World on a String part 1

World on a String
1.1 New friends are made with no entropic flux.

Siegfried (Ziggy) Acetate planted another negative.
This one appeared as he stared vacantly at the reflective surface of a mylar wall in the reception area of Planck Research & Development.

“You can go in now sir.” The secretary shouldered a Moneypenny-revival flip, but had what looked like cigarette burns in one corner, or else the cat was nibbling on the single cell veggie again. Ziggy wanted to say, “Must stop vacuuming your cortex, dearie, you’re losing hold of your cosmetique maximus,” but he wanted people to like him so he smiled and said, “Thank you. You know someday I’m going to marry you” and walked into the office. The secretary lifted her eyebrows and tried once more for that knowing smirk. It was then that she noticed the illustration on the wall above her desk. There was a bolt of polished reflection in an otherwise corporate charcoal-gray smear. Two children hovered angel-like above the outstretched arms of three dwarves. The little men carried silver staves and looked defiantly at the cherubs. Near this scene, on the left was what looked like a boat. On the right, a long haired woman kneeled with her hands near her face in what could have been prayer. An astounded looking, figleafed guy hovered in the shadows. Ziggy could hear the receptionist sputtering “excuse me, uh, what..” as the door closed.

For those who knew him, Ziggy was self-conscious and easily intimidated, but his impulsive moves always hinted at a caustic wit and the potential for bold action. The appearance of these illustrations was often as much a surprise to him as anyone else. Even so, he had decided to go to Planck Research and hustle a little funding. Maybe even a commission. But here he was, shaking nervously and feeling dizzy. Everyone had halos with little Porsche design logos on them. Probably halos but could be beta sensors. “Better be careful”, he thought holding the door for support.

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1.2 – “Mr. Acetate, come in. Make yourself comfortable”

“Now I’m really in trouble”, Ziggy thought, as a young man, responding to a glance from the speaker, stood up and pulled a chair indicating it was for him.

“We’ve invited you here because we think we can make great use of your talents. Please, sit, Mr. Acetate.” The man who spoke was at the head of the table. He was large and jolly but would occasionally shoot red hot glances at subordinates. As Ziggy sat down, the young man pushed the chair forward, locking it against the table.

“Your particular gifts lie somehow outside linear fields of communication. You redefine the resources of time and matter.” The director rose, swept his arms about theatrically and spoke to no one in particular. “One thinks that no art could last forever as no garden of tomato soup cans growing on hillsides of academic data-bases etcetera, you see..”. ( As he droned on Ziggy lost all doubt that beta devices were active and these guys were seriously tapped). He smiled loudly and nodded vigorously, wondering who was really in charge. The director continued, “Sirs, we need to establish a common field of communication to fully appreciate each other’s specific needs..”

“And to derive the maximum profit for all,” chimed in a particularly attentive man in chrome hat and green apple vidphone. He floated on grav pads about two feet higher than the rest. Ziggy hadn’t noticed him before, partly because of the reflective decor. His shoes were gray with small sludge detectors armed to beep. After the little man spoke he shrunk back into a representation of cardboard.

“Yes, yes” shouted the director, “there’s money to be made! Let’s not kid ourselves. But the main point of this meeting is that we want to find out how to reach you , Mr. Acetate. To help YOOOOOOOO.” The director gestured broadly as he said these words. Ziggy beamed.

“Your work sits on a plane between the physical and the imagined. It seems only visually manifest in the moment, projected from another point in time. A camera at one point in time and a mirror at another with us in between. This is a major event in our evolution, Mr Acetate. It requires a serious and detailed analysis. Planck wants to study your talent. We believe it’s possible to project data back and forth in time. We can communicate with ourselves in different times. Maximize information use. Solve problems before they become problems.” The director leaned toward Ziggy with a wide smile that Ziggy took for a snarl. Teeth bared, saliva gleaming. “I’ve left a piece in the reception area to this office,” Ziggy offered. “You could study that.”

The director sat back and lowered his voice, “We need you , Mr. Acetate.” Ziggy flinched, “Well, uh, I have to think about it. I’d like to become more familiar with my mutation myself. I could do better work if I knew what my limits were.
There was a brief but excruciating silence. “I may have some time at the end of the month,” Ziggy said frantically.
“Excellent! Excellent” The director’s exuberance made Ziggy wonder if they were more frightened than he was. “We intend to help you make the most of yourself, Mr. Acetate.”
“Thank you, you’re very supportive.” Ziggy knew that when they played back his brain wave patterns it would be easy to tell he was lying.

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1.3 Two months later

Enroute from Schipol to Heathrow. Nauseating full bladder tilt, sun in eyes looking down on dirty, smug, Luchthaven clouds, Fred Keele recalled his briefing, “This guy Ziggy’s down there somewhere like a mosquito and there’s a lot of big hands flapping. He’s out of control. Projecting his fantasies on everything in high-res black and white. Acid baths, sand blasting, exorcism, they’re, like, etched into space itself. Nothing works to remove the ‘installations’.”

“Excuse me. What are those, Insects?”

“No those are other planes.” Keele looked over at the young women who asked the question.

“Ahh, I guess we’re in a holding pattern, looping,” she responded.

“More like a spiral.” Keele turned back to the display on his laptop. It showed sparse cloud cover and about five planes waiting in 3d below the one in which he sat. He flipped the scan to reflect up towards his satellite and found six more on top. “What the hell. Access time ain’t cheap” he thought and rolled the rampod. He turned and smiled at the woman on his right. “Most theories of physical nature and the popular TOEs always allow for the unheard-of.”

Fred finished his 3rd (or was it his fourth) double scotch and continued, “Lobotomize the guy and get back to the food vats’s what I say.” The woman lost all signs of geniality. “What are you talking about?”

“Frederik Keele. I am a service agent for the, the, uh, General’s Electoral company. The General sends his best. Would you like a drink?” Keele buzzed a steward and ordered two double scotches. His seat partner didn’t want the one he ordered for her so he drank that as well. He could hardly stand up when he arrived at customs. “Your passport, please.” The officer was obviously disgusted. “How long will you be staying in London?”

“Doh know,” Keele handed him a work visa.

“Oh U.E.A., working for the big boys are we? Have a pleasant stay.”


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1.4 – Perforated Flat Top

The taxi to the New Tavistock Hotel was a little the worse for wear. Keele had heard that people lived in them during recharging. There wasn’t anything under 60 stories in the Russell Square area. Most of these buildings had rolovators that described rectangular paths. Up to 40, east to 60, to sub-center shopping, over to parking and back up to the original point. There was one going the other way too and usually a random path ‘vator, programmed to hunt for strays or revisit party areas. Rolos were usually equipped with a vidscreen and rest room facilities. Nice ones had wallpods for net access. In denser areas, gangs of teenagers loosely claimed certain rolos as extended living rooms.

Descending to the lowest basement level, the objectivity center, the ‘Foundations’ wherein all data is constituted, the Big Bug listens to it all and an A.I. smudge makes marketing and sociopolitical suggestions to whoever pays to receive the ever increasing curve of info. Certain data will trigger routine upgrades or downgrades in public utility and crime support. Sometimes drones are equipped with stun guns or stink bombs but most of the time they’re scraping poly-mould and shroomcrisp off of curb edges. The fungi disease, caused by the dust of decayed ‘shrooms, claimed 2500 lives in Dorset alone, the first year it appeared.

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1.5 British Colombia

Gordon O walked into Data Control, nodded at Hal Pinter of data tabs and said, “OK, what flags tab hunter?”

“Well, the references are pretty close to your request Mr. O. There is a small artsy movement that covers eastern midtown blocks 12 through16 and 52 where we picked up references to ‘the writing on the wall’. It’s not just some Irish revival thing. Look at this one, ‘Premium Moby Lays’. What is this cadre, padre?”

“I’ll ask the questions flicker, ok?” Pinter looked hurt at that reprimand but Gordon O ignored him, “This is a club of sensitive dataddicts pursuing the inevitable rush of divine aesthetics.”

After a moment of deciphering, Pinter, being quite smart, looked up, “Oh, the club! FOE, Flowers of Evil. They’ve always been a harmless meditation and art appreciation cult. Tabs started popping around phrases like, let’s see…” Pinter scrolled through a terminal. ” Yeah, like this.” G.O. looked over Pinter’s shoulder and read :

The burning secret of the lost *evolution* replaced by those extensions of *artifact* has begun to *resurface.* *Art * can regain original truth if we remain open to the *writing on the wall* we can win back our intellect, our spirit and the dream we all dream within.

“The flagged stuff are your tab fragment requests.” Pinter pointed out.”Aye, anything else?”, said O, “No other flags?”
“No other flags yet sir. No other flags yet.”

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1.6 – Tool as word

“And so, the word ‘manipulate’ implies something clinical, cold; where is the romance in a question like ‘would you like me to manipulate your pleasure center now?’ Well, the cold hard fact is sometimes the most exciting. Degradation through dehumanization. The subject becomes the implement. As the art work becomes the truth, not a reflection or representation of it. Look closely and you can see bits of skin, hair etc. in the oilpaint. As a teacher, I am your funnel creating a concentrated stream of fact and theory between the ocean of knowledge and the aesthetic sense including the imagination. Good. If there are any questions I will answer them now.” A student raised his hand and the teacher nodded in his direction, “Yes?”

“When do we actually get to kill someone?”
“Give it time, son.”

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1.7 – Blue Random Bone drop

A figure in the dark, an extension of background to foreground with a hint of the organic. Not quite stillness amidst occasional spurts of steam or a glob of hair and dust rolling by. Urban tumbleweed. Ruby Yablonsky, age 26, green eyes and fine cut features obscured by the dirt of ten days on the streets, finally homing in on the prey. Down a short flight of stairs in a basement rattrap that used to be a fancy French restaurant. Six men dividing up ransom money. The kidnapped ten year old, Jimmy, was found dead three days ago. “There’re seven decks here. Four thousand E-bucks apiece and two thousand for the cop. That’s enough to get outta here and live like kings in Britain or Poland.”

“What about my cut?” Ruby asked.

“Jesus, who the fuck…” before he could finish, his eyes widened, blood ran from his nose and he jerked backward to the floor, lifeless. Ruby looked calmly from one to the other and said, “One peep or blink and the same can happen to you.”

“How did you do that?”(nervous silence vibrates the room) “Listen, you can have his share. We can use someone like you. How did you do that?”

“You know”, Ruby said, “I wanted to come in here and torture you guys, maybe take my time and make you feel some of the misery you’ve caused. But, I got better things to do.” Ruby scanned the room, her left eye going kind of dull as the micro waves poured out in a 75° arc bubbling five more brains into stew. The eye was an implant Ruby acquired during her college days. At that time she thought ‘high-end optical development’ meant a cure for dyslexia. She collected the money cards and left. If she hurried she could get to the Detroit-Windsor airport and get a flight to Europe before the cop found out he wasn’t getting his cut.

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1.8 – New Laws New Fish

People living in the Great Lakes basin were no more in danger than people living in any of the other industrial areas of the country. Some children were born with defects. Some people claimed that these mutations were, in fact, adaptations to new environmental demands. A miracle to behold. Parents who at one time would self-consciously hide their children away in special schools or mask them with large, loose hoods and baggy pants were now proudly parading the next generation of multi-chamber nostril intakes and double-lidded eyes. One child, a very attractive little girl with filter-like membranes in her neck and small lobe-like pouches hanging from either side of her jaw was playing with a little boy whose atrophied arms were supported by a new waldo apparatus which could lift objects weighing up to 500 lbs. The kids of the future. Play nice, kids. Ziggy Acetate sat on a swing trying to sort out the options presented at the Planck meeting, “Not much choice. I let them take me apart and then they get to use me as a marketing tool or an advertising strategy and I get what? A lobotomy. Or drugged into dronehood. They’ll take my art from me. They’ll do it whether I let them or not.”

He thought of Dr. Kerby and the promise of a ‘New World Consciousness’ through the art of the Media Age Children:

“The 2nd Princeton String Quartet produced a disc of So32 sample-and-hold theory-realizations back in the 90’s of the second millennium, Christopher. Have you heard of that string group? Heard of that study? 10 -33 Centimetres? Come on Mr. Chappel, you are not as naive as you would have us believe. You are an educated man. Vancouver, correct? The knowledge to bridge your compulsive creativity with understanding. To manipulate audiences. This must have entered into your studies at some point!”

“Who cares about small details like that?” Ziggy, then Chris Chappel, said. ” One should strive for intuitive purity, inspired by a love for mankind’s potential.”

“Time to disappear, I think.” He recalled a more recent statement: ” You and the business of art are no strangers, Zig. According to our files you amassed over two million E-dollars through commissions. Most of which you donated to the rebuilding of Tokyo.”
” A lot they need it after siphoning off the worlds economy, ” another voice added flatly. “Backlash,” said Ziggy. “Yes and now you’re living off hand-outs. Your work is suspect and you’re under investigation by the U.N.” Ziggy was glad they hadn’t found out about his other bank accounts and his real apartment. The little hovel he publicly displayed as his home was a 5th floor bachelor that he had gotten from a musician friend who had inherited it from an uncle. The uncle was an illustrator who took off for Northern California in 2 A.C. when prices on Silicon Valley condos took a deep but short-lived dive. Ziggy wondered if his musician friend was still in Toronto. “Maybe I should go and start an artrock band” he mused, escaping into a daydream. He remembered that it was three years after the ‘Crash’ when he officially adopted the name ‘Ziggy’. His friends wouldn’t have been able to reach him if they wanted to. So many people were unreachable. The new millennium, A.C. – After the Crash – a new beginning. So many people left behind. The old energies. “Someone must know what it is I do,” Ziggy whined, looking up from his numbing reverie, dragging his feet in the dust beneath the swing. “Maybe I can find someone trustworthy to do tests without hurting me, without ripping me off.” Ziggy didn’t know it but Britain’s Network team was already keeping a round-the-clock watch on him. They were trying to come up with a ‘plan’ as well.

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1.9 Kitchen Vesper Gasket Bound 

Fred Keele drank a cup of coffee and looked cynically at the group of forensic specialists scanning Trafalgar Square. He spoke thickly still jet-lagged and hung over, “Okay show me one of those Acetate Originals. And let’s not get too far out with our metaphors.” The detail of composition at first gives one the unshakeable feeling that a photo had been taken. This was no photo. It was a projection. It was a hologram, 3-D, with some kind of movement, like a gentle breeze or blood flow, Mona Lisa smiles all over the place and a sense of impending motion (many people fear they’re literally about to explode). Keele was stunned with the beauty. He recalled the Italian and Dutch religious paintings of the 14th century. There was also a surreal quality of contemporary life captured; a record of a long dead civilization recently discovered and on display to aliens of little or no sensitivity and point of reference. He sat down for a while and knew that if anyone was going to kill this guy it could not be him. He felt like weeping. Very unprofessional. There was no commercial manipulation, no desire inspired, no cause to rally behind and yet, this engraving on the wall of the 3rd sublevel underground garage on Queen Street, London, England, was one of the great artworks of his time. He was sure of it. “Sir, check these out.” There were four hunks of matter, what looked like Aluminum, Concrete, Wood, and perhaps Bronze. Each chunk had a reproduction of the original picture etched into it. “How did you do that?” Keele asked, running his fingers over the different tactile surfaces. “We didn’t. Each of these was at one time right where that piece of wall is. We removed a square segment and the real picture would reappear in whatever material we substituted.”

“So these are like what, prints? Echoes?”

“The creator of the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen is in fact the brunt of the century’s biggest joke. They won’t look at it. They only want to copy it.” Keele turned and walked away calling back, “Bring those to my hotel.”

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2 – Qi

It is believed that Qi is the oldest daughter of the wealthiest resource tycoon in China. Cowboys and plutonium, Uranium rodeos. Daddy didn’t like the Tibetan trash she was bringing around and gave her the ultimatum, “Stay within the bounds of your social status or sacrifice control of our radiation. Lose this turkey or blow.” It is believed that Qi euthanized her husband and baby daughter when the itching drove him mad and the little girl went comatose. She now resides in an unpopular suburb of London just north of the Airport and has a high-protein bread baking business. It is believed that a new strain of river blindness has found its way up through the immune system after many years of adapting to the serums and medications used to keep the worm under control. This virile strain is said to be carried on the breezes of the full August moon. Cases have been reported as far north as Belgium.

The ‘Talent” had gone into hiding and Fred Keele had disappeared as well. Ruby arrived in Heathrow looking like a million dollars (a small percentage of her real worth) and took a limo to the Hilton. Jet lagged and in need of sleep she first picked up the phone and dialed a number:
“Sorry , no Chris here”
“Who is this?”
“Who is this?”
“Oh I called the wrong number. This is Ziggy’s place right? You a friend of his?”
“Yes, I am. I’m waiting for him. Do you know where he is? Siegfried is always missing appointments. When’s he coming back?”
Ruby hung up the phone. “Shit! What do the cops want with Ziggy? Sounds like they’ll be all over the Hilton very quick.” She collected her luggage, checked it into a different room as Veronica Brown, and left the premises.

“Why didn’t anyone know that his name was Christopher. Jesus, we almost had something and now they know we’re staked out here.”
” Well I think it was quite an accomplishment just finding this place.” The security team had tracked down Ziggy’s digs through old gallery contacts at the Tate annex where he had had his first show. Two new walls were built in front of the ones containing Ziggy’s work. His show was a permanent addition to the collection. “Great,” said O, “and a friend of his knows we’re here. “Call that guy Hopper or Hooper whatever his name is…tell him we’re bringing him a reproduction for analysis.”
“Line’s busy Mr. O, we’ll try again in a minute.”

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2.1 – Zeus Oat Bran

Following a lead on monies raised to keep Ziggy alive while he created his phenomenal art works, students of the ‘aesthetics of performance class’ at Michel Foucault University in Amsterdam traced most of Ziggy’s financial support to a Canadian performance artist whose research grants went toward an apartment in Soho and three catered parties a week. The food kept a lot of English artists alive. A particularly aggressive trio of students were finishing an interview with the Canadian whose name was Robertson Hooper or “Father Estrogen Brown” as his clique affectionately called him. “We can’t have freaks making sideshows of mankind’s most important activity, can we, Mr. Hooper? To call this art would be an exercise in Spectacle Revivalism. Please, no more Dunkin Donut Saves the World stuff.”

“Did you ever see Chr- uh, Ziggy’s work?” asked Hooper, his hand raising to his bruised lip on the ‘v’ in ‘ever’.

“No, that’s our next stop. Alban will stay with you just in case Mr. Acetate shows up. We can help. Mr. Acetate needs a re-education, new-aesthetic programming, discipline, a fresh outlook and a good agent. Goodbye then. Strychnine for Poodles, eh?”

Alban was a morose but clever fellow of few words. Hooper couldn’t figure how he fit in with the hyper SS types on designer drugs that had just left. “No sense taking a chance on getting hit again” Hooper thought and sat back down at his deck. He resumed emailing his grant info to the Canada Council Art Net. The C.C.A.N. was a data bank built on a limited artificial intelligence which sorted, processed and even did some initial disqualifications of the applications received from all over the world. Hooper was on his fourth year in the Global Residency program. He was just finishing inputting the part about the exorbitant cost of bringing him and his ‘materials’ home as opposed to subsidising another two year period in England. It was much cheaper to live in England than Canada anyway. Alban sat down at the piano and tinkered. Hooper was impressed. The phone rang.

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Spires of raw steel and strength and arches of such immense proportions as to make one believe that giants or huge cargo ships could pass easily through. The architecture of the city reflects such weight and mass that it is hard to think that it wasn’t always there. A gross, maniacal moment of creation. Entering through the domed amphitheatre in the south, one is thrown into the middle of acres of market place. The gladiator days are over. Giant video monitors occasionally update food prices and point out sales. We see a group of young people eating grapefruit but they’re probably wishing for meat. Grapefruit is big this year. The acidic fruit doesn’t support the worm. A woman, bent in a mediaeval ‘s’ shape, gazes prayerfully beyond her infant. The baby looks much older than her mother. Tiny, insect-sized video cameras buzz around and project scenes of the neighborhood on the monitors. The curve-of-space architectural plan pulls and pushes the viewer (voyeur), using tribal resonance and substructural macho force to the ‘Cafe io’ where a seated woman gazes over a cup of coffee. She wears a 20’s style orange hat, a sort of bowler with the brims curled down on the sides. She wears a bit too much rouge and there’s a slight pout to her red lips. She sits at a blue white marble covered table opposite an empty chair. The chair looks like it has not seated, and will not seat, a companion. She notices the fact that one glove, her left, is still on. She had removed the other to hold the cup. She looks at her gloved hand as though it was a body lost and forgotten. Hiding from the cold to never reemerge; a dead thing. A row of lights like a runway comes from over the woman’s head, shoots off to her right and back into black depths. Behind her there is a tall dish filled with what seems to be fruit. One can’t help noticing what pretty and youthful legs are exposed under the table. One well tweezed eyebrow points toward the right side of the hat where a hat pin sits like a proud insect. Each archway presented a conical shaped tube that drew the viewer into a different part of the city. Keele peered in at the lovely ( lonely?), secretary and felt like he was in a peepshow audience. Put in your quarter, the door opens, the dish sits there. The release of various juices; secretions, drool. Humaneatautomateat. He stumbled on an interactive, biotechnical phenomenon. Ziggy’s diaries. Keele fell back into a chair, released from the mindgrip of the artwork.

On to World on a String Part 2 


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