by Jon Rappoport
April 4, 2014
June 9, 2061, Ohio 27-b: the region designated as the seat of all hearings and trials of artists accused of crimes against the State.
No jury, no attorneys.
On this day, His Honorable and Sacred Hayakawa L. Schwartzbaum, Magistrate of Federal Dispensations, on loan from The CIA-Harvard University, sat behind his table. He was an expert in the history of history.
In shackles, an artist was led into the room by three federal policemen wearing the gray high-buttoned uniforms of the Motherland-Fatherland Department of Internal Security and Distribution of Goods and Services for the Benefit of All.
One of the policemen rolled in a large object covered by a shroud.
Judge Schwarzbaum looked down at a file and rapped his gavel on a plaque displaying the universal symbol of a hermaphrodite eagle.
“Order,” he declared.
The prisoner, in a tattered red jumpsuit, stood before him.
“Well,” the Judge said, “looks like another case of free expression. Uncontrolled display of a gobbledegook idea. No license to practice art. No prior approval for a work. No plan submitted to the State. No established source of funding. No preliminary scan by the Council of Art for the Benefit of All. No declaration of philosophic position. Status: renegade. Such status is explicitly listed in DOD Manual 347 as a precursor to terrorist activity. Surveillance data reveals the artist is a smoker, grows his own vegetables, brews teas which have never undergone approval by the FDA. How do you plead?”
The artist nodded.
“Your Honor, I would like to submit one item of evidence. The work itself.”
The Judge said, “Were it not for the Artist Act of 2040, I would deny the request. But since I am bound by law, submission approved.”
The guard who had rolled in the shrouded object uncovered it.
It was a brass sculpture standing six feet tall. It was a series of twisted interlocking shapes.
“Yes,” the Judge said. “Incomprehensible. Who in his right mind could fathom the sense of this?”
“Look a little closer, Your Honor,” the artist said. “If you would.”
The Judge put on a pair of glasses and stared at the object.
“Meaningless,” he said. “That’s the last time I’ll deign to acknowledge it.”
“Meaningless? Then what is the problem? What harm could it cause?” the artist asked.
The Judge smiled.
“We must have meaning,” he said. “Because then we can judge its quality. Otherwise, we lose control of the situation. We must know, and be able to assess, the significance of the work. This piece of nonsense does not rise to that level. All you offer are…curving masses.”
“The piece has meaning for me,” the artist said.
“Perhaps, given your state of mind, that is true. But art is public. It is a social undertaking. It gives something to the community.”
“Your Honor,” the artist replied, “I believe you’re missing an opportunity here. If, as you say, my work is meaningless, consider its effect on the public, were it to be installed in a heavily-trafficked venue. People would be confused and bewildered. Isn’t the induction of such a state of mind a forerunner to mind control?”
The Judge rubbed his chin and stared at the ceiling.
“Are you suggesting,” he said, “that you could go to work for us?”
The artist nodded.
“Yes, sir. I could execute many sculptures of this kind. I want exposure. You want MKULTRA. We’re on the same side, in a strange way.”
“Amusing, possibly interesting,” the Judge said.
“You see,” the artist said, “there are two ways to look at mind control. On the one hand, you attack aggressively, with propaganda, to plant specific messages. But on the other hand, you prepare consciousness by placing it in a state of extreme puzzlement. If you would, sir, look at the work again.”
The Judge frowned and shook his head. But he gazed at the brass sculpture. This time, something else happened.
He saw a twisted tree. It had been burned by a fire during the riots of 2036, but it still stood. It put out a sprinkling of new leaves every spring. One day, when he was a small boy, he was taken to it and he climbed out along the dark branches to the buds, which smelled sweet to him. He sat in the tree and looked at the sky. For the only time in his life, he experienced ecstasy. He felt as if he were rising into the sky and moving among the clouds, like an animal, striding through banks of thick white cumulus to a secret destination, a place beyond—as he thought, much later in life—a place beyond all the rules that defined order and the State. He soared in those clouds. He had no need to explain himself to anyone.
The Judge blinked. He looked at the prisoner.
“How…did you know?” he said.
The prisoner said, “You told me the story of the tree many times. I’m your son.”
The Judge let loose a howl. The room wobbled, hazy and distant.
The policemen rushed forward to him.
They lifted him from his chair.
One of the policemen shouted, “Look!”
There in the center of the room, the prisoner was gone.
The sculpture was gone.
Instead, in a small grove, the bent and burned and twisted tree held new green leaves. Out along one of its dark branches, a leopard was stretched out on his belly, looking at the policemen.
Court was recessed for the day.
The Judge was sedated and flown to the Danny Thomas Center for the Treatment of Mental Disorders Among Government Officials.
Even after three rounds of anti-psychotic sleep drugs, electromagnetic microwave reprogramming, insulin shock therapy, and a partial lobotomy, he kept shouting for his son.
The doctors knew the Judge was still in a grave condition, because there were no records of him having a son.
Many years ago, calling in every marker he possessed, the Judge had seen to it that those records were destroyed.
At the time, he’d said to a colleague, “My offspring an artist? Going out into the world and doing any damn thing he pleases, with no conscience and no sense of propriety? I’d rather destroy myself—or erase his existence. I took the more convenient choice.”
And so he had. Until that day.