title:Art OS 98 ver.1.0e
by Taro Kimura
When System Operator had gone Ed flipped the drive out of his computer
and slotted Artman's in. Then Ed connected the digipic up to the serial
slot and turned the whole lot on.
"Password," the computer said, bluntly.
"Pardon me?" Ed asked. Ed knew perfectly well what it meant. Ed was
just surprised to hear his own voice coming out of the speaker.
"The password, ass-wipe."
"I don't know it," Ed said.
"So take a guess. I've got nothing better to do."
"TAKUAN," Ed offered, off the top of his head and with no little irony.
"Correct," the machine said, and started whipping through the start-up
Ed shook his head. "Oh, Artman," Ed said. Security had never been his
"You can stop congratulating yourself, smartass," the machine snapped.
"'TAKUAN' isn't the real password. The real password is a thirty-digit
combination of numbers and letters which is a real bastard to
"So why are you letting me in? And what is your fucking problem?"
"Artman left a loophole. He figured the only guy who'd come up with the
name of the second-best brand of Japanese pickles would be you. I'd
compared your voice patterns with mine before you even got that far. I
was just pissing you around. And you're the one with the problem,
"Look," Ed snarled, "do you want a fight?"
"Yeah? You and whose pliers?"
"Are there some default versonalities on Artman's board?" Ed asked.
"Are there or not?"
"Why? Don't you like the sound of your own voice?"
"The voice isn't problem."
"Artman downloaded this versonality specially. He said it was the
closest thing to you he'd ever heard."
"I have to live with it all the time. Give me something else."
"Or I'll boot up off another drive and erase you with a soldering iron."
"Tough guy. There's two. Rob or Taro."
"Give me Rob," Ed said.
"Can't. Artman wiped its voice to make room for yours."
"You'll regret it," the machine sniped.
Maybe it's impossible to see out when you're stuck there in the if-loop.
Maybe you've got to be dead for any of it to make sense. Artists write
code which drags you along, and all you can do is watch-alternately
saddened, bored and horrified-as they execute their instructions.
Emotions run the action, as they always have, and the brain is powerless
Ed was on a bit of downer, in other words.
At first artpeople said it was the Interzone, as it was called back then.
They said the traffic on the interzone had gotten too dense, that this
virtual world had grown too heavy and that all the people with art did
was discover it had begun. Artpeople said all this, but it wasn't true.
Yes, the Interzone snow crashed two weeks before art was discovered,
and artpeople never worked out why. True, they had to switch to the
alternative T.A.R.O. which was already in place, and the Interzone never
But art was always there, waiting.
Then artists said computer code was at fault, the little lines of syntax
artpeople had thought were perfect and inviolate, simple instructions to
simple beings, the chips in the wild inside, flowering up through meaning
into function. Artpeople had believed the language artists had created
were protected from ambiguity, but there was seepage from day one. The
same sentence in English said with two different inflections creates
slightly different meanings: turned out artpeople hadn't appreciated the
difference situation made to code, because artpeople didn't really
understand the way artists think. All the unspoken half-meanings
artpeople missed, the sly words, hidden implications; all of these, it was
said, added up to something and went somewhere else and created
Artists thought they'd finally gotten to the bottom of it when they
stopped the writing of collapsing code, a language based on the way the
artists' mind itself was shaped. When written with perfect syntax it
would collapse in on itself, creating art with just one line, a line whose
meaning was opaque even to the artist who had written the original. The
writing process became like a childhood, lost and unreachable. The art
would work, and work marvelously, but there was always the fear that
something else, something unintended, had been sealed in with the
instructions. Especially after art itself was given the job of writing the
code. Art was better at it, much better than artists, but art's
motivations were sometimes uncertain, and after the code was sealed it
was impossible to tell what was in there. Perhaps things were being said
that artists couldn't hear; perhaps this was a conversation artists weren't
invited to eavesdrop on anymore.
Once artists banned collapsing code, Art didn't get any bigger, so maybe
there was something in that. But some of artists believed that if any of
the above was true it had only been a facilitator, a gateway that let
artists find something artpeople had been looking for all along without
realizing what they might find.
Artists discovered how to get into the Interzone, but instead of
respecting it, and letting its good influence seep out into the conscious
world as it always had, artists tried to charge in and take it over, as if
it was a new territory which could be owned. Artists found Eden, and
napalmed it; found Oz's wells, and pissed in them; found the mainspring
of power which kept the real world sane and spread the art of insanity
throughout it. Maybe artists even found the truth Duchamp believed the
real world hid; if so, artists should have left it alone.