Temporary Autonomous Art 2057

Fiction (?) from the autumn 2018 issue of Rupture zine

TAA 2057

Parking my mobility helicopter on the highrise rooftop and boosting with my jetpack down to the cultural resistance centre on level 23, I realise I haven’t been in these parts since I got the fuck out of London during the 2020 meltdown. As I flew down the highway to the periphery at Colchester, it had been tough to see the still smoking ruins of East London for the first time.

This is the first Random Artists meetup for thirty eight years. Of course, when martial law came in and the hunger wars started, everything took a back seat to survival. Woman cannot live on instagram alone. I’m happy that a lot of people I knew survived the riots. We were already nomadic and pretty well prepared for societal breakdown. I moved up north with the hoverbarge and never really came back.

At the door for TAA, it’s funny to see the usual reprobates hanging out, grey-haired, several decades older but still recognisable. The beer cans of old are now opioid-based concoctions and no-one smokes tabak anymore. Still we can all stand around and talk bollox for hours, that hasn’t changed. Some of the Hekate crew are here showing off their new bionic limbs. Very nice. The Ship of Theseus paradox has come back with a vengeance, since if you are continually replacing broken limbs with metal parts, when do you stop being you and start to become a robot? Or at what point does the robot become you?

The exhibition is broken into several immersive VR spaces, where you can wander in and out, interacting for several days if you want. The politician shootemup is super popular and glitching a bit so I take the party option. I spend several pleasant hours reliving the Curley memorial party in Hackney Wick back in the late 1990s. As the stream enters my visual cortex, I feedback data from my own frazzled birthday memories, blending them into the broader knowledge base and creating a wider playing field for other visitors. Where no memories exist, I hit a grey wall, then if I turn round I’m back on the dancefloor again.

I do miss the first squatted TAAs of the 1990s, since one of the best things about those exhibitions was that they were centrally located and could entice people in off the street to see what was going on, back when walking was still a thing. Occasionally visitors had never stepped foot in a squat before, so it made everything a lot more exciting, just like your first rave. The unrestricted transformation of space, the unbridled enthusiasm of smashing a wall to make a viewing hole or pouring paint down the stairs, I still miss those things and I never saw them in a legal gallery setting.

It’s funny what a boom and bust society we have lived through in almost hundred years, now it’s postWWIII situation where there is no rule and most buildings are severely damaged. In the cycles of urban growth and decay, the Wessex region is a shadow of its former self, whilst the Manchesti/pool/port conglomeration is gathering the new generation of freeloaders. Take this venue: the centre is a huge space spanning a few floors of an abandoned yuppy tower that would have cost millions to buy before and now is freely available to anyone sufficiently brave to risk living in the ruins. There’s free electricity since the building is totally covered in adaptive solar panels and I imagine most of the technology on view will have been cannibalised from the other abandoned flats. Up north this would have been put to use by a pirate crew, down here it’s just another empty block.

The squatter attitude of reusing and recycling, of doing stuff for free wherever possible, of hanging onto things when any sane person would throw them away, has finally done us proud. Here we are in the wreckage of the excapital city still creating social spaces to interact with each other face to face when many people are still hiding out in bunkers in the interior, waiting for the greenlight to emerge. The allclear will never come of course, the government prefers everyone to live in fear. They say you can’t breathe the air outside, but it’s ok. In any case, I’m half bionic by now.

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