The Hidden Neosurrealism of the Early to Mid 21st Century
by Adam Callaway
Part 1: Culture
Pixelation Fantasy. As with many technologies, the concrete origins of the pixelation process are as fuzzy as a patient’s outline. It honestly shouldn’t have worked, yet as I write this, a group of ill-defined humanoid shapes pass around me, pulling my frame of reference out of sync. Pixelation causes dissociation with the stark, the clear. It allows the patient to think in terms of generality. They become a whole instead of a part. Other pixelated people, objects, ideas can swap squares with any other, always in a random pattern. This is why reverse pixelation is illegal. A man with cinder block feet and a bird’s beak cannot cope in a dermal-based society.
Synthesesiology. It wasn’t that anesthesia gas had became scarce. It was that surgery had become a national pastime, and the public was sick of being knocked out for so many hours of each day. After the risen corpse of Albert Hofmann was named the 12 th president of these Somewhat United Areas of North America (World Market Symbol: SUANA), half of the national budget was dumped into medical R & D for this very purpose. Synthesesiology was the direct result, and Gratification Taxes skyrocketed. People took full advantage of the mixed up, messed up signals their brain received. The diamond-edge of a scalpel through flesh would create an illusionary symphonic smell array. A bone saw would blend spontaneous rainbows into an eighth color. Stitches would be like the sweet lullabies of school children. But, like any drug, it was abused. The actual lullabies of school children evoked images of razor-toothed steamsharks. Biting into a medium-rare prime rib was like bodily experiencing the sound of fingernails on slate. The government yanked over-the-counter access to the drug, forcing addicts to get unnecessary surgery done. Junkies with three, D-sized breasts were not uncommon, of both genders. Robotic arms became the norm. Faces were lifted until they stretched half way around the skull, and then further. Lips the size of ball park franks were seen on every street corner. Knees turned backward enabled people to jump fifteen feet straight up, if the stoned cared to exercise. It all became very sad and fucked up.
Dreamscapes in Realtime. The world knew the dangers of the Subconscious Uberspatial Integrator, but it was too exciting an opportunity to pass up. A small box implanted at the base of the brain stem that could project our subconscious mind onto reality could revolutionize psychiatry and entertainment, and it did, so long as only the privileged, with their dreams of white lace and gold bullion, could afford it. Who knew how simple the device actually was? Chinese knock-offs without nightmare filters flooded the market, daring teens in black alleys to implant each other. Luckily, they were underpowered and only projected to a five hundred foot radius, but how many people were crammed into a square mile? Clowns with chainsaws battled pigmy hydras and fifty-foot nude celebrities on a daily basis. The world at large carried around truncheons and bats to plonk anyone who was daydreaming, and shots of adrenaline and epinephrine to wake up those in the throws of terror. And then an MIT scientist invented a Permanentor attachment, and all Hell broke loose. The world of dream became the world of reality and we escaped into our heads for the mundane. Religious sects and religious sex started up, mingling dreamscapes together in communal mind fucks, trying to blend the id and the superego in such a way as to attain enlightenment. All they actually attained was a pornucopia of novel pseudo-sexually transmitted diseases.
Irrational Spaces Become You. Indoor adventuring was a boon for tourism. People forgot what a Mt. Everest was, and instead longed for the three foot ascent of a hot air balloon in a warehouse. It was part of a countercultural revolution to the Adrenaline Generation, deemed Mundanism. Tide machines were shoved into abandoned stadiums, and tens of thousands of people would experience the ordinarity of a six-inch standing wave. Personal planes were attached to tethers and swung around a maypole by pneumatic turbines. Staircases were repurposed as waterways for dwarf steamboats. Mundanism was left behind as the scenarios became more irrational. Elephants were bought by the hundreds and installed as butlers. The International Space Station was remade to look like a gingerbread house. Supertankers were outfitted with shams to disguise them as muscle cars, and muscle cars were outfitted with body kits to disguise them as bathtubs. After a while, everyone just got really confused.
Clockwork Love Machines. A neoVictorian aesthetic gripped parts of East Asia for the better part of a decade. Goggles and silver spoons replaced paper currency. Whale hunting was ramped up as the corset industry took off. The largest industry, however, was that of the clockwork love machines. These were two hundred pound constructs of brass, copper, glass, leather, fur, and gold. The inventor was a Nepalese recluse who threw himself off of the Himalayas when pressed for his secrets. The love machines had the fluidity of a geisha, the durability of a sumo, and the price tag of a Sony. Every man, woman, and child had at least one, and metallic harems became all the rage for the upper class. Deep within the specialized copper brains of these constructs were ancient lovemaking techniques stolen from the lost books of the Kama Sutra. Many died from physical exhaustion, and many more were taken to offshore detox facilities. It was inevitable, however, that errors would arise from such mass replication. Just like in the genome, random mutations would normally foster unhealthy attributes like sadomasochist constructs or lobotomized constructs, but every once in a while, something amazing would happen. The Geardriven Uprising of 2043 was testament to this. Japan is yet to regain control of the Empire.
Spontaneous Garbagogenesis. Refuse rose with the population on a normal statistical curve. Littering rose along this curve as well, the Green Movements of the West countered by the industrializing countries of the South and East. Giant islands of plastic bottles and latex condoms coagulated where currents bent back in on themselves. Landfills sprawled further and higher than they ever had before. The Great Dump of Lesser Beijing was the first synthetic structure to be seen from space, quickly followed by Fetidville, Manhattan, and Compostia, Los Angeles. Life forms learned to adapt to these pervasive structures. Snails began using bottlecaps as shells. Birds nested in old tires. Rats developed the ability to digest polymers. Weeds adapted to metabolize the light pollution of large cities. Entire colonies of dark prokaryotes resided in the supersaturated zone of air above the ventilation ducts of skyscrapers, partially eclipsing the sun during most of the workday. But these were pithy adaptations compared to the islands that dotted all of the oceans. Here: biomass and synthmass melded, molded, and symbiotized. Here: fish brains reached tentacular axons toward discarded copies of People magazine. Here: jellyfish mated with silicon implants. Here: sharks replaced teeth with broken Budweiser bottles. Here: garbage learned how to live. Here: the collective mind of yesterday’s humanity woke up. Here: fins made of cardboard boxes and airplane wings started pushing. Here: jaws of octopi beaks formed. Here: muscles made of old Nikes flexed. Here: multiple brains of iPod Classics, AOL discs, and VHS players in parallel structure formed their first thoughts. Here: sparks of conquest flew between ganglia on Nokia handsets. Here: the end of mankind began.
Apocalypse Fetishism. After it was discovered that dozens of other Earths exactly like our’s existed (it only takes a wooden doorway with a Bose-Einstein Generator attached to the molding to jump between worlds), the world grew mad. Plans were hatched, grew, slaughtered, roasted, and eaten. New plans were shitted out and hatched again. The agreed-upon first step was the sterilization of the two dozen closest worlds to our’s, which was accomplished post haste with prototype Liquefaction Bombs tuned to Homo Sapiens (with a percentage error of three thousand orangutans). These were worlds with incredibly minute changes. Something as small as the planet having a dozen fewer water molecules or a couple ounces less sand. The furthest of these first two dozen had changes such as the color red shifted two nanometers closer to the infrared side of the spectrum. Because the parallel worlds ran in a toroid shape, the furthest, and strangest worlds, were those directly opposite us. True Earth shifted one hundred and eighty degrees if you will. Intrepid explorers ventured to these worlds, only to come back with heads made of silver, bucketfuls of pudding, or their protons replaced with antiprotons. This was how True Earth was destroyed, actually. Luckily, an experiment was taking place on Earth Three (Mt. Everest is one-sixteenth of an inch taller), and we only lost everything west of the Rocky Mountains (which is why time zones were abolished on Earth Eleven out of respect for the energized). Humanity set forth and multiplied, hitting the trillion mark within five years (the further Earths had altered time and/or fertility cycles), and adapting to every world they came across (even to such planets as Earth 445, which was turned inside out). People got bored of multiplying though, and populations started to decline. Governments employed think-tanks to come up with ways to arouse their populace. Earths 27 and 899 experimented with pheromones (which worked, but the resulting birth defects terrorized, and eventually ate, everyone else on the planet). Earths 13, 55, 387, 1300, and 10,511 used force. The military men/women/children of the respective planets would strip opposing genders of their clothes, grab them by the armpits, and slam them together until something happened. The most innovative (and successful) plan was implemented by Earth 66. They erected a massive viewscreen and started sending various atrocities through the dusty Bose-Einstein gates. Plagues, asteroids, nukes, revolutionary literature all contributed to the loudest Baby Boom in the history of the Earths. So much biomass was produced in such a short period of time, that Earth 66 imploded into a miniature black hole, which a majority of the other Earths watched in rapturous ecstasy.
Revealation. Monkeys are curious by nature; humans, doubly so. This is why the Revealation took place. It started small, as these things do. Men began taking apart their sewing machines. Women ripped apart their hard drives and plasma televisions. Children dismantled the transmissions from their families’ Camaros. It escalated rapidly from there, as these things do. Men began taking apart entire kitchens, screw by screw. Women took to their Chic Caves, and slaughtered leather armchairs, beer cans, and remote controls. Children stole penknives to find out what makes alley cats tick (turns out they’re powered by a pair of nine volt batteries). It became necessary to form groups to take apart larger structures, as these things do. Men cliqued together to go after clothing stores. Women flocked to the nearest football stadium. Children combined to form pseudo-giants to pinch planes out of the sky, chock-a-block with people (coincidentally, nine volts make them tick as well). It became necessary for these groups to form supergroups to find out what makes larger structures tick. The children had a good infrastructure going, so the men and women clambered onto them to create true giants. Mountains were pummeled to discover a rich, nougaty center. Oceans were drained to reveal whale-size Swedish-style Fish. The Great Plains were flipped and cream cheese was found. The moon was cracked in half, and a bundle of Redwoods was used as a butter knife. It was a great breakfast to polish off a great morning.
Part 2: Artforms
Taxidermophilia. We are a world obsessed with death. We are either afraid of it, joyous over it, or aggressively indifferent toward it. Some take death seriously, and become morticians, coroners, or taxidermists. But what of the children of a mortician and taxidermist, pulled in two different directions by loving parents who want their son or daughter to follow in their footsteps? That’s where you get the pop art movement known as Taxidermophilia. He started out as a pre-med major to get the access to bodies, and began by filching only a finger or elbow joint to sculpt and preserve, but he soon got bolder. Whole limbs would go missing from the anatomy labs. He was eventually caught and expelled from school, but not before he had harvested a sizable amount of material from the cadavers in the lab. Now he began his true art. He grafted hands to feet and mouths to stomachs. He created supersized skulls, attached them on dwarf bodies, and placed them in silos of formaldehyde. He did realist sculptures of a flayed mother walking her stillborn fetus in a pram, umbilical cord positioned ever so tastefully. He soon ran out of material and began employing resurrectionists to exhume more bodies for him. His next great piece was a series of cutaways of the pelvic regions of a man and woman copulating. He built a twelve-foot tall giantess cradling a full-grown man in her arms. He injected latex into the arterial-venal system of a school teacher and had two child-sized skeletons playing cat’s cradle with it. He couldn’t keep his desired artform quiet for long, however, as the smells would make a homeless man cringe. The security guard of the storage facility came knocking and soon became a replica of the Headless Horseman. He needed an out, and, as the consummate artist, turned to his inspiration to divine a way away. He had grown up watching internet videos of the Suicide Artists: people who offed themselves in creative and quirky ways. He’d make sure he’d go into the books not only as the progenitor of Taxidermophilia but also as a master Suicide Artist. He rigged a counterweighted noose over his ultrasonic-solvent tub. When his weight pulled on the switch, vibrations would cascade through the solution and into his torso down, proceeding to jiggle/burn away all of his skin, muscle, fat, and bone, leaving only a rubbery skeleton of fluid pathways and his still whole neck/head combo. Now that’d scare the trick-or-treaters!
Entropy Paints Supreme. True randomization is difficult. Computers claim to have random number generators, but even they are governed by predictable rules. Scientists have experimented using methods that seem to, if not create a random number, create impossibly difficult to predict numbers. For example: a sensor rigged to measure the number of oxygen molecules passing it at any given moment. The number of people in JFK airport at any given moment. The number of crabs in a pot at the bottom of the Bering sea at any given moment. All of these, however, can still be predicted. This little vignette is about a man who spent his whole life trying to find randomness. The man’s name isn’t important, but, for the sake of the piece, let’s call him Herm. Herm experimented with every sort of mathematical random number generator. Why? Herm was an artist. His life’s work is the title of this piece. He tried and tried to make entropic art. He started small: three paint ball guns rigged to a program that would “randomly” select a number, one to 100. Only number one, two, and three were used in the painting, but the computer “chose” one number ever half second, so it didn’t take too long to build up a nice pall of paint. Or for Herm to see a pattern. He upped the number of guns to nine and ran it again, with the same results. He built an array of 100 small tubules that would drip one drip of paint onto a horizontal canvas and switched to a physical method of randomization: the number of pieces over one-quarter inch in diameter of a shattered dinner plate. He meticulously broke plate after paint, counting and discarding with tweezers those that fit and those that didn’t. This piece took him five years before he figured out the pattern and gave up on the piece. Of course, each of his failings fetched him tens of thousands of dollars, but Herm wasn’t in it for the money, he was in it for the randomness. He needed to go bigger. The next rig had one thousand drippers, and canvas was stretched over the foundation of a farmhouse-in-progress. He had a plane drop a two hundred pound bag of marbles over an area he had set up with one thousand pressure sensors, one for each dripper. One marble hitting one sensor would equal one drip. Over and over he would drop bags of marbles, in varying weights and sizes. The piece was master class, and broke the one million dollar mark, but it wasn’t random enough for him. His next rig had one hundred thousand drippers, suspended from a crane at a height of five hundred feet over a canvas twenty thousand square feet in area. He bought a piezoelectric sensor and dragged it from street to street in NYC, one street per day, and the number of people who walked on the sensor would correspond to the dripper that would release a single drop of paint. The wind became a second factor in the entropic equation, adding to the randomness. Jackson Pollack was forgotten in favor of Herm. Pollack looked like a photorealist compared to Herm. The city of NYC bought the failed masterpiece for twenty million. Herm went hermetic for a year after that failure. He set to work on going small. He built a rig of qubits, and hooked them up to a sensor that would turn on in response to a random number generator hitting a certain number. When the qubits collapsed, they would unpredictably collapse into a one, zero, or both. Herm hooked this up to his original three paint gun rig, which he then mounted on a flywheel and surrounded with a dome shaped canvas. The rig ran for ten years, Herm refilling the paint guns whenever they got low, and picking a color of paint randomly with the aid of a blindfold. Each year he felt closer to that feeling of true and utter randomness. Then, in year ten, he was examining the rig and his equations that governed the qubits. He smashed the qubits when he discovered the function that governs quantum Darwinism in his notes. These notes, however, DARPA bought for more than the GDP of many western countries. No bank could hold as much money as Herm had gotten through his failures, so he operated off of a tab system with the US government. He could buy anything and go anywhere, no matter how classified thanks to his latest failure. He laid low for a decade after this failure. What he came up with, though, would revolutionize and destroy the field of entropic art for good. On a space shuttle of his own design, there encased was a probe. That probe employed a solar sail. The probe was launch and the sail unfurled. A moon based laser accelerated the probe out of the solar system at upwards of three hundred thousand miles per hour. Each particle of interstellar hydrogen the sail hit would register as a black pixel on a digital display the same dimensions as the sail. If the same spot was hit, a white pixel would overlay the black. The sail would go until it hit someone substantial or the individual components gave themselves over to entropy. Entropy builds over time and it takes billenia to fully appreciate true randomness. Herm retired from art soon after his probe was launched. Located near his heart was a small vile of poison connected to an electric circuit. A single pixel of the display was entangled with a logic gate on the circuit. When the pixel was hit, the current would shatter the vile, and Herm would not only be a legendary entropic painter, but the most advanced Technocidist that the Suicide Artists had ever seen die.
Pre to Post Ka-boomerism. The most extreme artform the twenty-first century was subjected to was Ka-boomerism. It began small, with the likes of Cai Guo-Qiang using gunpowder on canvas and rock to create shapes. Then he looked to gunpowder for pure aesthetic reasons. His pieces lasted seconds, and blurred the line between spectacle and substance. This was pre-Ka-boomerism. A man we shall call Jay was the one to found and destroy Ka-boomerism. Ka-boomerism was a flexible art form. Jay would plant sticks of dynamite to create faces the size of football fields in the ground. He would set up building demolitions like a sculpture would chisel a marble block. Even the ruble was part of the Ka-boomerism movement. But, especially with an art form such as this, the boundaries had to be set, reached, and crossed. Jay took on bigger projects. He carved a 100:1 replica of the Mona Lisa in the Nevada desert using nothing but firecrackers, for example. This was actually his last piece that used explosives to achieve an end, and not just as an end in themselves. He started exploring the limits of the explosion as art. He made contacts with shady governments to secure ever more powerful explosions. Jay saw how a bunker buster made the ground give way. Jay peered at the effects of a torpedo detonating underwater. Jay witnessed the ballet of bomblets from Steel Rain. Jay reveled in the heat of a fuel-air bomb. His shows attracted thousands, hundreds of thousands, even at the exorbitant prices. His final piece would literally destroy the movement. He purchased a Soyuz-2 rocket and loaded it up with a dozen nuclear warheads. The rocket launched, and accelerated toward a four kilometer wide asteroid in the outer solar system. The warheads were released and nudged the asteroid into a Terran interception. While the asteroid hurtled toward the Earth, Jay rigged his next dozen warheads in central Africa, where the rock would impact. When the asteroid entered the atmosphere, every church of every denomination was packed from LA to Tokyo. All of them had live access to Jay’s show. Six nukes went off simultaneously, directly before the rock impacted, and the remaining six went off a second later, swelling the Earth like a mother pregnant with decuplets—before the asteroid smashed through the uterus and aborted the planet.
Part 3: Futility
...So Ends the Prologue. The century is far from over.
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