Miss Metaverse 🪞💡, 2024
Ed. of 90
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** Refresh page to view variations and click to toggle between versions. Please note, the minted work will include images of ai-generated beauty pageant contestants for its static image and the animated live code for your mint. **
Melissa Wiederrecht and Ana María Caballero’s collaborative piece Miss Metaverse (2024) uses the beauty pageant to deliver satirical commentary on the expression of selfhood for artists in Web3, probing how the public, online presentation of this self results in its distortion.
When visibility equates career viability, artists must establish their worth via social and commercial skills that bear no relationship with the quality or substance of their creative work. This is particularly true for women artists, whose work almost always commands lower prices and who must often reduce themselves to a series of digestible and desirable traits, eerily reminiscent of those that govern beauty pageants.
Web3 offers artists the possibility of establishing a collector base, independent of traditional art market systems, to potentially become self-sustaining artists. Ironically, the promise of independence requires the construction of a digital persona that grows dissociated from the very substance of self, which is essentially immeasurable.
Miss Metaverse is an immersive, interactive work, activated by the user’s webcam, thus inviting a reflection on private versus public embodiments of selfhood. Users will see highly distorted versions of themself, blanketed over by expressions of “value.” The pixelization pulsates in and out, showing less of the real person over time as the self is packaged into “readable” formats that are legible to other humans on the digital stage and to the machines that mediate the exchange.
Each statement is punctuated by an emoji, which renders these declarations more winsome, genial and playful—underscoring the need to please an ever-present, ever-watchful audience by shrinking the self into a likable mold. Yet, Miss Metaverse’s use of emojis is also arbitrary and meaningless, like the value statements themselves.
The final, minted artwork doesn’t incorporate any images of the collector, layering the statements of value over ultra-pixelated, AI-generated images of pageant contestants instead. This process replaces the collector’s digital identity with that of an overproduced beauty contestant, a symbol for the successful artist.
When viewing the work in live-code view, collectors can toggle between the view of themself and that of beauty pageant contestants. Self-effacement is literally one click away.
When artists market themselves, they enter into a pageantry with very fixed notions of worth. Collectors, too, are active participants in this spectacle. In Miss Metaverse, artist and collector acknowledge the spectacle in a moment of shared honesty, one that nevertheless helps assure the collection, and the artists’, success.
Each trait, or declaration of value, is attached to a points system, based on its desirability. As in a traditional beauty contest, there will be an edition, an iteration of Miss Metaverse, that will amass the highest number of points and win the contest.
This collector will be crowned winner and receive an edition of Miss Metaverse in which mangled images of Wiederrecht and Caballero replace those of beauty queens, but this can only happen once the collection sells out. In minting out the collection, the artists have been crowned winners–they’ve marketed themselves successfully.
This exercise in virtual pageantry builds on Wiederrecht and Caballero’s existing investigations of the tension between selfhood and self-image, as evinced in Wiederrecht’s widely acclaimed Crypto Native collection and Caballero’s literature, such as her essay “Digital Dilution,” which received a Future Art Writers Award.
About Ana María Caballero & Melissa Wiederrecht
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