The universe is unfathomably vast and we are infinitesimally small. Depending on your own philosophical perspective, this will either offer welcome respite from the intensity of literally everything right now, or perhaps compound a keenly felt loneliness. Personally, I lean towards the former; cosmic insignificance is kind of comforting.
These are the thoughts I had while enjoying animator and video game provocateur David OReilly’s latest interactive artwork You Are Here. You can check out his digital sculpture of the entire, sprawling universe here, but I’d recommend paying close attention to his instructions: view it on the largest screen possible, and fire up the accompanying Spotify playlist of suitably far-out ambient music. The controls are simple enough: scroll to zoom, click and drag to change view. You’ll soon see Earth is marked by a single red line; a tiny outpost in the glowing totality of existence.
The Irish artist created the profanity-spewing alien in Spike Jonze’s 2013 movie Her, but has since pivoted to earnest, if still absurdist metaphysical work. 2014’s Mountain was a video game which simulated the simple existence of its titular rock. 2017’s Everything added, well, everything into the ontological mix, allowing players to shift between atoms, animals, and even asteroids as the musings of proto-hippy Alan Watts chirped in the background. The supermassive You Are Here is both less and more ambitious than any of these projects; it’s a lovely space to spend a few minutes, conjuring a strange celestial cosiness.
What’s also notable about the virtual artwork is the fact it’s up for auction. Prospective buyers must have an account with SuperRare (a site described as “Instagram meets Christies”) and a wallet stuffed full of the cryptocurrency Ether. At the time of writing, the highest bid is 5.5 ETH, which equates to just over $2,500. It’s able to command such value because, like IRL art, digital work on SuperRare is verifiably scarce — it’s been uniquely stamped using blockchain technology. When the auction ends on November 18th, the winner will own this one-of-a-kind crypto-art galaxy — what OReilly sweetly calls “our forever home.”