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Troy Anger, known to everyone as The Art Collector, sat in the

empty white walls of his gallery wondering if this was the end or
the beginning.

He couldn’t imagine what he would do now that his world famous


collection of Body Art had been sold for an improbably large
sum to Shane Frost, playboy and heir to the ‘Holo Net’ family
communications fortune.

Still, he couldn’t complain about the money or the purchaser’s


intentions as the art works had not been separated and had found
a good home. One of the reasons that had persuaded Troy to part
with his precious collection was that he shared a few things in
common with Shane, his penchant for fine art, the appreciation
of the perfect physical form and a preference for men.

The Art Collector had dedicated the last fifteen years to building
his extraordinary collection and as a consequence, his love life had
been virtually non existent. Now that his business commitments
were no longer a priority, getting himself back ‘in the dating
game’ was top of his list.

He spun round in his comfortable hover chair from which he had


often perused his favourite art works from the centre of the gallery
and remembered how it used to be with people crowding to see the
exhibits. Troy thought it was odd that although the gallery visitors
could have pulled up fully representative models of the works on
their holo screens from the comfort of their homes, sometimes
thousands of miles away, a few of them were still compelled them
to make a physical pilgrimage and view the objects themselves.
In view of the general paranoia to travel anywhere, the success of
his gallery was certainly an extraordinary phenomenon and he
wondered if the corporeal nature of his exhibits had something to
do with it. What was it about being in the presence of something
real that virtual representation could not touch?

Whatever it was, it had recently made his fortune. Despite his


success however, Troy realised that he was not happy. The root of
the problem ran deeper than of his lack of companionship and
left him feeling hollow and malcontent.

The emptiness he felt reminded him of the way he had felt when
he purchased work by an artist only known as “X” who made
portraits of children. X’s provocation lay in that he depicted
the beautifully sculpted children but their limbs and faces were
contorted horribly which was extremely unsettling and each time
Troy revisited the work, it provoked those unnerving feelings that
he had not been able to describe.
He had conferred with many physicians and psychiatrists
trying to get to the bottom of his angst. Some interviews had
been conducted on-line whilst he attended others in luxurious
consulting rooms. All the experts he consulted claimed to have
‘studied’ him and with an air of authority, they each presented
him with the hard facts of his condition.

He recalled a most annoying consultation with Dr Sinclair, who


never managed to look at him directly and without so much as
a blood test, or a scan, seemed to know Troy’s inner working’s
inside out.

“Mr Anger, it seems that your condition stems from low levels
of carbohydrates in the evening. Perhaps if you take this tablet
first thing in the morning, it will prolong the release of glucose
from the energy giving nutrients in your diet and increase its
overall Glycaemic Index.” When Troy had enquired how
Dr Sinclair had come to such an astonishing diagnosis, the
eminent, yet ill-mannered physician had quickly pronounced
that it was a “Matter of faith in the medical profession,” before
reminding the patient that “I am the doctor and you are the
patient.” Then the doctor quickly waved Troy away to the care
of one of his attendant nurses, giving him no time to respond or
gather his thoughts.
All of doctors he had seen were the same. Perhaps, he wondered,
they had all gone to the same medical school where they spent a
decade learning how to be rude and dismissive of people. Even
when Troy was paying top rates for their attention, none of their
interpretations felt genuine whether it was, diet, depression,
melancholia, erectile dysfunction, compulsive obsessive disorder,
low thyroid, dwindling testosterone, histrionic personality type
or being dismissed as just plain awkward. Troy had ignored all
their advice and filled his bathroom cabinet with the pills and
potions that had been diligently prescribed. As he performed his
morning ablutions he would open the mirrored cabinet and be
horrified at the number of medicines that he might have taken
over the years. Were they trying to poison him? He dismissed
the medicines as the product of institutionalised witchcraft and
decided that he did not need any of it.

In fact, Troy’s cynicism for the medical system had prompted


him to sponsor an unknown student at the time Vera Budd, who
had gone on to be one of the most sought after artists in his
collection.

By chance, he had actually seen the artist hanging around some of the
cafes he frequented before he knew her work. She was a striking figure,
always cloaked in black and with her face whited-out so that her
facial features were indistinct. Troy had struck up a conversation
with the mysterious character whilst standing in a coffee queue
when it became apparent that she was an art student and she had
invited him to her studio.

To satisfy his curiosity The Art Collector had accepted her


invitation but on arrival, approached her lodgings with an air of
trepidation as the location he had been given was not a professional
studio but a home address. The building itself was odd being
completely black with no windows and no number to distinguish.
Troy felt as if he had stepped through a wormhole as he approached
the front door as the porch lacked any form of computerised
salutation apart from an old surveillance camera that tracked his
approach but did not speak to him. Before his lips prepared to
address the box labelled ‘speak’ he was summoned indoors by Vera
herself wearing a white laboratory coat and surgical gloves. Troy
was so surprised by her sudden and unexplained materialization
that he didn’t even think to exchange the formality of salutation
but followed her into the building obediently. After removing
his footwear and subordinately performing a cleansing in a ritual
that Vera called ‘scrubbing up’ the Art Collector cautiously looked
back at the door as if checking his escape route and took a few
tentative steps inside a brilliantly lit room that oozed desolation.
Troy respectfully took a seat amongst a Greek style bank of
benches that surrounded a performance area. Kneeling, he
watched with trepidation and forgot the pains that intermittently
seared into the back of his knees as Vera made an intense series of
incantations. Troy immediately recognised these as invocations
that he knew to belong to a particular canon of Black Magic, the
Enochian Language of Angels, which was a fashionable tongue
with contemporary artists.

“IRGIL CHIS DA DS PAAOX BUSD CAOSGO?”

Chanted the voice as it recited the Call to its audience immediately


provoking questions of faith. Oddly the translation was
simultaneous and the confusion of tongues evocative of the biblical
Tower of Babel, not that Troy bought into the whole religion
thing but nevertheless the assault on his senses was impressive.
The forced delirium induced Troy into what he would later
describe as ‘an out of body experience’ being increasingly aware
that he was inside a temple. Despite the ambient glare The Art
Collector could see clearly and noticed that the auditorium
was organised in a manner typical of an operating theatre with
brilliant white walls and a metallic, central table with sets of
surgical instruments carefully laid out on trolleys at various
strategic positions. It had dawned on Troy that the patient
appeared to be absent. For a terrible moment the Art Collector
wondered whether he was about to be invited to take on the role
of the victim but as the artist raised her hands and his gaze was
drawn upwards where a holographic representation of a naked,
unidentifiable body was suspended over them and was quietly
groaning. Troy looked to the artist for an interpretation and Vera
momentarily stepped out her role as Mistress of Ceremonies to
explain that this was an artificial life programme that took the
form of an animated holo portrait. The virtual fresco represented
a lost soul, caught between heaven and hell and only faith could
stop the apparent misery of the lonely figure above them. Troy
realised that the irony of her work was that the poor character
would never stop groaning as no one had enough ‘faith’ to stop
human suffering.

When Troy had installed Vera’s imposing work in his studio he


had been delighted to note that visitors were leaving the unsettling
shrine in tears. Strangely, Troy had noticed that those who
appeared to be most disturbed by the work, visited it time and
time again as if, perhaps the experience offered them some kind
of closure. Or perhaps they visited it because they empathised
too deeply with the program.

He wasn’t sure which perspective represented his ‘condition’ and


wished he could find closure for himself.
As his collection had grown Troy realised that the artworks that
provoked and unsettled him, provided more comfort and relief
from his ‘condition’ than any of the medical explanations. Perhaps
he should have kept Vera’s installation for personal reasons to
meditate on and not sold it to the playboy. So, why did he go?
Why, did he still go to the blasted doctors when he felt at his
lowest and least lovely? Why did he wait for the poisonous pills
of advice from a profession he thought so little of?

He spun around again on his chair and enjoyed the dizzy feeling
that it gave him, so he spun round again.

When he stopped spinning, he blamed Art for his lack of belief


in the power of the medical profession to cure his ill temper.

Having worked so closely and intensely with the artists whose


works he had commissioned or purchased for his collection, he
was unable to accept the world as it was presented to him by
others and most especially when it was interpreted for him by
crusty old bigots. Artists, Troy mused, enabled people to break
down their preconceptions of the world whereas institutions such
as medicine merely sought to confirm social prejudices.
Take for example, the Blood Monk, a performance artist that Troy
had represented who refused to acknowledge any social influence
on his work. This fellow retreated from society into a tiny space
capsule that orbited the Earth for three years. He had taken a
small supply of water and a holo communications device that
recorded his daily progress. During this time he was naked and
denied himself all nutrients other than what he could recycle. By
the time the project ended and the Blood Monk was retrieved
he was incarcerated in a cocoon made of his own secretions. The
artist died shortly after his extraordinary feat of self-deprivation
on a hospital intensive care unit, causing outrage. Being unable
to resist a controversial oeuvre, Troy had purchased the revolting
shell that the belated artist had produced from his own secretions
and sealed it in an airtight glass cabinet that his visitors could
walk through and marvel at such a peculiar feat. Although
repugnant, the unique, visceral nature of the Blood Monk’s work
challenged the visitors understanding of social codes and shook
the comfortable world they lived in for a brief moment. It was
the tremor of ambiguity which was induced in the public when
they looked at his collection that compelled Troy to search for
those artists that provoked and unsettled the audiences with
uncertainty, rather than reassured them with order and beauty.
So when the doctors provoked Troy with their tried and tested
codes pronouncing the solemn truths of his condition with a
polarised view, The Art Collector had balked and immediately
wanted to consider things from a different perspective.

So, why did he go?

Troy sunk into his chair and meditated on the sterile, white,
bareness of the gallery and slowly it became clear that his
pointless string of diagnostic encounters had been prompted by
emptiness.

Unfortunately for Troy, rather than engage with him in a dialogue


of possibilities, even the most sympathetic of doctors lost him in
a soliloquy of facts. Such rationality had never appealed to him
and he believed that Art had helped him deal with the oppressive
nature of society and its systems. It had also given him permission
to ask questions that provoked and challenged the status quo.

Troy began to understand that his lack of belief in anything at all


had caused him to seek solace in a system that brought peace to
others. Yet faith in medicine’s power to heal had been the wrong
system for him. He recalled a maxim that suggested when people
believed in nothing, they would believe in anything at all. Perhaps
he needed to find a religion to honour with his devotions but
Troy decided that he welcomed that idea even less than seeing a
doctor. The dedication made to other people’s Gods was even less
flexible a pursuit than decoding the diagnostic semaphores of the
medical profession.

Perhaps he should not be looking outside himself for an answer,


perhaps the unhappiness he felt was constitutional. “Constitutional”
he proclaimed aloud and decided he did not like the sound of the
word so he lazily asked the gallery holo monitors to play him some
music to distract him from his negative thoughts. A start-up logo
played an introduction to the gallery that his voice commands could
not stop where he watched himself made a brief introduction to his
collection for the visitors. For the first time in the fifteen years he had
run the gallery, other than the obligatory tidy up in the morning in
front of the bathroom mirror, he looked at himself properly. Troy
studied the holo avatar of himself that had been programmed to
mirror the biorhythms of its ‘original copy’. Holo-Troy welcomed his
imaginary audience to his gallery and saw himself as others viewed
him for the first time in a very long time. He looked in disbelief at
the ageing man in front of him who greeted an invisible audience and
realised he was getting old.
In that moment of recognition, Troy’s faith in the medical profession
was restored. He would make a new purchase.

The Art Collector would abandon the ephemeral values of Art and
instead would invest in unlocking the secrets of youth. When these
were unravelled in a tangible form he would use them to transform
himself into a young man again. Troy rose from his chair feeling
animated for the first time in as long as he could remember. He
stretched the skin on his face to make creases disappear and likened
his appearance transiently to the contorted expressions depicted by
artist X. As his jowls relaxed he felt elated and suddenly rejuvenated.
The answer to his angst was so obvious and simple that this personal
vendetta against the ravages of age seemed a particularly artistic,
pragmatic and peculiarly personal voyage to make.

“I will be reborn!” he proclaimed to the empty gallery and an animated


version of the Four Seasons.

As Troy danced a solo waltz with an imaginary younger version of


himself he laughed with sounds that rose from his belly. Vivaldi’s
majestic music receded into the background, despite its volume,
being drowned out by his merriment. Temporarily deafened by the
pulsing sensation rising within him Troy felt better than he could ever
remember and the laughter was greater than music to his ears.
Notes:

[Translation: from the book of Enoch written in the language of the


Angels “How many are there which remain in the glory of the earth?”]
About the Author
Rachel Armstrong is a medical doctor, multi-media producer,
science fiction author and arts collaborator. Her current
research explores architectural design and mythologies about
new technology. She is working with scientists and architects
to explore cutting-edge, sustainable technologies.

Armstrong’s hope is that, in the future, cities will be able to


replace the energy they draw from the environment, respond
to the needs of their populations and eventually become
regarded as “alive” -- in the same way we think about parks or
gardens. Since “metabolic materials” are made from terrestrial
chemistry, they would not be exclusive to the developed world,
and would have the potential to transform urban environments
worldwide.

“Scientists need to work outside their own areas of expertise to


make new technologies that are pertinent to the 21st century and
to collaborate, both with other scientific disciplines and the arts
and humanities.”
– Rachel Armstrong
SNIFFcod e. c o m

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