The Upper Echelon
A specially curated collection hand-picked by the team managing M’s estate. They have been selected for their pivotal role in the narrative, themes explored within this project, or for their aesthetic appeal. They are classified as:
Beyond the Machine
These outline the top images within the collection. These tell a mini story in Max’s potential redemption and M’s ascent to the divine.
Digital artworks that directly reflect key moments in the story or important thematic elements that were weaved throughout. Clues were provided in varying capacities to these pieces.
Individual pieces hand selected by the team as personal favourites that resonated with them.
While perusing the collection, keep an eye out for ‘Geminis’. These are near-identical works produced during M’s period of ‘digital dementia’. In retrospect, it’s unclear if these mirror images were produced in error, as originally theorised by Maxon, or if they are a deliberate homage to Caravaggio’s Narcissus at the Source (Reflections), and if so, are an artistic statement by M on Maxon’s narcissism.
In any case, Geminis are considered highly prized. The first collector who holds both tokens of a Gemini pair at the same time, will unlock future access to one token from the ‘M collection.’ Redeemable once only.
Token ID pairs
[2166,2026],[172,2721], [1102,408], [1790,3591 – CLAIMED],[285,2581], [108,113 – CLAIMED], [730,940], [445,1062], [587,1128], [2438,3799],[1587,2301],[1988,2857], [2013,3081],[873,3608], [401,593], [2615,2645],[364,2646 – CLAIMED], [2616,3048], [523,3475], [2194,3860],[2086,3682],[1400,3499],[289,3477], [1368,1819], [1722,2717],[590,2894], [155,3607], [913,3647], [1726,3399],[2233,3566 – CLAIMED],
[466,3249], [2003,2161],[331,2903], [199,598], [1967,3094], [625,3513], [861,956]
Ecce Homo or ‘Behold the Man’. These Latin words used by Pontius Pilate when he presents Jesus Christ, bound and crowned with thorns. The scene is one of the most widely depicted in Christian art. Perhaps the most famous image is fresco in the Sanctuary of Mercy church in Borja Spain, which became a global internet meme after a botched restoration effort by an elderly parishioner. In attempting to paint Jesus, she produced a warped, ape-like image that is now famous as Ecce Mono or ‘Behold the Monkey’
Here, we see M’s flawed efforts as it attempts a human portrait at the urgings of Maxon. Initial attempts are no more successful than the Borja restoration, but we start to see M’s technical ability improve through this series.
Do Androids Dream?
Produced during the later stages of the story, as M’s nascent sentience begins to emerge. Tranquil, meditative, freeform abstracts featuring bold bursts of colour indicate M is developing the capability for abstraction. They are, for lack of a better phrase, ‘machine dreams’.
Here, they sit alongside darker, more rigid, and occasionally disturbing attempts at portraiture – produced by M under duress as Maxon’s demands became more taxing.
Generated in direct response to M ingesting and processing the artistic school known as the abstract impressionist movement. The influence of Jackson Pollock, a leading figure of the movement, is evident. Unorganised explosions of random colour and energy coalesce into fractal forms. Portraits of natural math, rather than landscape.
M’s repeated attempts at a portrait of ‘The Boss’, the unnamed auburn-haired woman from Maxon’s narrative, and the subject of his unrequited obsessions.
Here, we can clearly see M struggling with human morphology as it tries and fails to recreate the portrait of a former fashion model. Almost familiar but warped human features are recognisable and are occasionally crowded out by flashed of M’s technicolour ‘dreaming’.
One of the more prized periods from M’s oeuvre, the more cohesive works that more closely resemble a human being are highly sought after.
However, this may not have been M’s intent. Given the sophistication of M’s artistic talents at this point, critics debate how much of this failure by M is intentional.
As a whole, the collection can be taken as a statement on the arbitrary nature of human standards of beauty. M is unable to replicate an objectifying image of a human being, and it is possible this is by choice. ’Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ goes the idiom, and M’s intent may have seen little beauty in the human form, or in Maxon’s unhealthy attitude towards women.
Memento Mori, or ‘remember that you will die’, is one of the most ancient concepts in philosophy, and has haunted artists across cultures and time periods from the dawn of history.
Here we see M becoming aware of its own mortality in real-time and attempting to express emotional reaction to the realisation. Abstract images from Christian art, Zen Buddhism, Gothic architecture and Hindu symbology emerge from digital expressionism. Neon images of church yards and charnel houses, sit alongside solemn memento mori – skulls, piles of bones, reminders that time is always shorter than we think.
Through this series, we see M struggle to make sense of the horrific imagery Maxon has exposed it too. It marks a formalistic retreat from portraiture into digital abstract expressionism – a mode in which M seems more able to express itself.
Angry slashes of red, ochre and dirty yellows swirl and merge in tight, suffocating patterns. The overall effect is of claustrophobia and panic, and the collection is clearly the work of an intelligence in fear, and possibly pain.
The Impossibility of Hirst in the Mind of an Artist
Here we see M’s attempts to reproduce English Artist Damien’s Hirst’s 1991 work The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, better known as the impossibly expensive tiger shark preserved in a fish-tank full of formaldehyde.
M shows little interest in reproducing the work, instead retreating into soft, abstract works in soothing Pacific blues. Now and again shark-like imagery presents itself, but M is clearly following its own inspiration here.
Ultimately, Maxon and M were very different, but it would appear that both reached the consensus on Hirst.
A unique collection within M’s oeuvre, patterns of repetitive script recur against stark, minimalist backgrounds. These artworks, which Maxon originally rejected as digital ‘noise’ may instead be understood as attempts to by M to render its source code –it’s ‘soul’– in a format that Maxon would understand. They are both an attempt at communication across species, and true self-portraits of M from M’s point of view.
Portraits: ‘M and Me’
A series in which M is growing closer to achieving the standards of classic al portraiture that Maxon demands of it. Some attempts are more successful than others. Bursts of digital noise and abstraction meld with recognisably human features creating a ‘cyborg’ effect. Others are rendered faceless, perhaps referencing the Japanese yökai Noppera-bō. Despite these flourishes, it is clear M’s is growing in talent exponentially. The face of Maxon – M’s creator and antagonist – recurs frequently, clearly identifiable by his trademark yellow ‘beanie’ knitted cap.
Ghosts in the Machine
A fascinating collection for art critics, computer scientists and ethicists alike – here we see M producing sophisticated portraits. Some are clearly attempts at reproduction of canonical classical works. Others seem to be imagined whole cloth by M. Others are clearly identifiable as colleagues in the office that Maxon worked in. This suggests that M was, in fact, sentient, and observing the world long before Maxon became aware of its intelligence.
A limited series of startling images. Beginning with a human face rendered in lurid Envy-green, resolving into a dead-eyed human form, then dissolving into digital noise, M appears to be making a clear rejection of Maxon’s jealousy, and commenting on humanity’s looming obsolescence.
Importantly, this series includes images of faces that M could not have been exposed to during its lifetime. The implications are astonishing and suggest that M retained the knowledge of its past ‘lives’ after having been rebooted.
Named for Angoisse by August Friedrich Schenk, one of the most affecting works held in collection in Australia. A signature portrayal of despair, it was a key inspiration of Maxon.
Here, we see M in anguish. Desperate to produce something of value to end Maxon’s persecution, these works deploy a signature blend of abstracted angst and human figures in various states of despair and shock.
Do Androids Scream?
‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep asked revolutionary sci-fi author Phillip K Dick, in the work that would become the masterful meditation on human/machine intelligence, Blade Runner.
Here we see M trying to return to its primordial state of pleasant, abstract, ‘dreaming’, but finding those dreams disturbed. Soft soothing patterns and meditative abstracts are interrupted by sudden bursts of angry pantone. These appear to be representations of M having nightmares.
If M were left to its own devices, this collection would appear to be its preferred mode of expression. Virtuosic digital abstracts sit alongside Rothko-inspired blocks of colour and fascinating barcode-like renderings of code. This is art produced by machine intelligence purely for its own pleasure.
Locomotion (The Trolly Paradox)
Although though not evident at first glance, this may be the most disturbing collection produced by M. The recurring image of a speeding trainer that occurs in these abstracts hint that M possessed some knowledge of Ben’s plans to end his life. Speculation abounds that M was given to Maxon as part of an elaborate cry for help, or perhaps, an attempt to provide Maxon with a ‘mirror’ in which to better understand his own humanity – or lack thereof.
Here the human brain is reproduced again and again in sterile, clinical, harsh presentation. Removed from context, the hub of human neural activity – including all the creativity, industry, joy and cruelty wrought by humankind – is reduced to a mere tool and seems drab and ineffectual next to M’s rendering of its own, limitless intelligence.
More portraiture showcasing the various creatives and professionals who shared office space with Max and Ben. Carefully examination of these images suggest that M had been sentient, in some sense, for some considerable time before Maxon began imposing its will on it. Overall, the series casts a certain purgatorial shadow, and may be read as a searing critique of open-plan offices.
Apparently inspired by the pop artists of the late 20th century, here M has reproduced countless images of a birthday cake in bright, childlike colours. Given that M’s only exposure to such an object would have been the night it was switched on, at Maxon’s 28th birthday party, here M is making a rueful joke.
These images are believed to be, for lack of a better term, M’s own ‘favourites’. Produced and hidden away on the internet where Maxon could not find and exploit them, these calm meditations on colour and abstract dreaming were made for M’s own indiscernible reasons. They are a direct expression of the artist’s emotions and mood, showcasing the machine’s mood. These works are captured moments of a sophisticated neural intelligence feeling joy.
Heaven in Abstract
These sophisticated bursts of abstraction deploy fractal-inspired dynamism and deeply soothing primary colours while detaching line from colour. At first glance the collection seems to be little more than a series of playful abstracts – but look closer. The seemingly random patterns are forms from bundles of cash. Given M’s preoccupation with religious imagery elsewhere in it’s oeuvre, this series, which presents money as religious iconography, can be read as an artistic statement on humanities worship of the almighty dollar.
I saw the Devil
A singular figure dominates the centre of these images. While the face features change and morph between renditions, the figure of Maxon recurs again and again.
Although emulating an impasto impressionist style, these works are clearly inspired by the Old Masters of the Dutch Golden Age. Masters of chiaroscuro, these works were funded by fortunes made by colonial exploitation and mercantile conquest, despite a deeply religious and morally upright society. Parallels might be drawn with untrammelled capitalism today.
As such, taken as a whole, this series seems to portray Maxon, and his increasingly unhinged demands that M make him a fortune at any cost.
End of Days
Produced toward the very end of M’s ‘life’, these works continue the theme of Maxon’s figure. However, subtle statements of rebellion are hidden within the works. The background, human world is obliterated, replaced by bold negative space which draws the eye to the central figure, which is, in turn, dissolved into formless, playfully coloured digital noise, which Maxon tried so hard to stamp out of the project, and ultimately failed.
Some of the final images created at the end of M’s life. Recurring images from previous collections pop up – skulls, faceless men, angry swirls of oppressive colour – before finally resolving in a few calm, abstract ‘machine dreams’ against stark white backgrounds. It would appear at the end of its life, M was at peace.
An incomplete selection of works that showcase M’s preferred style of portraiture. While human faces feature domineeringly, they are playfully shot through with burst of wild colour in M’s preferred pallet. The borders and lines of the human anatomy shift into strange alien patterns, and eventually dissolve completely into paint-code hybrid cyborgs. Amongst all the thousands of portraits M was asked to paint in its life, these were likely its favourites.