Here's the first installment of what I hope to be a lengthy videogame storyline. If you're having trouble figruing out what the gameplay would be like, think NiGHTS. It'll make sense eventually.
Nothing has such permanence as ruin. There's something about the quiet desolation of a Teatro Greco—a spiral of rusticated granite—that can inspire a dizzying awe. That the will of a single mind, as executed by several hundred pairs of arms, can crumble and reshape mountains seemed to Benjamin Schultz the ultimate testament to the glory of God.
"To fill and subdue the earth," He mused aloud to the barely-conscious woman beside him. Sitting upright, a polyester pillow wedged between him and the corner of his coal-black walls, Ben could almost feel the healing glow of he Sicilian countryside burn the oil from his pock-marked face.
Perhaps the product of a proud lineage of European cartographers, Ben would spend hours tracing each tortuous line of a map with a thin, agile forefinger—as he would the face of a lover. Pages torn from the kind of library atlases never intended to leave the Reference section encircled Ben's room. Especially colorful depictions of the Oceanic archipelago, or of the Central American peninsula were arranged with a single-mindedness and deliberate irregularity that exposed the mania of their architect. While most found this singular mosaic visually distracting, it focused Ben's thoughts like a prescription lens. Ben's mind was as variegated and textured as the world itself. Experienced at once, its breadth was overwhelming. To study the rough line of a single seismic fault was to focus on a particular facet of his mind, to pay that piece of himself its due.
When, as a teenager, Ben had taken this tourist's map of downtown Taormina from the smallest of Veloria's six travel agencies, he couldn't have known of the picture on its reverse side, or that its view of that grass-covered stadium seating—split into sixteen machine-folded rectangles—would convert him to Deism for that one moment of crystalline clarity.
"Rea. Wake up." A rough hand on the shallow crescent of her back. "Rea, you have to wake up because I love you."
"You don't love me." Rea muffled her words with the bedspread, softening the rebuke. "You love the idea of us."
"All girls say that."
"And every one of them has been wrong, except for meee?" Rea turned to her back and managed a wry smile.
"If you don't believe me, just feel my skin. It's all hot and itchy because you make my blood rise to the surface." Ben extended a thin, dark arm for examination. Rea brushed it away. "It's stuffy in here. Hand me a cigarette."
Ben was an artist, but only because putting paint to canvas is one of a number of things that ineluctably assigns one such a status. Those few inches of oak and interwoven cotton that separate paint from walls also separate blue-collared painters from black-bereted artists. Ben was aware of the hypocrisy, and reveled in it. His own biography, prominently displayed at his openings, proudly marked him as a fraud.
The very term "photorealism" exposes the emptiness of its practice. In the mid-eighteenth century, many believed that the advent of photography would mark the end of painting. The medium had simply been outmoded, like Sienese fresco technique in the Italian Renaissance. History has proven those doomsayers wrong, but only because artists have chosen to aggrandize the inaccuracy of the brush, rather than hide it. In essence, for the past hundred years, executional error has been accepted as artistry. Through his unflinchingly realistic scenes of common, bucolic existence, Benjamin Schultz exposes the futility of his own métier. Apart from his flawless execution, Benjamin's work is devoid of any merit. This anti-artist is therefore a greater deconstructionist—in its truest sense—than any of his contemporaries.
Ben's paintings were like windows for people without a view. Whether the joke was on Ben's patrons, or on Ben himself, one couldn't be sure. It's a difficult feat to determine the value of an oeuvre, and not Ben's function. Rea was pleased with the filthy lucre his infrequent shows generated, and that was enough to satisfy.
His last exhibition, however, had been an unmitigated disaster. An enormous departure from his previous body of work, and from his aesthetic ethos at large, Spiral had mystified the critics, who invariably panned the display. Ben's backers were displeased; Rea was displeased; Rea's parents—Ben's mecutanim—were also displeased. The tongue-in-cheek bio had changed too. Appearing, this time, on pale yellow strips of granulated paper, it read:
Benjamin Schultz, infamous iconoclast, hasn't strayed from his deconstructive mode. He has, however, altered the vehicle through which that message is conveyed. The artist invites you to abandon your prior conceptions about his work, and enter the Spiral unfettered.
The show's central piece, Schultz's Dream, had a haunting resonance with many of the guests, but held little appeal. Ben had retained the technical precision with which he systematically stripped the humanity from his work. Far from his usual unremarkable urban scene, however, Ben's Dream was otherworldly, hellish, surreal. Painted on a circular canvas, and using the fisheye perspective of Parmigianino's self-portrait, the huge painting depicted a barren, cracked landscape—like a dried-up mud flat. The sole figure, enlarged and deformed by its position at the fisheye's stretched center, seemed to beseech his viewer to free him. What looked like phantasmal hands extended from that parched earth, and encloistered the figure in a kind of cage. Apparently, not one opening attendee had had a sofa to match.