Amerika Online


Mark Amerika

Originally published in the Penguin UK/USA Time Out Book of New York Stories

The day that I was to be slaughtered was a very busy day. First I had to go meet my agent who wasn't really my agent anymore but, rather, my gallery director. Well, not exactly my gallery director either. You see, we had decided that it would be better for me to completely forget about my publishing life and to take a leave of absence from my multi-media installation life and to just do the same thing my Modernist predecessors had done, that is, "create an art that imitated life that had actually imitated art, in admittedly unexpected ways." Or so that's how I had described it in the dissociative prose-rant I distributed via my Internet column which wasn't really an Internet column anymore but a kind of performance art spectacle since it now incorporated what my personal critic called a "hyperrhetorical display of animated typography" which, if you stop to think about it, is exactly what all my work has been about. Although who's to say what a work is "about," I mean, the important question to ask nowadays is "what is the artist trying to do?" Everybody knows that.

When I tried to explain this to my painter friend who kept telling me that "every 'system' is a seduction with all of the consequences of a seduction," I improvisationally stole some of his ideas which weren't really his ideas at all but something Robert Motherwell said in his Big Dada Book all those years ago, that is, I suggested that every God-like feature invented by Microsoft and built into their latest version of Word was an opportunity for artists to become independently wealthy and that what we needed was to create an expressive set of virtual forms that could relate to the various tribes of consumerism that, in toto, composed the mass market, and that playing to the interiorized logic of this mass market's desire to experience the consummate orgasm would be a phenomenon of public morality not seen since the days of Joe Dimaggio.

Actually, my painter friend isn't a painter at all, rather, he's a poet, or not a poet since he really hates poetry and says he would rather be a garbage man or a web-designer than a starving poet with nothing new to say, but a kind of network programmer who uses verbal constructions to conjure up a spirit of superiority that certain people in his rolidex are willing to pay big cash dollars for. Well, not really cash dollars. Digicash. A kind of simulation-crude that, when applied to the anal vortex, enables the butthole surfer to imagine what it's like to take part in a large-scale swindle. This, and the occasional foreign translation, not to mention participation in digital arts festivals and traveling exhibitions, has proven to be the key to his survival.

But this is all beside the point because I was stuck inside my apartment in Battery Park City and it was Sunday and all of the rich international financiers who usually troll through the neighborhood due to their occupation of the various World Trade and Financial Centers were nowhere to be found and as I looked down from the advantageous perspective of my bedroom on the 36th floor I saw schools of yellow cabs transport whosoever wished to be brought into the heart of capitalism's immortal lock on the human race whose winning gift-horse, a filly called Information-Currency, was rounding the millennial bend with its intellectual cousin, The New York Times,, who, it ends up, was now going to slaughter me in the most normal of ways.

You see, my girlfriend, who's not really my girlfriend but my common-law wife, had already received three emails from various friends of ours in the literary network that my new book was going to be reviewed in the Times Book Review and that it would be devastating and that it would effectively kill my career. None of them wanted to tell me directly because they knew that she'd have a way of preparing me for it that I myself could never come up with. And I must say, I found this honest distantiation of our friends to be perfectly legitimate.

Nonetheless, as I told my girlfriend/wife before she could even begin rolfing my ego, I had willed the end of my career myself, having started the process three years ago by refusing to publish anything in print again. I was adamant. "The literary print world is totally useless," I remember telling my editor, who was really not an editor but a marketing representative for a tobacco company that happened to be in the book business, "and," I continued, "I'm quite content seeing it die its much-ballyhooed death." But then my agent, if you could call this person who represented me an agent, sold the rights to what was at that time my collected Net columns and everyone thought that this acquisition was a total waste of time and money, which it was, yet the market can be funny sometimes, and now they were going to be my friend, yes, my good-cop bad-cop publicity buddy, in that they weren't going to ignore me anymore, which is really worse than death itself, no, they weren't going to turn their heads away from me anymore, they were just going to slaughter me and my anti-literary digerati arrogance in the most public way possible and, my girlfriend/wife kept reminding me, that's what friends are for.

My publishing friends had reason to slaughter me. First of all, I had already slaughtered them. My imported butcher knives cut through all of their pretensions and displayed their cronyistic innards in ways that I didn't even realize I had in me. The whole pathological deformation that passed itself off as The Publishing Industry was laid bare inside my operating system so that the sloppy mishmash of bleeding organs and twisted tubes leaking silvery rivulets of fatty acids and venereal diseases ate through my computer screen in an attempt to become me, but, alas, my utility programs were powerful enough to not only disinfect my desktop of the gargantuan grotesquerie it had rapidly morphed into, but even managed to clear my work-space of the corpse-like stench that filled my hairy nostrils. It was as if an undifferentiated Digital God of Endless Being had approximated my need to tear off the grubby hands that were feeding me -- and by bypassing their deadwood paper-mill distribution system of eco-death and black desire, I could go out of my way to bury those cold, manicured manos in their own blood and bones and the contaminated dirt that filled their pockets.

As my friend the film theorist recently told me, although he's really not a film theorist but, rather, an underground comix artist whose periodical forays into avant-garde ventriloquy stubbornly resist psychological and linguistic categorization, "our bodies still retain the marks of the old bacterial freedoms, even when our institutions work busily to suppress them."

Knowing this doesn't make things any better. Rather, knowing that you'll be butchered in ten minutes gives you a funny kind of feeling (the altruism of a girlfriend/wife's love) -- until then, you never in your life know what it's like to play the leading role in a social play whose theme is animal sacrifice. It's like you have to totally grow up and learn to live beyond that sacrifice and even use the painful knowledge you associate with that sacrifice to build up the kind of inner-strength and self-confidence one needs if they plan on using their own aesthetic positioning and network-armory to slaughter others with. This is what "being social" in a competitive environment is all about. And this isn't even really being social anymore although it feels better than, say, taking smart-drugs while watching smart-bombs do dumb things on TV. It's much more REAL. Visceral. A kind of self-inflicted public execution where one is caught ripping out their organs and putting them on display as a kind of creative exhibitionism (my girlfriend/wife doesn't really like this). I'm not sure I'm making much sense here but that's not the point.

Let me start over. The day that I was to be slaughtered was a very busy day. True, it was a Sunday, and in New York, nothing really happens on Sunday, but it was a very busy Sunday for me because I had 15 deadlines to reach as a result of taking on too many freelance writing gigs which was a result of me being broke or so I perceived myself as being broke. All of my friends say that I'm not doing that bad but that's because all of my friends are artists or musicians or writers who live in New York and the first thing you learn when you move to New York is that if you're serious about being an artist or writer or musician you kind of have to tell white-lies to all of your friends about how great things are going so that they'll think you're really up to something important and will want to spend more time with you which, if everything works out okay, will lead to more gigs which, when put through the multiplier effect, exponentially increases the amount of work you get, work you then can't say no to because you never ever want to be poor and have to ask someone who once offered you work and who you refused, that you'd now like to have work again. So that two weeks ago I had no gigs but then I got one gig, then three more gigs, then seven more and now I have 24 gigs. 24 gigs and 15 deadlines. And meanwhile I'm going to be slaughtered and all of my friends tell me I'm doing great and my girlfriend/wife keeps telling me that it's important that they supply me with these necessary white lies, lies that insist that, first of all, the reviewer is stupid, that he doesn't know what he's talking about and that he has it out for me, and that The Times is the worst piece of crap ever published and that it keeps getting worst, just look at what they review.

"Yeah," I'll say, "they're reviewing me."

"No," they'll come back at me, "they're not reviewing you -- they're slaughtering you."