The last man staring at the screen, blinking slowly. This is metaverse. I got money. I can buy me a new head.

My avatar is from 14 years ago and very outdated. I need a new head, new body, new skin, new hair, new clothes. New pretty much everything.

Of course I know no one. But I make a habit of hanging at a cafe terrace, and chatting with people and other beings.

I make friends with Liz and have a date with a woman. When I tell her that I’m not straight, she answers that she can change into male avatar. Well what can you say to that.

Matt has been dating first a woman, then a man, then a furry and now a cyber demon who is ‘surprisingly stable’. Ned tells stories of having sex with dinosaurs. Queer ecologies abound. 

I rent a beach house. The waves never stop. At night I’m in bed with Nietzsche. I tickle his thigh and ask him to talk dirty to me, talk to me about Übermensch.

 

***

 

The ethos of Ryokan is very attractive:

Too lazy to be ambitious,

I let the world take care of itself.

Ten days’ worth of rice in my bag;

A bundle of twigs by the fireplace.

Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment?

Listening to the night rain on my roof,

I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out.

Accordingly, I have maybe 3 kgs of rice: 1kg white rice (my favorite) and 2kgs of dark (the healthy option), but no twigs around (got central heating + gas stove).

I don’t want to get back to the rat race: been there, done that. That is easily accomplished. When you are an unknown UG artist there is no fear of being overworked. Unless you try too hard. 

Sometimes even innocent actions create chaos and it’s better just not do anything. Better to wait until a more utilizable head space has taken over. Like individuality but with strength.

In the entrepreneurship course one of the first learnings is this line: ‘Don’t bother making anything until you discover and understand who’s going to buy.’. Hard to imagine anything more contradicting the ways of art (which sounds very posh, but is actually very practical). 

I don’t think I’m gonna do a startup anymore. Was there in the beginning of the 2000’s and had my own 10 years later. Not gonna do it for the third time. I drop out of the course.

I read an article about queer death theory. In a strange way it circulates around the topic (like a vulture?) never touching it directly. Maybe you can’t look at the topic, like at orgasm we become temporarily blind so as not to see the face of Eros.

Then there’s this ‘foundational’ article about queer ecology, and then another one not so foundational. And they don’t give me what I would need, they don’t fertilize my thinking — and I don’t know why. Like I’m lacking the very essence of my doing, or finding it in all the wrong places.

In a Heidegger lecture the old question ‘can a nasty person do good philosophy’ was posed. The answer is a qualified yes. Nietzsche is not so much fun to be around either, and what about Foucault — dunno. Timothy Morton seems like a nice guy, he’s so sensitive, and depressed. Reacting to the catastrophe. Understandable.

What is truly happening? This is the question I find myself returning to repeatedly. It’s a very deep and thorny one. 

At least one thing that’s happening is that I did a proper autumn cleaning of the apartment. Going to spend a lot of time here this winter, better have nice surroundings. Felt some strange sense of accomplishment, like being a normal person. 

I’m visiting the store in the daylight, to see some sun outside. It’s been 4 days since I took a shower. This is a covid strategy: bad body odor keeps people away at the store, which is exactly how I want it to be.

 

***

 

What if I started coding again? Would fuse together coding and art making, tech and art? Find the common ground, or unifying principle, dialectical synthesis.

I could do something in Amazon’s cloud servers, I’m thinking of a recursive function roaming the data centers around the world, raking up a massive bill for me to pay. Not this.

Or then I could spawn the metaverse into a virtual server in Amsterdam, and populate it with a cozy cabin suitable for a Beethoven letters reading group. Neeh.

Suddenly on the online curating course I get the idea: this could be done on a game engine. Whoa. Nothing like real-time 3D to spice up your online exhibition. But it’s too heavy an approach. So much work for so little. Games are developed in multitalent teams, very large ones even. A solitary coder can only accomplish so much.

And there is a big obstacle to coding as art.

My fine art category defining moment was the 5 times I visited the ARS83 exhibition as a youngster. As a result I feel like my concept of proper (high brow) fine art is anchored somewhere between Richard Serra, Joseph Kosuth and Francesco Clemente. A little outdated. 

Today I also value Ryan Trecartin’s videos and a lot of the grass-roots UG stuff, uncategorized, where I feel I belong, that art that does not look like art because it’s so on the edge. 

There is a lot of stuff out there (on the net, off the net) that isn’t art. It may pose as art, but still ain’t. There is that small something to proper fine art that separates it from nonsense, a very much indefinable quality, if it is a quality even. I tentatively call it magic.

I think artists are magicians. That separates it from craft, and from a number of other cultures. 

There is magic to Serra, and there is magic to Trecartin.

And here is the problem: is there magic to coding on a game engine?

I would like to imbue coding with magic. That’s the only motivator for me to start developing on a game engine.

Some developers say coding is their art. But I doubt there is magic. I doubt this because I was a professional coder and know what it entails. There is no magic.

Sometimes I think the magic is in the analogue, and thus out of reach of digital, but certainly there can’t be that coarse a differentiator.

 

***

 

The old rules no longer apply. I look at an exhibition made using the Unreal game engine, which is a suitable name for late 2020 and forward. Doom-like levels with electric artworks — if this would be a VR system it would be a killer.

It is a shock to even contemplate on coding, again, after tens of years. Painting would be such a safe, legitimate option. Or video, even.

I start re-reading Paul Chan’s ‘What Art Is and Where It Belongs’ in e-flux. Chan writes: 

‘Art is made of things: paints, paper, video projectors, steel, and so on. The things used in making art ground it in a material reality, without which art would simply be an unrealized wish.’

and continues noting that even immaterial art requires material ‘to realize itself’. I would challenge this, as I can readily see how ‘code art’ could exist without being realized in any way other than a symbolic representation.

Chan really takes on the task of defining art, touching upon Hegel and Adorno, and the societal aspects of art in the process. Like so many before him, with their understanding of the thoughts canon, their idiosyncrasies, their subconscious twists of associations. The task is no more completed than it was 2000 years ago.

As a modernist you can believe in the progress of the human project, as a postmodernist in the strata of thoughts, as a contemporist in the strategies and tactics of art. I draft aspects of strategy for the upcoming work:

Exploring queer ecologies: as Keanu Reeves said, we are not struggling with depression, we are struggling with the world we live in. This is struggle.

Deleuzian play with concepts, not only work of philosophy! but also of art.

Queerhack bioinformatics: loaning-stealing from transhackfeminism as a method/modality/multiplicity of approaches.

Xenobiological alliances: what the hell am I doing in metaverse?

Performative bio-coding: most gallery-worthy activity. Cheesy play with bits and bacteria in/out of the lab, say.

From Ryokan’s laissez-faire satori we end up with a conceptual hot mess, density approaching the threshold of fusion. Maybe the dialectics is solvable with a purely conceptual revolution.

Well that’s been tried and failed. We don’t have time for revolution anymore. There will be new cultures but they won’t be willing to ‘learn from us’ as all we did was that we destroyed life.

 

***

 

Back in metaverse. I don an anubis mask and a druidic staff for halloween, with tiny leather shorts and massive boots. Looks very hot, ‘BDSM meets Indiana Jones’ comments Mark, and that’s spot on. 

Late November it’s my one-year respawn day. I celebrate in a tank top with blood splatters. Got new tats as well. Feels authentic. I buy cider and spend the evening at the terrace with Erik, just chatting.

Queer ecologies in a virtual world. I try to open discussion about queer death theory with Liz but she dismisses it as ‘gaff’. This audience is not the most welcoming to the latest in critical theory.

It’s going to be a long winter.

Wish the vaccine was here already.

Wait a sec. Didn’t Elizabeth Wurtzel die earlier this year? I check and yes, she died in January from breast cancer. She was the same age as me. Her friend has written a beautiful eulogy for The New Yorker.

My copy of Prozac Nation has been lost in the numerous purges of the bookshelf, and so I borrow the book from the Internet Archive. Very convenient, and two week loan period. Reason #458378 to love the internet.

Wurtzel opens her book with: Prologue: I Hate Myself and I Want to Die. Very promising. I haven’t read this since it was released in the mid-90s. Maybe this could be my Christmas holiday reading? 

I’ve not been on Prozac but I did do Effexor (it’s like Prozac on steroids). The effects of the med were immediate and obvious: I couldn’t sleep more than 5 hours a night, and was tweaking and tense and anxious in the daytime. I simply couldn’t handle that med.

When I quitted Effexor the withdrawal was horrible even tho I’d used it only for a week: disturbing and obscene nightmares and something that felt like small electric shocks through my spine. These lasted some days.

So I didn’t care for SSRI/SNRI meds. But for Wurtzel Prozac was a life-saving novel invention that brought her back to life from the depths of clinical depression. 

Rereading Prozac Nation might be a cool trip back in time. Maybe I’ll be invigorated by the 90s energy and pathos. Maybe I’ll remember something that’s been lost during the 25 years. 

Maybe I’ll understand something. 

 

***

 

Bibliography

Chan, Paul. “What Art Is and Where It Belongs.” e-flux, 2009, https://www.e-flux.com/journal/10/61356/what-art-is-and-where-it-belongs/. Accessed 27 11 2020.

Cielemęcka, Olga, and Marianna Szczygielska. “Thinking the feminist vegetal turn in the shadow of Douglas-firs: An interview with Catriona Sandilands.” Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, vol. 5, no. 2, 2019, pp. 1-19.

Morton, Timothy. “Guest Column: Queer Ecology.” PMLA, vol. 125, no. 2, 2010, pp. 273-282.

Radomska, Marietta, and Cecilia Åsberg. “Doing Away with Life – On Biophilosophy, the Non/ Living, Toxic Embodiment, and Reimagining Ethics.” Life as We Don’t Know It, Aalto ARTS Books, 2020, pp. 54-63.

Wurtzel, Elizabeth. Prozac Nation : young and depressed in America. Riverhead Books, 1995. Internet Archive, https://archive.org/prozacnationyoun00wurt/.