Me and the Republic
You traveling alone? She's made a lot of enemies. Like it or not, we depend on each other. If we don't stick together, we won't survive. I wake up slowly with the feeling of having been drugged. My eyelids feel swollen and puffy, my mouth is dry as dust. I've gotten used to seeing a different face in the mirror every morning. My cheekbones are broader, my chin is more pointy, my lips fuller. There's even something different about my eyes. I wonder if this ugly mug is here to stay this time. I scan the room for a weapon but I find none. So I remain seated, motionless - there's nothing else I can do. The shrilly chattering figures peck at me. Look me in the eye. You'll be a good writer one day, I know it. What are they teaching us today? It makes my skin creep. What is being taught officially is unofficially insignificant. The discontinuity between the official myths and the matter-of-fact use of communication satellites and nanotechnology is sometimes hard to endure. Our written characters describe this world, each character structures this world. That is why the writer is so important. The writer brings order to this world. He's the one who lends it meaning in the first place. Take your work seriously. Do your job well.
The image seems unfinished, temporary. The resolution is not very high and the colors are unrealistic. Light and shadow do not correspond. Writing is programming. Every character can have a literal and several figurative meanings within a given text, and countless abstract meanings as part of a program code. The mere mnemonic task of retaining the most important variations in meaning is enormous. And yet everything is meaningless. We all know it. Only rarely is anyone ever interested in the discrepancy between historical reality and its mythic representation. And then it is referred to as the mythical paradigm and is left at that. What's going on here? A flaw in the security system? I read the message again. It's quite simple. The mythical paradigm of this country wants it that way. What is interesting is the fact that the message is coded. Slight orthographic modifications point to this conclusion ... Let's get to the bottom of this! It's not plain writing I'm after, what I want is to know if what we're dealing with here is coded text. Simplicity and subtlety, strictness and taste. These are part of my job too. Everything seems completely harmless.
Last night's dreams are so convoluted that my brain doesn't save them. Why are you fighting? Why we're fighting. Exactly. Here I am. I'm shy. I don't like to fight. You might say I'm a bit of a coward, and besides I'm partial to life. Sure, life sucks, but this shitty life is probably all we have. So why take risks? The answer is very simple: I have no alternative. My own people are completely foreign to me. They have become like pigs wantonly wallowing in the mud. I couldn't take it any longer. Fighting doesn't come easy to me. I have to act against my will every day. Sometimes it gets to be too much. But it's better than suffering the insufferable. The real question is not, why do I fight? That's the wrong question. The question I'm interested in is, why isn't anyone else fighting? All I detect in people's faces is the usual lack of interest, phlegm and feigned indifference.
It's all about concrete situations. About the next day, next week, next year. What do these people want from me? What do I want from them? Maybe it's a trap. In a public phone booth the telephone is missing, just a few cables protruding from the inside wall of this box. This number is no longer in service. It's a crisp and cold starlit night. Let them deal with their own crap. They can go to hell for all I care. I'm allowed to perspire. Not allowed to be conspicuous. I go along with the crowd, though inside I fight the current. I couldn't tell you how I feel right now. Perhaps a bit empty. I don't know enough about this set and its implications. When will this absurd system annihilate itself? It won't collapse because it is equipped with a technology which will prevent this from happening. It's not about criticism. It's about the desiccated gaze, the passive stare, the completing of forms. It's the opposite of true vigilance. Here it is the guards themselves who are incarcerated, fill the system of the oppressors, watch over every deviation from the norm. This is about the absurdity of not taking part, of refusing even to bear witness, of being altogether oblivious to the diversity of reality. True vigilance is the opposite of this: it seeks to break through the bars ...
A Chinese proverb says the line between good and evil is no thicker than a butterfly's wing. A door is similar. I don't retell what's been told. I concoct - not a different world, but a reality with its own laws. Therefore someone who can read the signs might ... it's a militant hope, a revolt. This is about sheer survival, there's no room here for romanticism. That includes control over the images. Exhausted, I continue to advance through an entanglement of steel rubble, collapsed ceilings, masonry, stones, and demolished furnishings. Smoke curls up from crackling fires. My filthy clothing, worn-out shoes, dirty hands - I stand up slowly and feel how my stiff frozen muscles stretch and protest. Don't believe what you see. It wants to block us. It can make one believe one is seeing a landscape, when in reality this image has been edited, omitting ... It can call up images from the past and push them into a person's head so quickly that one can't tell what's real and what isn't. I have learned to deal with things immediately. All other thoughts are a burden - and this slows you down when it comes to immediate action. Speculations. And an uneasy feeling. That's all. It's a hallucination of death. My life and my world are the dark basement and the moldy straw.
Could these attacks be the first signs of temporal epilepsy? The part of the brain that no longer works properly is presumably still quite small. This is the Unidentified Mobile Unit speaking. It is a kind of radical decontextualization, not only of nature, but of technologies and images as well. These works place violence in the foreground. It's not happening to me, it's only happening to my clone ... I visualize it as a secondary ego whose proportions aren't quite right. I was inspired by newspaper photographs of traffic accidents. I've had these death-images in my head for a long time. People don't understand them. They reject my death series. I suppose they think it's pure fiction. My images deal with a fundamental problem: Death comes abruptly and people have absolutely no influence in the matter. It takes place on quite a direct level and often happens very quickly.
Why do you use found material in the first place? Toads, astronauts, they all have their prototypes. We only process what we already know, there's no escape. It's not as if my inner source of images had run dry - there's simply no such thing. One sees something and that is transformed in one's body, in one's thoughts, and in one's memories. And to me it is this transformation that is important. The whole thing is incongruous, intentionally. Associations arise, for example cold, underwater, sound waves, underground, and so on ... they have nothing to do with each other. Let them peter out into nothingness. What we are dealing with here are subtly altered meanings.
On the monitors we can vaguely discern the interior of a high-security laboratory, but the contours are strangely distorted and the image quality is alarmingly poor. Hey, I was counting on a clear, sharp picture, and instead I hardly see anything but distorted streaks that won't even keep still. It is incredibly quiet here. We move about practically on tiptoe. Another corridor and then another. Suddenly I hear a sound. The walls creak, as if supporting some great weight or as if the masonry were expanding under intense heat. Something has gone wrong. On two gigantic monitors the same scene is unfolding: streaky, smudged contours, objects dissolving into each other, every once in a while a clearly recognizable detail, a piece of the floor or a chair leg, then once again nothing but amorphous blurs. It is as if this place were melting. What we see here is a kind of war. We must try to read it. An intelligent being running amok sends out signals which can most likely be interpreted by another intelligent being. My brain no longer serves merely as a control and thought organ but rather its primary function now is the digestion of signs. I think more profoundly. There are more levels. I see the primary meanings, the connotations, variations, implications, the subtext, the context of a sign, like beads on a string. It's all here, it's all clear. Many voices all at once. The music is in color.
How warm the water is, I think as I sink. My eyes want to shut for the last time. I notice that my breathing has stopped. I hear muffled rejoicing. Someone is glad. That's not good, I think. They are glad I am dying. Just now I sang so sweetly for them and here they are rejoicing over my death! Of course I suffer from paranoia. I'm in the process of maneuvering myself into the dangerous no-man's-land between the fronts. They want you out of the way. First they exploit you, then they bump you off. Use and abuse you, then cast you aside. My paranoia is what has kept me alive, thus far. They can see me, I think. They can see me. It's just that I don't know how good and how clever my enemies are, or even how many of them there are. Not the best conditions for a successful escape. My resources are limited and they are melting away fast. Where am I supposed to get money? Where do I sleep? And above all, where am I running? Many dogs are the death of the hare. Your vital signs are deteriorating rapidly. The paranoid feeling that things of the utmost importance are taking place behind my back is growing stronger.
You're a specialist for decoding secret messages. There it is, that ugly, hideous word among the memories ... they want to ascertain my true opinion about the codex, that's all. And if they find out what they already suspect, namely that I've been onto their hoax from the beginning except what I can't figure out is why they're putting on this whole charade, they can turn me into protein dust. An unfortunate accident. I have to think of something. Fast. I'm worried about my well-being, I don't want to be destabilized. Why is this codex so important? I see with perfect clarity that my life isn't worth beans. I feel more lonely than ever before. I want to act, immediately. But that's the dumbest thing I could do. I have to proceed cautiously until my chance comes. Special brain cells appear to be responsible for guessing the intentions of other people. Is the machine out of order? Those are the mirror neurons with their double function: the same cell is responsible for observing and triggering an action. A direct link between the electric activity going on behind the forehead and complex behavioral patterns. Why is laughter contagious? How can a person guess the intentions of another? How does sympathy arise? Via our mirror neurons we are in constant communication with others. Can this be mere coincidence? I have no idea.
They need my special skills as decoration on the Net, what else? Strictly confidential, of course. We dream. We qualify as quarry. An air of edgy nervousness. The conformists are shaken and insecure. Nothing big or planned: attacks out of the blue, crimes of passion. Brawls. One can't comprehend them, they don't think like we do. The cleaning construct whirrs. Spit it out. Tell me what you know. Tell me why you warned me. Tell me what's going on. The construct has spoken to me. It is awake, it can think - something happened inside its head. A virus, a program error. The thing spoke to me. It feels like a bad dream coming true before my eyes. How do you know all of this? I don't react to the provocation. The rustle of the wind in the night, the sound of the night owls, the snap of twigs: it's all there. What's your name? What kind of nonsense is this? Too late. If I sleep at all, then only for 1 or 2 hours, and my dreams are vehement, realistic, and always unpleasant. Now the being speaks to me: "Resistance is futile."
Am I dead? No ... but my systems are silent. Everything is bathed in a strangely eerie atmosphere of ambiguity. No other survivors. A house of horrors worse than anything one could ever imagine: human eyes above a spider's maw, a cross between hands and claws, human legs with four joints. Am I at the mercy of a perverse machine? At least I am allowed to wash, and I get enough to eat, and so far I haven't been physically abused. I'm not a rebel. I just can't take the lies anymore. Did something go wrong? Perhaps everything is in the process of changing. There are methods of feeling your way directly into their brains. Do we have a contextual problem? Stay calm. Keep it in perspective. You are prepared, you are armored, you are protected. But what good will this do? What is this shield supposed to protect me from? The details aren't important. We're not puny and insignificant. Our willpower makes us giants in this world.
And the other people, the mammal team? The first warning sign is the broken glass scattered all over the asphalt. A lot of the coarse shards come from shattered car windows. Belongings are strewn about: shopping bags, toys, cardboard boxes filled with groceries, backpacks full of schoolbooks, a pair of shoes. This time it's even worse. In my dream I get out of bed in the faint early morning light. The air is thin and cold, the wind tugs at me and churns up veils of snow and ice. I know what happens. I know the story. I must not keep running. Why don't I stop running? Why can't I stop? Why can't I wake up? Why do I relive all these terrible memories? Finally. It is a deep, deliberately authoritarian voice with sonorous articulation.
I have the truth. The proof lies everywhere. Scattered in the desert, seared into clay, dwelling in plants, sunken at the bottom of lakes, and in the cultural files as well. The sudden disappearance of art objects, changes in the architecture, in the agriculture. There are books, photographs, audio recordings, signs that contradict this revision of history ... end of the signal file.
What exactly is going on here? A quick glance around, nothing immediately threatening, apparently. No one else here. My field of vision is slightly restricted. Checking all systems. Where have I landed? What a mess! Where are my memories? Where is my mental substrate? There is another way of checking my system controls. Unless the whole situation is a simulation. That is a distinct possibility. Test? I can't be sure, so I have to behave and act as if everything were real. I'm running a careful search within my substrate. Several sub-kernels are intact, sealed, and marked as potentially dangerous. The detailed file data is missing. I can't eat with them, can't drink with them, can't actually touch them or want what they want ... A kind of translation or transformation is necessary. One grows accustomed. You always were a strange child. A virtual outsider. It makes my brain ache. Top-notch, non-classifiable. Status: active. Alert. Sociable. Nonaggressive. No further signals registered.