art. The journey of the “astronaut” invites the viewer to consider the relationship between their digital identity and their physical identity.