Carlos Orsi Martinho
1. The Experiment
I think I read somewhere that flies can stay alive for one week, only. I mean, if a fly survives everything else frog's tongues, poison spray, direct hits, heavy rain even in such a case, it'll die of old age within one week from birth. I don't know if what I read is true. I don't even know if I understood it correctly (was it one week from birth or from adulthood? From the coming of the wings?). But
Well, I have my experiment running. I've drawn organic lines ("tracks", I call them) on the walls of this room. "Organic"? What do I mean? This is it: I use mainly honey, feces (my own; only feces, not urine. It's important, you know? No urine.) and blood (mine, also). I make the blood by biting into my fingers. Not the fleshy pulps, mind you, but just over that particular spot, right where the nail enters under the skin. There's a dark line there, and it bleeds wonderfully. One finger, the palette, the other, the brush. Just perfect.
So, I get honey and feces and blood and I draw tracks on the walls. All over them. And the flies come in by the crack on the ceiling and start walking. Yes, walking! On he tracks. On the walls. They walk. They eat. They copulate, they lay eggs, and they are born.
On the tracks. On the walls.
I watch them. I study them. Sometimes I kill one or two of them, sometimes I really decimate them, by tongue, by venom or by razorblade, but the others, the surviving ones, they just don't mind it. They really don't know what I do. They don't even mind, I mean, don't even notice, me. They don't know I'm here. I call them, I feed them, I kill them by ones or by the hundreds, and they still don't know I exist.
I, who sometimes think I am Belzebub, Baal-Zabub, Earl of Hell, Lord of the Flies. But the flies don't know if Hell exists. Do they conjecture about it? It is hard to say.
I study them, the ones I kill individually, rather closely. While I'm killing them, I mean. Do they know they are dying, or even how they are dying? Do they know they are being cut, poisoned, eaten? Does it make any difference to them?
Their eyes are dark and dull and don't blink. So, I cannot tell. But I keep on watching. There are times when one of the flies leaves the tracks and comes to me. It lays on my eyes and drinks some salt water. Then, if I allow it, the fly returns to the walls. Sometimes I let it go. Sometimes, I kill it. No pattern, no reason. Just a whim.
Do the ones who drink my tears learn something? Get a better understanding of things? Some kind of mystical experience?
Who can tell?
I am Baal-Zabub, the Great, the very Great Old One, and I'm sure they cannot understand what I am. Not even to fully realize that I'm here.
And, do you want to know a funny thing? I still don't know if they can live only one week. They are all so alike! This one, this one which did fall from the tracks today: did it come from the eggs seven days ago? Fourteen? Twenty-one?
The tracks are so crowded, the ranks are so close, I cannot tell.
2. The Artist
These tracks on the walls are my greatest work, my masterpiece, my opera-prima, my opus magna. It's a pity that nobody else is going to see it, but all the real works of art are like this: they are made to enlighten, to subdue the artist himself, not the filthy crowds. If the creator obtains a better understanding, a deeper vision of himself while creating his opus, this is art, this is an artist. Everything else is mediocre; is showbiz.
In the beginning, I didn't know it. Of course. I created art for the sake of others, for the money of others.
Maybe you heard of my early work. People called me (really, I called myself) a Pictorganic Creator. What does it mean? As almost every other real artist in history has done, I used images of the human body as raw materials but not the nude model, the beautiful (or ugly) face, the muscled arm, the outstretched hand trying to grab God. Not these. I used medical-processed images, beautiful, primary-colored images of the human body's insides. Pictures produced by computer, by radiation, by sonar, even by common light. I would paste the utterly surrealistic ultrasound image of an embryo to its photographic picture, visible vertebrae still shining through the translucent (and perhaps transonic) flesh and skin, I would paste both of them, I told you, side by side with a brain tomography of a healthy teenager on the verge of sexual explosion, an image that looked like a nuclear, colored, cracked, blasted cauliflower. And beside all of it, the simple X-ray plate of a broken femur, or the empty sockets of a grinning skull, I tell you, why make any attempt to avoid the clichι? At least, the well-placed one?
So I worked. Sometimes I would use my own computer graphics equipment to enhance some detail, to change a color, to give some new dimension to an otherwise too flat, too dead picture. I'd find fractal patterns in some dazzling Kirlian analysis of a piece of rotten skin, and I'd bring it to light, reinforce the halo, to deepen the blackness inside. Sometimes I'd use the icons of deformity, sometimes, of beauty. Let's go back to the embryo picture-cum-ultrasound: I could use it to bring tears to your eyes, my dear reader, tears of pity, of esthetical delight or of terror just changing a few colors and very, very few lines.
This was Pictorganic Art. And I was the only one to pursue it. Because I had the necessary combination of guts and talent. And I was the only one with so many friends in so many medical institutions. And this, the medical friends, this is what brought me to the unavoidable, to the theme, the motto, that would chance my life; that would bring me to this squalid room in this huge house, to the work of my life, to the role of Baal-Zabub.
And it was, of course, disease.
See, I used diagnostic images, mostly. People do a lot of examinations nowadays, doctors ask them for tests just for anything, yes, broken nails and the like. Only a few turn out to be something really worth to taking care of. Fewer, even, deserve a long, Greek-sounding name. So, most of my material was of perfectly healthy people. I'd use it to compose most of the picture, and then throw something in to unbalance it a broken bone, an image of the dead. And that was it. There was market for such; I built this whole place with the money from it.
Then I decided to turn to disease as a major aspect of every work. To go after the tragic, the pathetic, the inscrutable. To make the most of it. My paintings sometimes I call them this, because I think "paste-ups" are not what they really are -- started to get simple, short names: "Fracture". "Pneumonia". "Parkinson". "Leprosy".
I noticed the truth when I was doing my research for what should have been my greatest work. Some people could think I was about to do "Aids", but no. I have always been more classic-minded. No post-modern sex-angst shit to me. I was going, then, to do "Cancer".
"Research", in such a case, meant to collect images from all over the world. I had friends, as I told you, and where friends were not enough, I had money. And, on collecting such iconography, as I started to see
Perhaps only I was able to see it. To notice the thing. After all, I had a trained eye. So, it seems it was all preordained, like the tracks of honey and feces on the walls
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I beg your pardon.
Things went like this:
I was using the computer to paste-up images from very different tumors, from very different sources. There were X-rays from Africa, positron tomographies from Europe, lots of experimental, computer-enhanced shit from the US. There were Italian and Croatian lung-cancers that looked like horns of goats and bulls, liver-cancers from Brazil, Australia and Norway that were like vicious spiders, innocent ants and crouching scorpions, snakes coiling in African breasts. Storm clouds were gathering inside the brains of women from Mexico and the intestines of a few of the Israeli, and there were beautiful flowers sprouting from Arab bone and Venezuelan skin.
And the point is
man, how weird I feel by writing this
the point is, the wonder, to see that all those images fitted. I wasn't creating anything new from them. I was just putting the puzzle together.
Do I make myself clear, damn it? The things growing inside every one of those poor people I used for raw materials were, in fact, only parts of a larger thing. A pattern that only I could see. A monster, if you like.
There is a monster growing inside us, incubating in patterns of cancer and pain and death. This thing transcends dimension his, let's call it, "finger" grows in Cape Town, his "nail" in New York, something that I believe to be part of a proboscis in Montreal, but the rest of it is in Casablanca.
It uses us. I have no doubt it feeds us, and on us. It creates the paths we walk. And, when the time is ripe, it kills us.
It is being born from us, I'm convinced. Since the beginning of time this Great, Old thing is coming out from us, a limb at a time, perhaps a cell every thousand years? And, when the task is complete
So, do you see, I created this magnum opus, this opera prima, to gain perspective. I mean what can we be to such a creature? How much stronger, smarter than us is It? How does It think? Are we like
Now, do you see why I started the experiment? Because I wanted to know It. Know how It feels. How It is like. And, keeping things in the proper scales if a fly can really notice me, can really come to know me, to realize that I design the paths, the deaths, even if only for once, then perhaps I can come to know the Old One, to really notice It. If a fly can make some contact to me, perhaps I can make contact to It.
And, if a fly can see me, so I can see the Old One. If I can be real to the fly, so the Old One is real to me.
In such a case, you see, I'd not be insane.
Created: October 28, 2006