Author: Marvin Thiele
It was 2050 and the clocks were striking thirteen. Technological addiction was widespread. Everyone sat on their couch, headset on, enjoying artificial utopia.
VR was about five years old, and everyone was already bending over backward for it. The simulations, you see, weren’t fixed, like paintings, books, or movies. In VR, one could alter anything with a mere mental command. Think, and ye shall receive.
Daily life had been eradicated, kaputt gemacht. With the advent of automation, entire grocery stores, fast-food restaurants, and inter-continental highways were now in the hands of robots.
There were no jobs. The government sent out money and that was that. People ordered take-out, took a dump, and went back into the VR, back to those fake, titillating women perpetually pleading for sex…
Tough world to be an artist. We floundered about on the surface of a bottomless ocean waiting to drown.
The Musee du l’Ouvre had closed. MoMa too. People weren’t showing up anymore. No one cared about the Mona Lisa or the Starry Night. There was nothing interesting about a still image—a non-digital one—constructed by a flawed human being.
With all this over my head, I got perpetually drunk and sad.
One night, out of frustration, I drew a stick man. I put a rope around his neck and hung him from the ceiling fixture. I crossed out his eyes and wrote on his shirt: Art is Dead.
I placed the “piece” on the Internet for one hundred million dollars, as a statement, as my fundamental critique of the world.
A week passed, and I was called by an unknown man. He expressed an interest in my sketch. As we neared the end of our conversation I had to know,
“Because it’s the least I could do,” he said.
“Why is it the least you could do?”
“Because I made VR. I programmed everything. I spent years interviewing test groups, refining the technology, getting it just right, dispensing with every error. I’m responsible for the state of things. I know that all the museums have closed, that all the movie theaters are empty, that all the symphonies have disbanded. I know just as well as you do about the way art has slipped off everyone’s mind, how it has disappeared surreptitiously down winding streets and lightless alleyways. But, please! Accept this as my apology. No, as my eulogy.”
“You are the Devil,” I said. “I think you’ve ruined the world.”
A day later, I walked to the store, and I did indeed mail off the drawing. In the evening, I went into my room and sat on my bed, congratulating myself. I looked at my bank account and the one hundred million dollars.
It was my first sale.
Yet, for whatever reason, I couldn’t get the happy mood to last and just ended up crying in a long cathartic fashion.
I thought about the past. I thought about how people used to work to survive, how they used to live in a way that would let them keep living, how it was never about getting there but about the going.
I figured it was as good a time as any. I fastened the rope and took a black marker to draw some crosses over my eyes. I kicked the chair out at just the right angle so that I could look identical to my drawing.
On my ragged white shirt, in giant black marker, read the words:
Art is Dead
And that, I thought, should do.