ONE of the infernal questions: what is art? Well, ‘art’ is a word that was once upon a time applied to such things as paintings, ceramics and sculpture. Subsequent generations asked, ‘No, really, what is art?’ and the word garnered near mystical speculation over its essence and true meaning. After centuries of that we are more likely to ask, ‘What isn’t art?’
The neighbouring picture will offer no illumination. The pianist, Strungoff Vortex, whose asteroid-based hermitage suffered a system failure and slowly radiated over an 8 month period until what happens to all of us eventually happened to him. On one occasion a child erected their cracked lollipop into the head of our pianist. The parents were suitably mortiﬁed but we all found it rather funny, so we left it in.
Accompanying the exhibit we had the music Strungoff recorded while he died (and a few preceding months for reference’s sake), which is a lifetime of listening. His highlights compilation, ‘Music Recorded While Dying of Radiation’, was a popular novelty present for music aﬁcionados.
Whether considered ‘good’ or ‘bad’, art reﬂ ects the artist, as well as the reality and zeitgeist that surrounds them. There are times when art makers desire intrinsic meaning, or prize virtuosity, or need money and see a way of getting it. Value is often found by those who identify most closely with the artist. Thus, alas, art returns to the eye of the beholder.
What seems ridiculous about these meandering art arguments is the initial idea that there could ever be universal agreement* when even individual words can be hotly contested and skewed by personal context – how could visual stimulus be bound to some conformity of understanding? That would require a conformity in thinking and perspective; the removal of the individual in fact.
One could apply that theory to any discrepancy between people – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to agree. And thus art and discussion have persisted; perhaps the human essence lies between rather than inside us.
* Or even just on Earth!
Plate 19: One of his ﬁrst and most successful pieces. I will remember it for the weekly shave it required while still alive – a most disconcerting experience.
Some suggest there is nothing new under the sun and all art is just a remake of previous ideas, that there are only a ﬁnite number of basic concepts and that we are forever destined to plagiarize. Such calumny, I dare say, indicates more about the speaker than what is spoken.
Ernst Lorret (2134–2201) was inclined to look at the matter in reverse: that in fact there are only new things, no two the same. Even a copy is different from the original (in time, personal perception and other subtle differences). This from Lorret’s diary:
Of course there are common elements in art! Everything in the universe is made of the same matter, but you don’t go around saying it’s all the same [profanity removed by editor] thing, do you!?
Speaking only for myself, Lorret’s pieces were initially disturbing, but over time I did come to associate them with a certain freedom of mind, as they illustrate the notion that everything is possible.
They strive for hideousness, yes, and the grotesque, surely, but was this not Lorret’s reaction to the beautiﬁcation of his parents’ time, and maybe a reﬂection of contemporary self-disgust and apathy?
Lorret had two methods of working. Besides random experimentation, he would also draw hideous sketches of possible sculptures and then try to create them by any means necessary. Lorret’s second approach was to grow ‘normal’ pieces and dement them by various methods. His abilities to keep them ‘alive’ after his creative surgeries, showed him to be a genius physician and some of his techniques are still used in hospitals to this day.
He was the pinnacle and driving force of the deformist movement, sometimes referred to as ‘Our Deformed Father’ in satires.
WHILE living, the pieces needed constant monitoring, especially the example shown on plate 20, which would throw itself off balance if the tongue from its over-sized maw swung around too much. Incidentally, Lorret made sure never to give his pieces vocal cords, so they were silent except for the dull thuds of their toppling over.
Plate 21: An escapee, broken loose from some hideous living-art installation. When art began exploring new forms of expression, tortured life-forms were created practically willy-nilly, without much thought for the humanity of humanity. But then these were troubled times and the new sciences and over-population had displaced the value of singular organisms.
Plate 22: After a time all artists either become self-derivative or begin to explore, usually unsuccessfully, new expressions. Lorret, by the end of his career in the limelight, must have felt he’d explored all the combinations of anatomical rearrangement he could achieve. He could shock and surprise no more, and gracefully bowed out, becoming a patron and supporter of the electronoise trauma-trance experiments*.
Plate 23: If art is a form of self-expression, then we can divide them in a number of ways. There are artists who intimate that there is an essential meaning and purpose to human existence, and others who demonstrate that there is no point to anything (especially their art). In-between we ﬁnd a group who make it a ritual to construct a meaning and design to our existence. I like to think that Lorret was poking holes in their fabrication.
While at the time the Museum existed, most of Lorret’s pieces weren’t technically ‘alive,’ we displayed footage of the times when they were. With all their blinking, yawning and drooling, their life span was mostly under a decade long – artiﬁ cially maintained since few had digestive abilities. The recreations we had in the gift shop were popular items, especially the pencil sharpeners.
* Where catalepsy represents the highest form of human experience.
FOUND in the outer reaches was a strange device unlike any known human invention. Upon the application of any slight heat, such as the ﬁngertips, it would ﬂicker and fuster into life and project a scant few minutes of footage. The images showed what seemed to be an alien race with a strange crackly soundtrack of slurping noises.
Reminiscent of the Voyager spacecraft of the 20th century, this similarity of idea could suggest that the recording and accompanying device are merely elaborate fakes. This question of origin left it placed with the art pieces, since either way it is an artifact, whether alien or not.
There is a hypothetical window of opportunity for contacting an alien civilization*. In essence a very short window of mutual beneﬁcence. At one point they may be too young, and a visitation from the stars could be confused and construed into a mythological event. On the other hand a civilization too far advanced may be beyond our comprehension and more than likely we would be reluctant to approach them as inferiors. Alas, perhaps we ourselves are beyond being interested in such things, as the source of the Madumbe recordings has never been investigated.
With the time pressures of space travel, the likelihood of reaching a sufﬁ ciently advanced culture, after discovery of their existence, but before they develop beyond our understanding is slim. It could take 300 years to send the question and another 300 to receive an answer. What question of any value could you really ask?
* Since non-Terran lifeforms are only theoretical, any supposed science surrounding them must be super-theoretical.
Those Damn Prometheists!*
THE world’s ﬁrst self-acknowledging religion. That they accept their myths as fairy-tale and ﬁction, does nothing to stymie the fervor with which they preach their beliefs. For them, a supernatural creator has been replaced by a supernatural future.
The Prometheists have established the largest virtual arena on the weave to ‘test’ hypothetical human models. This ‘church arena’ is accessible world-wide for believers and browsers to plug-in and – if you’ll excuse me – ‘fantasize’.
A common symbol of the Prometheists was the third eye**. As a gift shop item, the kids loved them (Plate 26). They blended seamlessly with the skin and, powered by the wearer’s body heat, could blink, follow motion and dilate with changes of light.
The movement is currently under investigation by the consumer agencies that govern religious groups, the entertainment industry and other ‘belief manufacturers’. By taking as gospel the idle speculations of science, there are doubts over the sanctity of the ‘physical laws’ that they advertise as operating within their online church-arena (thus participant’s fantasies have no hope of being attained outside the virtual existence). As such they may be re-classiﬁed as an F provider***.
The other dilemma now facing the trans-humanists is that regarding the early practitioners who, three hundred years ago, put themselves into cryonic suspension, to be woken when their post-Darwinian world had come about. This is the longest time any creature has spent in sustained suspension and there are fears that the longer they remain frozen, the less likely it is they could ever be re-animated. Is this the world they have waited for? Will it ever be? Should they just dispose of them quietly? Since there are only a thousand of these human icebergs, the loss would be but a drop in the ocean of the current population, and as evils go it would hardly compare to past atrocities.
* Prometheism – a transhuman religion that has done away with ‘creator’ and ‘deity’ concepts. Identifying with the ancient Greek icon of Prometheus, they preach the transcendence of the human through technology. ‘Transcend to what?’ you may ask; Post-humanity of course. ** Appropriated from the archaic symbol of enlightenment. *** F for fantasy. All creators of artiﬁcial sensory stimuli are subject to Realism Classiﬁcation, their RC rating then determines how they may advertise their products. It would be a severe blow to the Prometheists to lose their P status (Possible).
IT IS truly amazing the lengths people will go to personalize their bodies. Frea-Kreations™ and copy-cat companies could grow or surgically attach all sorts of appendages and animalia. The Japanese company’s bizarre augmentation studios created an avenue, for those so wanting, to be ‘fantasticized,’ as I believe it translates.
Far beyond the transﬁguration and dysmorphia of centuries past, a signiﬁcant portion of an entire generation became ﬁxated on becoming living avatars, at least symbolically. Freaking has remained the most popular form of ‘self-art’ for over a century.
Plate 27: Ms. Franjipani Cat, one of our lovelier tour guides, and reason for much passing trade. Formerly the poster girl for Frea-Kreations™ and star of many sensuals*. As expected she aged like plastic, with scratches rather than wrinkles. Nevertheless she was still rather lovely and after the museum was destroyed made her way to the Fringe, where she remains popular.
Plate 28: Heshe, the girlboy who was illegally freaked by his parents**. Heshe was of course too early in physical development and outgrew some of the living augments to the detriment of the implants and the host. There are tougher restrictions now, but you can always go off-world for that sort of thing.
I would show more examples, but such body alteration is common-place and can be found out and about on the streets today as the change-culture persists in more and more glorious forms.
* Like cinema but visual, audial, tastible, smellable and tactile – the genre of such sensuals is akin to the literal meaning of the word. * We are legally obliged to make clear that the practitioners who operated upon Heshe were in no-way afﬁliated with Frea-Kreations™.