A Curatorial Analysis of a Curious Sort
“It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.”
–Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
But not all madmen have their hearts set, as Victor Frankenstein did, on reanimation. Some, like Argentine crypto art duo The Internet Office, seek not to breathe life into their surgical creations, but to position those creations upon an operating table in odder and odder combinations. Their joy seems to stem from seeing what exactly they’re capable of creating. Bestowing life is besides the point. It’s all the mutations, but minus the horror.
Okay, maybe a little horror.
In their startlingly inventive 3D sculptures, The Internet Office seamlessly assemble all manner of organics — fur and fangs, twisting tentacles and bloated skin, scales and limbs and flagella — into structures that sometimes seem to be creatures themselves, but elsewhere appear more like whole habitats (as in The Sanctuary). Their creations thrive in these momentary, intermediate states: between life and death, between being one thing and becoming another. Such betweens have always interested the artists. Even all the way back at their outset.
But the narrative majesty of Shelley’s 1818 novel isn’t fully in following the exploits of its titular mad scientist. It’s in revealing how the good Doctor Frankenstein’s slow descent into insanity made sense of his ultimate experimentation. Likewise, throughout their past few years minting crypto art, The Internet Office — whether consciously or not — have documented their own slow devolution into madness. And everything they’ve concocted thereafter makes a bit more sense in light of it.
We’ll need to be quiet, so as to keep from waking their creations (Here, take my hand, stay close, and quit chattering your teeth!), but if we walk carefully through the The Internet Office’s menagerie of artwork, we can pinpoint the precise moment their motivations change, when their early sculptural studies begin to sprout cilia, when they go from molding metal to smithing monstrosities. We may see how The Internet Office arrived in the present, now that their handiworks all seem to gurgle, burble, and belch with life.
In the early days of their crypto artistry, The Internet Office mostly explored what one might call anti-organics. The seeming incompatibility of that early period with the artists’ later work makes their eventual transition into mad science all the more shocking. But let us pause; that transition is still to come. For now, we remain in the summer of 2020, during the first perilous peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s July when The Internet Office first appear on Makesplace, and then shortly after on SuperRare, with art that seems almost antidotal to the chaos which has unfurled across the world.
There is an omnipresent calmness, even a softness, in the pieces The Internet Office were creating at this time, pieces which already display the artists’ mesmerizing aptitude for sculpture.
Take Chromatic Transitions (above), for instance. Oh my, that rose-gold glass. The curved, shimmering cylinder. It’s uncommon to find reflective surfaces so impressively realized. Or colors, like these purple and gold accents, to be so realistically gradated. Between the lusciousness of the liquid-metallic texture and the intimacy of the color palette, I find this piece producing a feeling of intense sensuality, something common throughout The Internet Office’s pieces from this era. We feel it in the molten-platinum composition of Chromatic Transitions, the goopy gold of The Visitor, and the kind of fire-inflected silver in works like Immaculate Conception. So lovingly created, we long to reach out and touching them, taste them, feel them ooze through our fingers.
At least, I do.
Notice, too, how these sculptures are always housed in their own small universes, holistic realms which exist for the sole purpose of exalting the shapes within them. In appearance and tone and frame, these pieces are altogether removed from any outside reality, subservient to only their own placid internal logic. These are enlightened spaces, unconcerned with the social, political, or emotional pain. There is a purity woven into them. They are purely aesthetic experiences.
I keep returning, for better and for worse, to the term “angelic.”
Not “angelic” as in morally upright, but “angelic” as in perfect, listless, heavenly in the most passive sense of the term. Angels, from my understanding, are like the anti-humans, stolid where we are spontaneous, indolent where we are explosive. Humans are the creatures ruled by caprice. Angels are only immaculate. Without emotion and without spirit, The Internet Office’s angelic pieces float forever in a disconnected vacuum, a luscious and lurid but ultimately empty world. Prettiness sans purpose. Perfect yes, but, well, boring.
But then (!) there is a change. It is momentous, and it is sudden. On October 12, 2020, The Internet Office mints a curious piece onto SuperRare called In Your Electric Arms (below), a wild abandonment of all they had previously done. After that point, their work is never the same.
From there, it is only madness. MADNESS! (of the most incredible sort)
A white hand reaches up towards a floating silver marble, a reflective little sphere reminiscent of The Internet Office’s earlier works. But everything else, like the hand, for instance, is new: It’s the first organic object anywhere in The Internet Office’s oeuvre. As always, the colors in this piece are stunning, a full exploration of contrast with the gold slime, the palest of white arms, and the dark silver orb floating away from them both.
Here is the human form expressly codified in the artists’ works for the first and only time. And though the human hand stretches desperately towards a familiar entity, a powerful new phenomenon — lively and energetic, if not slightly sinister — drags the human away from the object of their desire. Not just away, but down.
There! At this point, there is an immediate shift in both The Internet Office’s style and in the quality of their artistic imagination. Both of their subsequent pieces, Deep Sea Dwellers and Birth of a New Life (both below), are stunning departures from anything the artists had done before. In Dwellers, the gentle colors are gone. The golds, silvers, and soft sunset pinks are replaced by an amalgam of sea-sludge hues: the green and dank yellow of bile, positioned like a skin sickness over a blocky, brutalist structure.
Do you detect the narrative here, yet?
Though initially existing in a heavenly, impossible plane, The Internet Office are sucked away by some ephemeral, inescapable force, flushed into a new and unprecedented way of thinking. Down here, they mint Deep Sea Dwellers, which depicts their old style literally being overtaken by a diseased, unmistakably-organic entity. Consuming it? Feeding off of it? Metamorphosing it? Who’s to say?
Maybe The Internet Office never came up from the bottom of the sea.
The piece they minted thereafter, Birth of a New Life, seems suspiciously well-titled in hindsight. With Birth, the artists’ formally begin their experimentation in organics, one which they continue conducting today. Pink branches of coral sprout upwards from a turquoise-and-seafoam structure, something like a living rock, one with soft edges but covered in orange bubbles, or maybe they’re pustules, some kind of growth. The composition appears sick. Infected. More than any other identifier, it’s bizarre. None of the The Internet Office’s previous works can boast that selfsame characteristic.
Unlike those previous compositions, Birth of a New Life sparks us observers to explore beyond the specific bounds of what we find in the frame. Because of the nearness a piece like Birth has to objects and animals we recognize, we become automatically complicit in expanding the subject into an entire imagined environment. I see the movement of an undersea current brushing the coral stems hither and thither. I hear pustules pop, pop, popping. And what kinds of life would call this place home? We wonder. We envision. And we form closer relationships to the piece because of it.
This is the diametric antagonist to The Internet Office’s early style. Those pieces were so pure they bordered on sterile; beautiful but unapproachable. These new ones produce an almost collaborative effect.
While not wholly unprecedented, this kind of stark, sudden, and seismic shift in artistic style is still wildly uncommon. I don’t know what realizations donned on The Internet Office between October of 2020 — when In Your Electric Arms was minted — and January of 2021, when Birth of a New Life solidified the The Internet Office’s newfound intentions and interests, but we remain basking in the light of their new era. And it is as full of surprises today as it was then.
From Birth of a New Life onward, a new and infectious kind of — dare I say — fun radiates through The Internet Office’s veins, and through the veins of their artwork. The colors and textures that characterize these recent works are as explosive and exciting as anything in the crypto art landscape.
I mean, have you ever seen an orange like that? Or particles so tenderly positioned?
These new pieces, while lacking the breezy structural brilliance of The Internet Office’s earlier works, are inimitable and far more creatively advanced. Yet they remain indelibly connected to the artistry which came before them. They still occupy liminal spaces, for example, but it’s a new limbo, one halfway between organism and habitat. I look at these twisting, bristling objects, covered in fur and polka dots and tendrils, and I’m unable to tell whether they’re on the verge of getting up and moving, or if miniscule animals should be moving about within them.
Take Parasitic Lust (above), for example, a psychedelic beehive that may well be a leaf/limb of some larger organism, may well be a home to microscopic creatures, or may be some sentient system itself. In pieces like this, or Genetical Love, or Opulencia y Decadencia, The Internet Office go about playing God if God was just, you know, bored and fucking around. It’s creation without explicit function, without adhering to explicit structure, without desiring a specific result. These amalgamations, while sometimes horrifying, are always hauntingly beautiful.
Though never more so than in one of their latest pieces, Fricciones (below). Here, The Internet Office intermix the body of a snake with the chromatic scales of a chameleon. They then affix to this body the black, bulbous internal organ of some massive mammal, and splash everything with a smattering of pink slime.
But look closely now: Do you see that glaze of liquid silver trickling over Fricciones’ surface?
I see this detail not as a haphazard addition, but as The Internet Office’s old soul continuing to manifest within the folds and creases of their just-barely-not-breathing behemoths. Maybe it represents their perpetual cognizance of that old place, which, while far gone, still exists within them, a guidepost from a long-since conquered country. Perhaps this is how The Internet Office keeps from giving themselves fully to their mad scientist impulses. Because, as they demonstrate in such subtle ways, they still have a finger affixed to the heavens they once created.
And thus, though Fricciones seems about to slither away, it stays put. Though it just barely seems to keep from pulsing with tricolored fluids, it doesn’t. The Internet Office may now build anomalies, but their creativity contains morality. One remaining feather from the angels they once were.
Or maybe they too have read the Gothic stories. Maybe they recognize just what it means to grant one’s creations life.