Making Art in the Name of MSCHF?

“Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dalí

Making Art in the Name of MSCHF?

By Matthew Peters, Technology Reporter

MSCHF or as pronounced “Mischief” is an art collective based in Brooklyn. They’ve produced a wide range of art works from browser plugins, social media channels, photographs, to physical products like sneakers, all with the mission to provoke controversy, outrage or at least a response. 

And when it comes to American education, there are few easier targets to mock than standardized testing.

As reported in late February by USA Today, “With money on the line, the clock is ticking and everyone is cheating on the test.”

In a story titled “The Group Behind Lil Nas X’s Satan Shoes is Back – With a Fake SAT test and a cash price” MSCHF gain the attention they perpetual seek.

As USA Today Education reporter Chris Quintana explained, for $52 – three bucks less than the actual SAT – this “group” said it decided to create this project to raise awareness about standardized testing.

Quintana wrote that the fake MSCHF test, “with questions organizers say are inspired the real SAT – is open book, which means ‘everyone will be cheating and we don’t care,’ the group says.

“In its ‘manifesto’ on the project’s landing page, the collective presents a cynical view of the status of higher education, especially on how college admissions tend to favor wealthy students

The group says rich students get an edge at standardized tests. MSCHF says that includes being able to take standardized tests multiple times to get a higher score – as well as more overt ways, such as family donations to prestigious schools aimed at making sure rich students gain admission to a selective university.

Such an action is guaranteed to gain attention but is it art?

MSCHF, the group behind the story seems to think so.

MSCHF is an art “group” founded in 2016 by Gabriel Whaley, who acts as the Chief Executive Officer. By January 2020 they’ve reported to have received $11.5 million in funding.

MSCHF released their work in numbered “drops” the first one being released in May of 2018 titled “The Persistence Of Chaos” which featured a single laptop from 2008 loaded with six viruses including ones that cause nearly $100 billion dollars to the global economy. The final bid reached $1.35 million.

Artist Andy Warhol once said, “Don’t think about making art, just get it done.  Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it.  While they are deciding, make even more art.” MSCHF seems to have taken this advice.

During June 2020 MSCHF collaborated with YouTuber MrBeast for a one-time multiplayer game label “Finger On The App.” Players were tasked to hold their finger on their phone screen and the last person to take their phone off would win $25,000. In the end, four people won $20,000 each after keeping their finger on for over 70 Hours. There was a sequel due to unprecedented success which was held in March 2021 after delays due to an extensive number of downloads. This time the grand prize was $100,000 which was won by a 19-year-old under the user name Swagbacon123, after 51 hours. Second Place also won a prize of $20,000. 

In September 2020 MSCHF released a series of paintings that were enlargements of medical bills of Medical Bills received by American Citizens . They were sold for $78,000, the money was then used to pay the bills by the ones that received them.

In March 2021 they released Axe No 5  a mashup of Axe body spray and Chanel No. 5 perfume which sounds atrocious, maybe worse than it even smells. Who am I to judge? 

MSCHF previously mentioned drops of shoes one of which being “Jesus Shoes.” One pair of Jesus shoes reportedly cost around $1,425 dollars where you could “literally walk on water.” They were a normal pair of Airmax 97 revamped with a golden Jesus on a crucifix and holy water straight from the Jordan River. It was met with both positive and negative feedback from angry Christian’s claiming deformation on Jesus. Reportedly the group stated “What would a shoe collab with Jesus Look like? Obviously, it would let you walk on water.” When asked how, they responded “You pump holy water into the pocket on Air Max 97s. The Holiest Collab ever,”

On the opposite end MSCHF also partnered with Lil Nas X for the release of another pair of Air Max 97s “Satan Shoes”.  Priced at $1,018 a pair and a reference from Luke 10:18 that reads:  “He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

Just under than 667 pairs sold out in less than a minute with controversial musician Lil Nas X keeping the first pair. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem was one of many high-profile political and religious figures to describe this project as “evil” and “heresy.” It is certainly designed to provoke a response. But isn’t that the purpose of modern art?

The desire by some modern artists to be controversial isn’t new. What is new is modern artists use of technology – specifically the Internet – to follow in the footsteps of artists like Warhol, Basquiat and Banksy.

The writer Jerzy Kosinki said, “The principles of true art is not to portray but to evoke.” MSCHF is a very creative and thoughtful art collection determined to evoke.

On LinkedIn they refer to themselves as a dairy company.  So much for sacred cows.   

“Being a company kills magic,” Whaley said. “We’re trying to do stuff that the world can’t define.”