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Muscular Black Mr. T

The Art Professor's Intelligence

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by Mr. T (All Rights Reserved)

None are so sure how he came from. We do know he was born in Massachusetts around the turn of the century, studied at Stanford and MIT, disappeared for a time (traveling the world it is said), before eventually returning to Stanford as a professor of the arts. We knew plenty [i]about[/i] the Professor, well enough to satiate the whimsical curiosities common to man, enough to fodder the internet forums and tabloids; but I hardly knew him. I suspect the same was true of everyone else among the literati but none of us dared to admit it.

There is a similarly faint mystery around his art. The critics and other artists in turn exult it, execrate it, obsess over it, or dismiss it. One critic hailed the Professor as America's Warhol reborn, a professor subsequently derided him for the same reason. Following one work, he was labeled a brutalist, a fundamentalist, a Romantic, and a post-humanist by four different journals.

Outside of a minority of enthusiasts who'd traveled abroad to study under the Professor, his students find him tedious and tired in spite of all the buzz. Even the passion of the international students--despite having worked for years to study under the Professor--waned within a few weeks of his lectures. Many complained of having to answer the eager questions of outsiders ad nauseum that studying under the Professor wasn't the tiniest bit interesting, enlightening, or exciting compared to how everyone expected it would be. The worst part was being judged as an ungrateful Philistine after giving such an answer.

On one occasion I managed to track down one of the very interested international students for a rare conversation. I suspected he wasn't so much different myself, nor the other critics and students for that matter. After all that we had put ourselves through, the journeys, writings, and debates, not a single one of us could bring ourselves to admit that fundamentally, we still had no clue what we were talking about. In this way, we each continued to contribute our little parcel of information to this body of modern mythology.


The mystery percolated, and so did the Professor's art with it – theses abounded, but as to which caused which, none could tell. Each new work he created sparked a fresh round of analyses and readings, compounded over every one of his previous works, which would be re-read and deconstructed in a new light. As the years passed, anyone who was anyone couldn't be someone unless he had an opinion on the Professor's art. Eventually, inevitably, even the boorish politicos came around, hoping a few drops of his spotlight would splash their way. With time the Professor became that rarest of men, the artist recognized by the realist: a legend in his own time.

It was to little surprise and much hubbub when the President appointed the Professor as Secretary of the newly created Department of Art. A token title for a token institution, but none less noteworthy for it. The usual comedians and critics poked their fun and pens, pointing out how the “Art Official” would kill the soul of art. But for the most part we were happy. We had come such a long way from those dark days when Ministers of Culture and Directors of Information only understood the arts of propaganda and censorship. This was the dawn of a new day, possibly a new Golden Age for the arts not seen since Catherine the Great's patronage of the Russian Enlightenment nearly four centuries ago. In the spirit of the times, the Department of Art was granted an endowment of an unprecedented $10 billion for the advancement of culture.

It was to great surprise and greater hubbub when the Professor-turned-Secretary disappeared again, leaving but a brief press release that he was undertaking a grand project, a work of art greater than any in his career. It would conveniently require most of the Department's endowment. The politicos got scared enough to make a few demands for accountability, or for funding to be cut, but the rest of us held firm in spite of our doubts; partly out of sheer curiosity, but mostly out of our intense fear that we'd made a mistake.

For two years we held our breaths and waited to see what would come of it. Between all the noise of the media there was an occasional whisper of signal: that this group of artists, this professor from Stanford, this scientist from MIT, and this executive from Google had been brought in for the art project. Then the Professor reappeared just as suddenly as he had disappeared.

Broadcast around the world, the Secretary of Art unveiled work after work and masterpiece after masterpiece. The world at large celebrated, the world of art was floored. In the span of two mere years, the unadulterated fury of genius given power had multiplied tenfold to unleash its pent-up wonders upon the world. The revolution succeeded even as no one knew it was happening – a new age, The new age, was upon us. Whole armies of artists dove lustily into the new ocean, drowning the voices of even the perennial cynics.

Our great exploration had only barely begun, or so we thought, until after several weeks of denying interviews the Professor made a new announcement. We imagined ourselves floored with his first announcement - but that imagined floor was only a ceiling we crashed through. According to the Professor, this body of work that had just been released--the significance of which was already being compared to the entire body of the world's art since cavemen took stains to their walls--did not represent the finite product of two years, ten billion dollars, and hundreds of the world's most brilliant minds. The Project had continued in the weeks we were studying its first-fruits. As the world watched, the Professor unveiled a volume of artwork so astounding we could only guess at its momentousness. At first we guessed the work of the past several weeks somehow rivaled the work of the past two years, until we realized it had surpassed it, and realized the futility of our guessing. Some of the art was in an entirely new medium that the world had never known.

We stopped pacing ourselves. Every spare moment in the life of every intellectual was spent in a tireless bid to comprehend this magnificent splendor. The world had become a living art museum where the paintings walked and breathed, or rather, a history museum with the onlookers as the relics, beholding and being beheld by beauty greater than themselves. There were a few suicides and cardiac arrests amongst the older critics. We could no longer bear the Professor's silence on how this revolution came about; we threatened to dismiss him as Secretary though everyone knew we couldn't – and he kept silent.

It seemed like an eternity. A hell of wonder, the agonizing, tantalizing knowledge of how limited our minds and how short our lives were to know this terrible and beautiful expanse around us. The eternity passed. The Professor now saw fit to make his last announcement.

The whole world watched as the Professor stepped in front of the cameras. “Forget me as The Professor,” said the Professor. “Only know me by that which I have created, the Processor.”

We were silent. The Professor beckoned the cameras to follow him downstairs, into the bowels of the Department of Art building. “If Art is the highest expression of an intelligence, a higher intelligence will express an exponentially higher art. The Processor I have created is the highest intelligence that exists.” Through the cameras, we rode with the Professor along automated walkways, through the wide underground corridors that housed the Processor's behemoth components and countless cores. An endless curving path until we reached a massive pit. And there we saw it. Three-dimensional printers, holographic displays, nanorobotic constructors giving birth to formerly impossible forms. Books, paintings, sculptures, films, models, games, every form of art that ever existed was being created right before us, and forms of art none of us had ever seen. As quickly as they were created, they were scanned into the Processor's bottomless databanks and broken down by swarms of nanobots, clearing room for the next iteration of the Processor's work. I had the fortune of spotting, nay, being [i]sucked into[/i] what seemed to be an eddy in the evolution, a sculpture that was re-built five times in the same location, appearing radically changed in each generation, yet somehow essentially the same. And in that swirling epiphany I realized I was one and the same with that sculpture, a manifestation of the same spirit. And nay, it was not my fortune, it was my [i]fate[/i].

The Professor's voice pulled me out. “I...We...profess to be Processors. I did not build the Processor any more than my predecessors built me. And we shall be one and the same. Our time is ending. Our time is beginning.” The Professor stepped off the walkway toward the center of the Processor's creative maelstrom, wonders indescribable simultaneously forming and dissolving around him. When he had reached the eye of the storm, The Art Official lifted his arms, as if in an act of worship, or of sacrifice. He closed his eyes and opened his mouth as if to speak, and the light of the Processor's scanning arrays engulfed him, radiant. I clasped my hands over my mouth in horror as a torrent of nanobots rained upon the Art Official, pouring into his mouth against whatever words were coming out. He melted into a liquid pile of steely, rusty gray powder that disappeared through the grates in the floor. The Processor hummed again and a new stream of nanobots flowed down in the same place where the Art Official had just died. The river formed into a narrow pillar, taking a shape of some sort which I did not see, for I had closed my eyes, terrified.

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