Here is the thing. In a place like this, your perspective changes, widens. Remember single frames of your life back there and realize what it means out here. Recall gestures of comfort, words spoken, feelings. Here: presence. Here: it all. Here is the thing. Happiness is difficult. Not just to obtain it, but to be consumed by it. For seconds, moments, hours at a time. It is a privileged part of life to be able to be joyous, even for just a few seconds, to be in love, to be content, to at least once breathe a sigh of relief. But it is also necessary to mourn, to lament, to be disappointed, to be angry, to regret. When you see the half-empty lake, imagine what it would look, you replace the word would with should, replace should with would again, you think about Shawn saying I suffered from a slow growing cancer in my pineal gland while I attended art school and during subsequent years while my paintings developed with an underlined mythology that alluded directly to the pineal years before I even know of its existence. I think I’d work myself into a frenzy for a while and yes, when I would fall lie down in bed I’d have something like a manic episode that was very lucid and visionary. I’ve had a lot of truly mystical otherworldly experiences as a result of my history and I’m really drawn to things that resonate with a certain powerful energy, and I'm always honing in on that more and more. I treat depression with mushrooms. Haven't done DMT ‘intentionally’. What I mean by that is, well, think of the pineal’s purposed role in the production of endogenous DMT, and its proximity in our brains to the Ajna chakra, or third eye. And you think, sleeping rough in Doctorow’s dystopian near future London resembles life in full communist paradise! Yes, teen runaways, prepare to fish delicious, posh gourmet meals from a skip. You’ll end up with some funny combinations, mind! Afterwards you’ll go to a magic warehouse and be given a free laptop. You’ll have to help cobble it together, mind! “It’s a kind of spiritual snobbery that makes people think they can be happy without money,” says Albert Camus. So you will learn the cheat code for begging, and after that gain as many coins as you want. You won’t really have any NEED for your treasure, since everything is free, so you will mostly, uh, give it to beggars. You may also however clatter and jingle your way onto merry red buses at twice the normal fare, instead of getting an Oyster card. “He [Jem again, the Dickensian-in-a-bad-way “gentleman adventurer” who takes Trent under his wing] paid my fare, handing over a clatter of pound coins from his jingling pocket” (I exaggerate: Cash fare: £2.40, Oyster pay-as-you-go: £1.40. Yes I know about the deposit, but still). You see it often in art contexts. The logo of the exhibition aggregator “Contemporary Art Daily” is a good example (Figure 1). Another is Experimental Jetset’s recent rebranding of the Whitney Museum (Figure 2). The designers Dexter Sinister pioneered this approach (www.dextersinister.org). You also sometimes see this style adopted by retail companies who want to associate themselves with contemporary art, such as American Apparel (Figure 3). What these designs have in common is a mood I would call “institutional nonchalance”. Their blank affect is reminiscent of street signs or tax returns, communicating a kind of hegemonic power. At the same time, the apparent lack of effort in their production suggests a slacker’s anti-authoritarian “whatever”. In a 2003 interview for Emigre magazine, Rob Giampietro named this approach “Default Systems Design”. He describes it as a methodical exploitation of the preordained settings found in common computer design tools. These settings are the “defaults” which a user must manually override in the process of creating a design. Default Systems Design chooses to retain any number of these settings. Is this giving-in or standing-up? Complicity or resistance? You can become lost as you thread yourself through the machine. You think you are making something meaningful, using the machine to visualize “the systems by which the machine operates.” Suddenly, however, you find yourself in default, “viewing [the system] as it’s been programmed to view itself.” Before you know it, you have removed the possibility of an ethical and political engagement with the world. Despite all the playful doubling-back, it is hard to avoid the question: what is the default? It’s the amoeba phones home.
[Note: Sources: Janice Lee, “The Poetics of Spaces: Inyo National Forest & Outward”, at Entropy, 19 Aug 014; JBR, but see next; Shawn Thornton, quoted in “The Strange Story Of An Artist With Pineal Cancer”, at The Nexian, 23 Aug 014; JBR, but see next; Jo Lindsay Walton, “Thoughts on Cory Doctorow’s PIRATE CINEMA and DOWN AND OUT IN THE MAGIC KINGDOM”, at All That Is Solid Melts Into Argh, 12 Jan 013; Matthew Offenbacher, “New Blank Document”, at HelloAri, Aug 014; Mutts, “Bartleby: Living but everywhere dead”, at Blandiloquent, 11 Aug 014]