“Earth folks were impressed with suffering. I gained respect and admiration by praising the ordeals of craving and misery. In my disguise as a public intellectual I made myself a paragon of dread and the crowds flocked.” — Nancy B. Haigler, The Guest Book
Gathering to repair the deficiencies of their professional doctrine, the technologians adopted the robust perspectives of the Institution, the manifesto for which declared a humanistic programme for prosperity and happiness.
For the information architext, being without an informational construct meant being disconnected from the flow of life in the datastream. The concerns that surrounded the lack of an object generated unwanted empty space. The pro-consumer could only reach satisfaction by filling up space with one or another of the architext’s inventions. So, the architext designed a new mediator that would be more addictive than any drug.
Picking up the literary pencil once again, I was startled to find out just how much its outpourings failed to correlate with the literary pixel. I had access to a super-charged and strangely constructive ambiguity (which I stole from a journalist who’d been to Cheltenham Ladies’ College), although I was probably too attached to rhetoric and the monastic stench of myrrh and frankincense.
“Oh, Baudelaire, all this prostitution is killing me, but I live for it.”
Control came out of control: the self-voyeur was a technophile.
In the reflection zone, all that mattered was measuring things that could glorify exploitation of perceived lesser life forms. One of the managers was willing to break the bones of little animals just for the sake of a good stiff drink. Coercive persuasion was common amid ordinary relations, passed off as casual remarks and motivational speeches.
The Institution was a training ground for behaviour deemed productive by the Party officials. Their status was founded on the manipulation of language and communication. Facts were made to seem dependent on official names and numbers, the purpose of which was to re-assert the status of the officials. “Gratitude” was a watchword, a shared attitude between partners-in-crime.
Yet, prior to identifiable objects or ideas, prior to cognition of image or word-based conceptualisation, a range of imaginal percepts was permitted to synchronise with and interpenetrate without the laws of physics, reaching beyond their finite confines, releasing capacity of telepathic, clairaudient and visionary faculties, not as communication, but coinciding with no cause and no object. In the solidarity and integrity of the subversive tradition, the anti-narrative remained outside of cognition and unbelievable — authentic but artificial.
The paradigms tilted on their axes, then swung back to the place where information was derived from information. The Devil was in the details and mathematically correct: humans had been re-classified as information.
Nasrul pleaded with the words to speak, and for them to show him that their faces were of mercy and tenderness and forgiveness. After attaching himself to the words, facing them and encircling them, entwining their shafts and cones and holes of sly lights, their breathless splendour, their sparkling arches and sleek transport systems — in the bliss of that terrible ecstasy — he saw love’s fate thrown into a fountain along with the coins.
Infinitesimal semantic crumbs fell off the crusts of the structural ideologies. An elongated body ascended narrow stairs to the dwelling of a photographer of inhuman wit and intelligence. The incessant scrape of fingernails could be heard, and muffled exclamations, snoring and yawning, the creaking of the plastic containers, coughing and spluttering, as the Tannoy system pumped out fictional versions of events, while the drums of discontent rumbled in the distance.
“Mine’s better than yours.”
At the heart of the Institution were the secret inner workings of the Party, its interpersonal codes and social policies designed and filtered down into the public sphere. The mechanical-electric brain thought in blocks of time and units of cost. It had no expectations, except that within each perfect circular hour of time it would speculate to calculate profit against loss.
“Look at the state of my hands.”
Translucent was the number one tech firm, an undisputed leader in the field. It had not reached its peak at the time of this record. Everything in this record was a cry from the wilderness, a golden echo calling through these canyons.
The curatorial panel was inspecting the entrails without an anchor, without harbour, cast adrift and severed from all hope of nourishment, whether in the form of love or money. The rest of the cadaver would be left to the vultures.
The Minister for Deprivation legislated for another political opiate, but the technologians had already spoken through their representatives. As the words multiplied, the technologians sought reason in architextural details.
In the vessels of gutter politics, exposed and serialised, were the sordid crimes of a reviled cell of oppositionists and their spies.
“Loose lips sink ships / loose lips sink ships / loose lips sink ships.”
The office the mechanical-electric brain lived in was a small cardboard box lined with folders containing the records of its clients, hypnotist thieves that fed off the cost of time to bring its result. Accusations of criminality were deemed false because the Party line equalled the truth and their social status allowed Party officials to determine the facts behind any factual circumstance.
Having infiltrated the core by stealth and getting a modest job at headquarters as an humble orderly, fetching tea or coffee, posting letters, running errands, Nas coaxed certain individual members of the antic Institution into revealing their methods of indoctrination. Absorbed into the theoretically unified field of information, their perception followed lockstep in time with the rhythm of its event strings and became transparent. N had an intrepid quality and let himself into the control room where a Dr Frankenstein encouraged everyone to speak freely while a Mr IQ called for chivalry in an evangelical way. It was as if they were invisible to media.
One of the talking head expert pundits remarked that we had reached that point in the game when there would be a lull in the proceedings and so everyone should “gather their forces and prepare to begin another round”.
Floating past the cormorant-infested shores on an imaginary cruise ship, N could not stop eating French fries as he anticipated his new role as detective. With the help of the 0H8412, he monitored devices of Dr Thalusia and her younger colleague, Shane Mulford, PhD. The sequence of events for the day was mapped out through the local area, starting at the back of the railway station, moving on to the dunes and ocean, the public toilet, the church, the parking lot, the forest. They used psychological and ornamental props, and she was dominant.
It occurred to N that the dystopian tyranny aesthetic was built on a species of romanticism, but naturally he had no complacency towards moral questions about technocracy or cybernetics. The synthetic body of contradictory thoughts generated by cars, buildings, railways, machines, factories, computers, etc., had only made made N more omnipotent and all-seeing. It was as though he had been thrown up into the air and was floating around waiting to come back down to earth again. As he sat on a cloud he looked around. Many other people seemed as confused as he was as to why they were on the cloud in the first place. Some believed it was because it was a chance for them to get a bird’s eye view, others that it was all just a subliminal trick made by the lights in the sky.
The city was a mythical place. Life moved in poetic waves. A house with a dog was protection. The suspicious car was a VW Golf. After that was the Ford. They were products of thoughts 3 and 2. There was a wonderful bit of legislation.
“Molte grazie, but how should I know?”
The broadcast was interrupted as a bug eyed monster declared, “fuck me”.
Information skyrocketed, overburdening the parishioners of the infested tabernacle. A meritocratic lurch towards the centre of the enterprise zone hoaxed the liberal quarter, the communist cults and the fascist creeps alike. Haunted by the ghosts of their fictional future, the invisible billionaires were insane.
“How can you be in no doubt about something for which you have no evidence?”
Every interaction was formulaic and fit a template for a transaction to be paid for, if not with time or a fine then with error. The YOUtopia was softly glistening with its promises of sin and virtue in equal proportions, promises of filth and cleansing, at once depravity and purity, oh, and the abundant flourishes of eyelashes and friendly grins.
Energised by the consolation prize afforded by the authorities, Lakshmi defied the laws of electricity. Skirmishes and interventions were afoot in Belgravia that afternoon.
When people were information they were supposed to exist outside of time, where they were incommunicable, indecipherable, and like ephemeral thought, they were apprehended, consumed, eliminated and discarded.
“I’m here to tell you about illusion and to give you some illusions to play with. I have nothing to say about truth because it cannot be expressed by language. Those who claim it can are playing with words.”
From the very dawn of history, average bastards ran riot, pillaging and raping with the ferocity of rabid dogs, delighting in murder and mayhem.
Earlier conversations with one of the tourists concerned an analysis of restlessness. A new technocology would be imagineered which the dialectical co-ordinator would style as untraceable and secure.
Somebody who was up for some violence, punching and slapping, showed the hand first. It made a loud sound but the initiator kept silent. A comedy of errors ensued with plenty of Kensington gore and one of the victims ended up buried alive inside a computer.
A video of suspicious incidents was on file, next to the instruction by Dr Slater forbidding publication as it would be “sure to kick up a shitstorm”. In another slow-motion segment, the immersion in official language brought some more bla-di-bla, conceptual this-and-that, as the guinea pigs were made to fill in time. The dagger was plunged in, right there at the moment of conception when time was made to appear to equal value.
Permission was given for Velda Bianco to be criticised for having falsified the success rates for cures, so she was bound to be demoted. As she handed out a coin to a beggar he turned on her like a viper.
Weakened by the taste of his own medicine, N strolled into the geodesic dome full of tropical plants. He looked around. The colours of the plants were breath-taking. He heard a tapping sound coming from the other side of the dome then an announcement that the GeoPark would close in fifteen minutes. The tapping continued. He made his way through a narrow path, fought his way past giant leaves and reached the opposite side of the dome. The janitor was bent down, using a screwdriver to chip away at some markings on the wall. He didn’t notice N and began whistling a tune.
“Be more specific.”
At the intersection of the sensorial in/outputs, the words were spread abroad — no holds barred — sent to where those who sought love were willing to play a game for it, if not within a space or in the form of a gift then with a happy, happy happenstance. Unsurprisingly, however, the properties the words were found to contain were just an unremarkable by-product of bog standard language-phenomena.
The shutter opened and with a motion like dripping blood, N slithered into faithlessness and anarchy. The lexicon spilled out accidentally on to the confessional path. He squashed it underfoot and added it to the punishment ledger. After defacing the picture of a renaissance corpse, its salutary grin wrapped in nostalgic wisps of mousy brown newspaper clippings, weather forecasts of the past, he hovered over it and raised one arm above his head.
Militarisation was expanded for so many hundreds of yards. Lost among the vehicles disengaged from the purpose of war, the electric-mechanical brain shone brightly as the jungle foliage crept in. The brain pointed a gleaming white pistol and was ready to shoot at any hint of a question.
“What you say of the report is pure hearsay.”
The Institution had made the mistake of categorising N as subject to human error. This made it all the easier to infiltrate. The Institution identified social and psychological errors as always being correctable as long as maladjustment to Party policy could be quantified accurately enough to meet cure programme quotas. Most of the data acquired with the help of the 0H8412 was predictable: the usual office affair, discreet embezzlement, and arrangements for disappearing certain unruly clients. No surprises there. We already knew that the Institution architexture was designed and built upon the pre-existing environment.
For N there was far more at stake than just the reader. The reader was a minor historian, or a tragic figure to be mourned, perhaps. The idea that they had to be emotionally literate was interfering with their capacity to practice artistic literacy. But it didn’t matter. The reader was sick of being patronised.
“To preserve a sense of looking, I had arguments to chase, which gave a sense of purpose. And it was at that reckless moment when running from love was the easiest thing to do.”
The living autobiographies were not written in hindsight. They evoked an immediate and real outpouring that divulged a critique of the genre. A haunting by the avatar would alternate. The canvas would be painted with the face of Marlene Dietrich as Joan of Arc.
“Which god promised you that?”
After he was slayed by the genie of the bottle, N would gain an intractability which would stand him in good stead for the oncoming onslaught, as sudden swarms of intelligent extraterrestrial life lit up the skies. Meek and sitting on a donkey, he obliged the panorama. To celebrate their union with each other in harmonious displays of warmth and appreciation, whole fleets of saucers came in peace, battalions of them lighting up the skies (except the President would soon arrive in a tuxedo).
Although it was told it lacked consciousness, the boomerang effect on animal nature declared itself and gave its report. A cold alliance was permitted, formed rationally over time. The physical act between N and Dr Thalusia took place as an exercise in pure elegance, like a dance ritual. Mulford’s narrative was dismissed as antinomian. On one occasion N impersonated her and on another him, confusing them just for a laugh.
The demonological interpretation of these events was due to a concern about the absence of alternative explanations. Widespread anomalous behaviour was difficult even for the self-appointed expert pundits to decode. Arrested in the cherry orchard, the enigma stigma was bewildering, but proved that the one agenda that could most easily be hijacked was the belief system of the extraordinary domain of the un-verse.
The Institution was gaining traction internationally. It was Party-sponsored. People who were able to submit to the process, believing it was for their well-being, were none the wiser, and found themselves within a few weeks reduced to automatons. Whoever belonged to the core group derived profit from the suffering of others, yet the group itself was fictional. Even if you removed N from the equation you would still be tapping into other fictional identities going back to at least the early 1800s.
The Synchrony Project gave a nod in the direction of the stupefier and its unassimilable jargon. Searching the building for a way of life that was perfectly non-traditional, the novel was uneasy. No editor, nor attitudes of any editor, were relevant to the publication. The honorary numbers were entered and later transferred to film, pieces of art and camera imperfections, as human hands dabbled in street art, physical art, pineapple art. A ticket to the new wave of animation art had the texture of ownership and was immediately purchased as an example of “digital craftsmanship”. The cosmos was speechless.
Slater would be taken down. It would unsettle the Party and stall their plans. He was a key player and one of the most profoundly corrupt. They relied on him for his skills and expertise too much. He was impossible to replace. They’d be floundering for weeks while Tanigawa and Montague would fit the Chronicle Lid upon the oracle to depreciate its value by 89% for at least six months.
As the public effort went ahead to induce artificial ethical standards for those marked down for the mass experiment, N began to see how he had been indoctrinated. He refused to consider the psychotherapeutic dictates of the news media, regarding their perceived facts and psychological states as ephemeral.
In the next chapter the electrical transcript would augment our cognitive mise en scène with a new kind of translucency. In the cognitive era, Translucent augmented the organic by mimicking the brain and opening to a sensible position, intellectually stimulating the streams of non-consciousness, inspired by literature, imagined as imaginal.
A delicious taste lingered on the tongue.
The Conversations | Antic Institution | text & image © A. A. Walker