really happy to have released my ‘little booklet to break the spell’ for lulu, exactly 12 years after it had seen the light of day on christmas 2009.

may scrub ebook editions, so make sure you get a real copy – ‘owning something’ as opposed to supposedly great reset ‘own nothing be happy’ sentiments …

***UPDATE – i have now scrubbed all ebook editions. spring 2024. they’re pathetic, lol.


 ***UPDATE – a slightly more polished and beautifully type-set version is part of the SYSTEMICS book.

(made available to read online for free once-in-a-while or generally with a donation based password.)

[a humorous discussion of art and culture and their contextual changes through web 2.0]



I have often wondered what LEONARDO DA VINCI would’ve done, had he lived today, let’s say in a place like London, simply just getting on with ‘his thing’. Would he be penning the new Wonderbraad, or a worldwide Coca-Colare-branding strategy? Perhaps he’d choose the art route and make it with Campbell– tagged, factory-tinned artist shit, followed by pink-yellow portraits of the President of the United States of America (sporting his trademark ‘mysterious’ Mona Lisa style smile)? He could also be more ‘radical’ (as he apparently was with his anatomy obsession and his spiritual and political views) and while unveiling photorealistic wax sculptures of naked, prepubescent girls, he is inviting the gathered audience to give it a go. Broadcast live to the world on MTV, they can try some of the new spearmint-spiced energy drink – Girl Power – directly from various-size pricks sticking out from their bodies like ferocious cases of acne vulgaris. But then again, he might simply do movies, with the Miramax guys to serve as the prestigious court to support him. Or what if his other obsession, science, in the end had completely taken him over and he ended up multiple Nobel Prize winner whose highly disputed work to treat cancer at root DNA level meant that we got finally rid of one of the most stupefying threats to our precocious mortality?

Could he have done all of those things – at once?

Then again. He might as well just be some scruffy and lonely computer nerd, who in a ghostly council estate, with sweaty palms clutching his wireless infrared mouse, day-in and dayout keeps surfing the net, in the hope to find some sort of ‘contact’ with other like-minded people on the planet. Perhaps with the business model of a Secondlife slash Google metacommunity-portal, he amasses a fortune in only two years and then either goes on to take over the world or buys a remote island on Ebay on which he and his mates found a newschool, Hippie-style commune where true unconditional love and politically unbiased child-care have become a reality for everybody involved – whilst astutely keeping it all secret from any media goons whatsoever?

But let’s leave this all up to everyone’s own imagination. What is important for us here is to ponder what ART or CULTURE really mean to us, at the beginning of the 21st century, in the midst of a ‘consumer driven’ capitalist society, like for instance again London, where during the day the world blatantly turns around the two ‘competing’ free dailies London Lite and the new London Paper and around Lost and Big Brother as soon as we crash on the couch after work.


On one hand we have so-called ‘established art’, art that is being curated and gallery-pimped between London and New York (aka ‘Nylon’, every  city hopper’s apparent paradise) and then the rest of the world’s most fanciful cities. Whilst some of it is surely crazy and cool, a lot of it comes across as selfindulgently shallow. There can be no doubt, established art – Fine Art – is a lot about money. For ‘money-people’ it is a quite sexy and safe investment – its main attractiveness (tax issues aside) being the potential to make extortionate margins in a relatively short period of time if you’ve got either a good nose for new talent or the balls to play it all cool when spending a million on a complete pile of rubbish.

In order to be allowed into the arena of Tate, MoMA or whichever temple of worship has presently won the battle for cultural supremacy, the artistic discourse needs to be molded to successfully wet the taste-buds of the current intellectual elite. You got to be flying-off to conceptual brain-wrecking exercises in an attempt to present your individual matters and answers to our universal dilemmas: death, hate, greed, war, racism, abuse. But no matter how hard you try to push those humanitarian boundaries, for art to be ‘established’, the bottom line will always be that if it doesn’t look good in an open-space Central Park loft or a renaissance Andrea Palladio mansion (next to the post-modern Scandinavian designer tables or the 5th century BC Chinese flower pots) you’re not going to be making it as an artist. You’ll probably get laid at the opening night of your first solo-show somewhere in Nylon, but you better get lucrative contracts while you’re on top of the game, private and business, if you don’t want to end up as a sad junkie art-tutor wasting away in front of his Sony vintage black-andwhite telly, in a shabby, vomit-stenched studio in downtown LA. The bottom line of ‘art’ in the context of ‘art market’ is that it definitely helps if you want to ‘become an artist’, if you know how to please people in power – and that doesn’t necessarily mean with your art alone.

At the other end, we have of course ‘underground’. Counterculture. Fuck-all, grass-root, unadulterated and raw self-expression. Emotionally deranged graphic-novel artists, pot-smoking crash-punk poets, neo-existentialist, mushroomchewing Internet illustrators, below-the-belt-hitting, razorsharp cartoonists, god-like-scripture-compiling computer programmers slash animators. If we look around on the net for a bit, we’ll find a sheer endless stream of creativity with sometimes astounding talent. The World Wide Web offers a never-seen-before diversity of styles, approaches and flavors, created and published instantaneously – without a budget or the need for any authority approval – on countless community portals and personal blogs. With the click of a button, we can share our stuff with other people in the world who appreciate what we’re doing. We can leave comments, critique, appraisals. We can do whatever we want, show each other whatever we’ve got and together rise, play, love, moan and laugh. We’re out and about, hunting and gathering, feeding and being fed, while we respectfully, mutually grow as human beings.


In the midst of all this, we have – most omnipresently – MUSIC. Music, in many ways, appears to be one of the most urgent forces behind any cultural (r)evolution. I’m sure they whacked sticks on some tree trunks before painting elaborate hunting scenes into their caves – perhaps using the beats of those drums as the background tracks for their visual inspirations? With music you can virtually go anywhere, you can get everything you want in life, sex, drugs and rock’n’roll – and of course celebrity status and the vacuous promise of a ‘freedom of speech’. Your career can range from being laughed at on stage (PRINCE) to doing whatever the fuck you want with whoever the fuck you want to do it with, as one of the most influential figures in the whole scene (PRINCE). We all consume music everywhere. iPods have become nearly as important as mobile phones (or are happily merging with them as we speak). You can listen to tracks while you fuck or at work – or while you sit in a tank and shoot at Iraqis. Musicians are blessed amongst artists as they’re creating their stuff for a market which not only is simply enormous but very very REAL indeed. Music runs through the veins of our public domain. The vivid discussions about online copyright issues (1) only give us a glimpse into the death-threatening changes major labels are facing as they attempt to keep a tight reign on this incredible economic cheesecake.


In order to shed even more light into our question of “what is art and culture”, here is another fantasy exercise: what would LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN do, had he written his music in 2007? Would he have set up a MySpace page and you could add him as a ‘friend’ like you do with BANKSY, ALAN PARTRIDGE or WOODY ALLEN? Would you check out his tracks and then leave a comment, “great stuff, man. keep it up”, or something? Would he be in a band, JOHN LENNON style, to press for more love, peace and freedom in the midst of a ‘free market’ madness? Would he still be able to ‘break through’ eventually and later on in his career lead a court case against shitloads of faceless suits who on behalf ofSony or Universal publicly try to cut off his balls and make him a whore they can squeeze, suck and pimp? (2)

After perhaps a turbulent life during which he DJ’s and travels the world with his special Max MSP spiked piano, he could go out with KATE MOSS or ANGELINA JOLIE and as soon as his pending deafness comes to the fore, Hello! and Rolling Stone magazine’s sales figures overnight triple as they’re running glossy exclusives purporting an angle between hypocritical pity and something which in German is poignantly referred to asSchadenfreude. For the labels, the loss of one artist doesn’t matter at all. Besides, they’ve just signed JOHANNES BRAHMS and his style is so much more urban and cool. It far better hits the nerve of the ‘now’ and thus crack-opens fresh, titillatingly virginal revenue streams – yeah, man.

And what about a guy like WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART? People loved and still love his stuff. Not for the first time has he been compared to artists like MICHAEL JACKSON and one can clearly see the point in this. There are quite a few similarities, not just the ambitious, violent father story and the incredible talent. Since the later stages of both artists’ lives come across as somewhat tragic and deeply disturbing, another intriguing question arises: could talent be doomed to failure and ultimate self-destruction in the human reality we’ve created for ourselves?


But back to ART and CULTURE. What does ‘culture’ actually mean to us in the first place? Is it about wearing the latest designer outfits and showing them off in London’s ueber-cool Hoxton and Shoreditch? Is it embedded in novels about postwar immigration and broken family ties in Anglo-Saxon, urban society? Is it to be discovered through fastidiously crafted biscuit adverts where above-the-floor-floating people are shown with the expression of an orgasm on their stylishly made-up faces?

It is obviously very difficult to define or to judge. Renaissance style battles like the famous one between MICHELANGELO and LEONARDO about who’s the better draftsman have now turned into pseudo-intellectual discourses between one of the best draftsmen today (DAVID HOCKNEY), juxtaposed against someone who can’t draw at all (TRACEY EMIN). Who is the ‘better’ artist, JEFF KOONS or ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG? CHRISTO or NAM JUNE PAIK? A genuine, distinctive and confident Eastern European or African art student or a lecherous, world-famous, semi-senile and pretentious conceptual artist? Where and how do we draw the line(s)? The problem, if you will, with ART at this day and age, is that it could be ANYTHING, really. Give someone the luring self-righteousness of money and a somewhat Warholean ego-aloofness and they’ll seem perfectly appropriate to be one of the top 25 artists to look out for in the next issue of Art Review magazine or to open a ‘critically acclaimed’ solo show in London’s White Cube 2 gallery.

Perhaps, then, art and culture have just become another substitute for religion? At times where nothing is sacred except maybe a trademarked company logo, artists and celebrity status attract almost godlike attention. We readily worship our stars, due to weird psycho-dynamics called ‘projection’ and ‘transference’, and we happily and unquestioningly pay for their more-often-than-not lavishly expensive lifestyles.

But what does it actually mean to be ‘making it’ in the first place, what really ‘makes’ you a star? In a free-market battle for headspace and time it is the amount of LOVE and ATTENTION that you’ll get from other people, however force-fed and faked, which let you enter the mighty gates of stardom-heaven.

It’s a funny thing, though, FAME. Why is this ‘state’ so desirable? Why do most of us feel that we’d be so much ‘happier’ if we ever broke through to public acclaim? Is it not all just a silly dream for us mortals to raise our existence from the normality of everyday life into ultimately also just brainwashed ideas of importance? Should we not just get on with our pathetic little lives, down some more pints, snort some more lines, or simply pop a few more of those god-sent Serotonin pills, in order to miraculously dissolve any gnawing attacks of either hubris or self-deprecation?



Ever since JOSEPH BEUYS greased his torch-equipped sledges, it has become clear that everyone is creative and because of this everyone is also an artist. Living our life, this is the shamanic message, is essentially creating the ultimate piece of art. It is therefore always amusing that many ‘trained’ artists still today feel strangely uplifted or otherwise ‘ better’ than the rest of us lot who’re subserviently swiping their deep-frozen lasagnes at the localTesco or Sainsburys tills. The truth is, and they’ll also eventually be told, that we all just want to do our thing. It is part of human nature. We want to live and let live, grow and expand and if our thing – whatever it is – finally works, then great! Well-done. If not, well, we really just got to try harder. Nobody’s ever said it’s gonna be easy, have they?

Doing our thing as such has become easier than ever before, though. There really is no excuse anymore for why we aren’t the next QUENTIN TARANTINO or CHRIS CUNNINGHAM, since eleven-year-olds can already chop up their mobile phone footage on iMacs and straight away put it on YouTube, make a name for themselves. By the time they hit puberty they’d already do their first Snickers or Honda commercial or get to directSpiderman 7 – yeah, right. For even the most talented person, to become really good at what they’re doing, it takes YEARS of most diligent efforts to get across what they’re trying to say, in a way which equally works for other people. It’s not just to master the technicalities of your art. You have to also add love and suffering, thought and depth, the right amount of pleasing and teasing, darkness and tenderness – all ingredients which don’t just appear out of nowhere by pressing a couple of fake 3-D buttons. You have to LIVE and do that quite extensively and also make sure that you allow enough time to reflect back on it. Doing something from 9 to 5 and then hitting the couch for your daily Sky-sponsored brain operation will not be likely to make you an artist. Neither will the ability to sign your ten-bedroom bastard-house mortgage contract with a 24k solid-gold fountain pen while your Gucci-clad ex-model fiancé snorts all your coke in the cherry-red Porsche outside.

Only working away day and night, on perhaps even stolen equipment, from your filthy bedroom, in order to chuck out a kick-ass, refreshingly new hip-hop record (THE STREETS), or writing-up a very-well-told children’s fantasy story in the warming coffee shop downstairs (J K ROWLING) will eventually make all the difference. It is, as beautifully immortalized by bands like THE BEATLES, perhaps the only ‘way out’, out of the painful constraints we’re bound to endure in our tragic existence, as supposed to the apparent fun and freedom awaiting, should we ever manage to make things work out for us. Makes sense. But is it really?


Anyway, for those of us who feel absolutely determined to live our lives the way we want to, the time has finally arrived to do this. It’s called Web 2.0. Even if it will not quite work out in this version, in a couple of years, with Web 3.0, we’ll have certainly come a long way. The big corporations have essentially lost their power to the worldwide community at large. There’s not much they can do to prevent this. We are in the final stages of a revolution which utterly frees the individual and allows us to be connected 24/7 with everyone else on the planet, regardless of sex, age, ethnicity, religious belief, social status or else. This finally IS the Age of Aquarius. We humans are in this together.

In this ‘new world order’, money will primarily be made on the Internet. Catch-phrase ‘attention based economy’. If we manage to get the hits, we will get also the appropriate amount of money. The big corporations, of course, understand this new game already quite well, so they’d buy the fattest cows like MySpaceFlickr and YouTube in an attempt to pester their visitors with sometimes more, sometimes less slutty advertising. Squeezing out the juice. For us, though, it doesn’t matter whether our online experience is being spoilt by corporate bullshit, since above all, it’s about becoming visible in the first place. It is to use and to be used and it is all for free, so not too many questions asked, not too many issues unearthed. Just shove your stuff on FacebookTwitterEbayYouTubeor whichever portal tickles your current fancy. Create a profile, smile or be weird and you’ll soon be making new friends. Stick around, spread the word and expand your horizon and reach. Web 2.0 is about community portals and cultural hubs inviting you to meet people you’ve never met before. You’d create a worldwide patchwork of contacts and affiliates which organically grows according to the time you spend nurturing it.

In the end, if you want to be very serious about your work, you’d set up your own blog-space or website. It is the core where every thread that you leave on the net will come neatly together. We all can, without specialist knowledge, publish our work like this – visible, downloadable and re-usable – and if 10,000 people really like it and give us a pound every year, say, we’ll essentially pay our rent. What more could we want from secular life, really?

Another good thing is that everybody who’s doing their thing bloody well knows what it actually takes to do it – 100% commitment to the cause. This appreciation of others’ endeavours is usually bolstered by full, unconditional respect and therefore jealousy will in the future not be an issue anymore. Although, deep down we’re all somewhat competitive. Most of us do improve and grow, even as kids, by playful, innocent sparring. And here again – nowhere can this be more clearly seen in the arts than with MUSIC.


Guys like those around London’s PushFM and RinseFM underground radio stations (at least at the time of writing) attempt to raise the envelope of “just good music”, as they themselves call it. What they’re referring to are basically computer-crafted audio tracks which can be equally played to hard-core music aficionados as well as to dancing, drug-popping party people. For any aspirational artist-producer, it is certainly one of the highest challenges to create something so wonderful and hypnotic that no-one can stop listening to.

In the arena of cutting-edge production, therefore, each ‘contestant’ tries to counter a track which has managed to hit them severely with something hitting back even more beautifully and severely. Eventually, truly outstanding pieces of work ‘naturally’ emerge. It is quite fascinating to follow such ground-breaking tracks into the stage of a substantial fan base, where all the effort someone has put into creating something that strong is all of a sudden starting to pay off – although not necessarily in terms of money. But it is certainly nice to get the recognition you deserve by peers and fans alike who not just sheepishly subscribe to ready-made superstars but instead acknowledge your sincerity and efforts with their heartfelt love and support.

The whole kick of life as an artist and the challenge of making a difference is that whether any money will ever arrive, you can never be sure (if you need to be, go and work for a bank). But you might be able to increase your chances if you as an ARTIST are prepared to surrender your talents to forces beyond your control, who in turn try and squeeze out the dosh ‘for you’, from whomever and wherever they can: the SUITS.


Perhaps in order to become rich, suit power and its categoric imperative of HARD SELL are the only way to go. This is a tough call, but I shall end this discussion by at least putting this serious question on the map.

How can it ever work for everyone?

Are we ‘civilised monkeys’ perhaps ‘meant’ to fuck each other over? Bomb the shit out of a country in order to revive fucked-up internal economy and secure perilous oil supplies at strategic positions? Is this the way how it works in this life, this world, in our sociobiological REALITY?

Or is capitalism not perhaps a bit too idealistic – or naive even – in terms of freedom of the individual? Since we’ve all been emotionally damaged by just the way in which our human condition works, we do eventually need to create some political framework, like perhaps an Emotional Capitalism(if that’s not a contradiction in itself :) where money is not the only bottom line at the end of the day, but where it is equally important whether the emotional integrity of the people you’re making it with is left untouched by any cynical cycle-of-abuse-induced lies?


With a new breed of economy, where it is mainly about hits, some new and distinctive laws seem to emerge:

The first people who’d buy into something or somebody NEW will always get everything for FREE. It is perhaps a ‘natural’ reward, if you will, or an ‘evolutionary incentive’ in terms of micro-evolutional progress, for having the courage and spine to invest our most precious resources like headspace and time on something that we deep down feel has potential and can give us something that we need. By recognising someone or something as they’re just about to emerge, we demonstrate the ability to SEE behind a sometimes scruffy, unpolished surface – or sport at least the open-mindedness to sense that there is something great behind it – and therefore we don’t have to pay because we’re in fact the ones who’re helping it rise into the ‘sky’ (whether the one above or the media giant remains to be seen :).

On the other hand, the further away we are from something which later turns out to be IT, the more expensive it’ll be to still be a ‘part of’. By recognising something only after it has reached a more apparently visible stage of unfoldment, we really are not needed anymore for its continuing success. The breakthrough has already happened and the tables of this extremely translucent deal between ‘seller’ and ‘buyer’ have henceforth forever turned. In other words, our failure to jump on the bandwagon while it was parked in front of our door, perhaps while even all our friends always kept going on about it, results in increasingly costly procedures to still grab a place by the time it’s gone past our noses.

There is this funny saying in Vienna, that people who have no idea how the system works ought to pay so called Moron Tax (Deppensteuer) in order to compensate for their adamant refusal to look the truth in its face. I feel this is quite a sweet analogy for what seems to be emerging as a kind of self-regulating dynamic in a grown-up economy of the 21st century. Perhaps it turns out, after all, that ignorance is not actually bliss anymore, but does in fact cost quite a lot of money.

Whereas awareness, thinking and creativity not only pay off, but are possibly the only way to go.


London, May 2007
© 2007, all rights reserved



(1) Interesting paper about the problems of online music rights written by Apple’s grand father himself, STEVEN JOBS —> www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughtsonmusic/

(2) Hysterical article about the way how major labels hunt down new artists and then fuck them over —> www.arancidamoeba.com/mrr/problemwithmusic.html


***EDIT – part of the LOVE ETC book.

(made available to read online for free once in a while or generally with a donation based password.)



[a short story]


Swaying down the catwalk like she’s done so many times before, the photographers’ flashes this time spit up on her like venomously striking sniper-fire. Zoe’s presenting the fifth outfit of McQueen’s Spring / Summer collection – when it suddenly dawns on her – she isn’t at all ready to die. Her long, staggering legs bend and everything’s slowly fading away as she stumbles off the planks she’s thus walked herself to stardom on. A unified gasp ruffles the audience. The soundtrack of the show, a bizarrely confident punk track, cuts-off abruptly as if backstage somebody’s head’s just been smashed up against the mixing desk’s volume control. People are panicking all over the place. Another storm of flashes strikes even the remotest corner of the elegant Parisian Art-Deco venue. Behind Zoe’s closed eyelids, everything’s starting to slide away. “Where’s the fucking ambulance?”, she can vaguely hear someone screaming. The voice is distorted and not much different from the all-encumbering noise in her head which increasingly seems to be coming from millions of miles away. From some other dimensions? She’s grasping some last, fading fragments of tremor. Until there’s only just silence – absolute.
Has this been it?

Lucy from the agency’s sitting next to her in the neat and bright room of the private clinic they’ve booked her into. She’s completely withdrawn into an inane game on her latest phone-toy.
“Hey – oh wow … Zoe – you’re back,” she suddenly bursts out, clasping her hands in front of her chest like a child. “How d’you feel?”
She bends down to kiss both her cheeks as if they’d just met at some party. Such a sweet girl, Lucy. Kind-of totally innocent which is pretty hard to find these days, especially not in bloody fashion.
While Zoe’s slowly getting accustomed to her re-gained consciousness she notices that the sun is shining straight on her face. She can also hear birds twittering and their soothing tunes gracefully cocoon the grinding sounds of a remote city – was it Paris? Next to the window, a calendar’s showing some beach scene. Mediterranean. Lots of yachts – Nice, Cannes, Monaco? It is Sunday, it says, the 21st of July. A hot, French mid-summer afternoon.
Lucy tells her that instead of coming to see how she’s coping, David, her current ‘boyfriend’, pretends to be simply too busy to fly all the way across the Atlantic. Presumably he’s shagging yet another talentless wannabe actress, in yet another generic Manhattan five-star hotel, instead. She can also already see the guys back at the agency, looking all deeply concerned and-what-not but in fact only adding-up any financial losses her accident might’ve caused to their annual company turnover. Most of her friends are unfortunately just as shallow. And as to her mother – she wouldn’t even dream of contacting her, a deranging ex-crack-whore rotting away in a West London old people’s home. She’s utterly alone, basically. And she’s just had a near-death-experience – a ‘wake-up-call’ as her counsellors would soberly put it. And yet – weirdly – she cannot seem to find the emotional tune to drown herself in any misery or some kind of self-pity. Instead, she just looks at sugar-sweet Lucy and smiles. At this very moment, she’s deciding to change her life completely. She doesn’t know what she’s going to do or how she’s going to do it. But things have definitely got to be different. Who is she anyway? She basically hasn’t got a clue. A brand-new and much more genuine Zoe is only just dying to be born.
“To be honest, Lucy, I don’t think I’ve ever felt better in my entire life”, she whispers. Her voice is still weak. She‘s breathing-in fresh air and it explodes in her lungs sharply. This is how it must’ve felt at the time of her original birth. Another couple of deep breaths and she’s beginning to feel quite inebriated. Everything’s spinning, her face flushes. Goose-bumps are crawling all-over her body. It is as if she’s just downed several salty shots of tequila in one go before hitting the stage life has chosen for her to be on from now on. With confidence brimming and a huge smile on her face, she’s scattering her fullyblown kit across a gathering audience of befuddled fools. Until she just stands there, naked and sacred. And up for virtually     “To be honest, Lucy, I don’t think I’ve ever felt better in my entire life”, she whispers. Her voice is still weak. She‘s breathing-in fresh air and it explodes in her lungs sharply. This is how it must’ve felt at the time of her original birth. Another couple of deep breaths and she’s beginning to feel quite inebriated. Everything’s spinning, her face flushes. Goose-bumps are crawling all-over her body. It is as if she’s just downed several salty shots of tequila in one go before hitting the stage life has chosen for her to be on from now on. With confidence brimming and a huge smile on her face, she’s scattering her fullyblown kit across a gathering audience of befuddled fools. Until she just stands there, naked and sacred. And up for virtually anything.

From her Upper West-side apartment she’s got a lovely view over Central Park, which is always nice, for sure, but freaking awesome in summer. She bought the place about two years ago and it was certainly one of the most life-changing decisions she’s ever made – somewhere along the lines of her abortion three years earlier. Although she really liked the guy back then and in a way getting pregnant by him had felt somehow right, she decided against becoming a mother at those particularly early stages of her career. And puff – just like that – the very same career almost overnight shot through the roof, cementing her face and her body on countless fashion and lifestyle titles all over the world. Funny how things go sometimes.

“Thanks Rachel – yeah it’s definitely been a wake-up call. I just can’t carry on like this anymore,” she says on the phone. She’s talking to her best friend, a similarly successful model – although she’s got to star in an urban-cool glam-rock pop-promo not long ago and is now keen to get into movies. Zoe lies on the couch and rants into her flip-top.
“I haven’t done anything else in my life apart from modelling and I know it sounds pretty pretentious, because, y’know, we’re all stars and whatever”, she contemplates. Rachel feels silent on the other side. “But at the end of the day we’re still always hanging out with the same bunch of people, y’know – ‘our own kind’ – and the rest of the world feels like a threat in a way – d’you know what I mean?”, she asks Rachel although she herself doesn’t really know what she’s actually talking about. Well. She’s gonna take a bath, she decides.
“Anyway, good to be back and let’s catch up soon. You going to Giorgio’s party tonight? … well perhaps see you there then. Byyye.” She throws her phone on the loo seat and slides-off her panties. Steaming-hot water pours into the warm and soft polymer-tub matching the luminescent-green toilet next to it. She found them both in her favourite designer-shop downtown, like the eggshaped, musk-flavoured candles neatly spread-out across the room. She ignites some and turns-off the main light to have one of her favourable looks at herself in the mirror-wall facing the tub. Sighing and satisfied with what she sees, she finally slides into the water.
This is it, her life so far. Looking at it from the outside it isn’t actually too bad. Only that ‘something’ deep inside her – something essential – is missing ‘something’ in it. After puffing away half of the joint a Moroccan model-friend left her the other day – “is really niiice”, he promised – it gradually dawns on her that she’s got to get out of here in order to find out what this ‘something’ may be.

“To say I’m shocked would be a complete understatement, Zoe”, Françoise throws back at her, looking down on Broadway from the striking panorama-view of her office.
“It’s only six months, Françoise, not such a big deal. It’s not that I’m telling you I’m quitting, is it?” Zoe takes a deep breath. “Why don’t you look at it as a big holiday, I haven’t had one for ages anyway”, she further reasons. A pin-board behind the desk is plastered with pictures of ethereal, pretty outlandish models.
“I need a holiday too, believe me”, Françoise admits after a while.
“You should get one, Françoise. It really doesn’t help anyone if you’re not happy.”
Françoise doesn’t look at her but has spotted a strangely peculiar ant crawling along 127 floors below – and it might as well be one of her model-scouts she’s stubbornly convinced for a while.
“In a way, your whole life is like an endless stream of addictions”, she finally says, almost to herself, “and at some point your career, your hobbies, your friends and your love-life simply become yet another series of bad habits – increasingly difficult to break the older you get, really.”
The humming chords of another day passing in New York City are all they hear for a while. Never before has Zoe seen her agent this serious and the whole confrontation has turned out quite touching – if that’s the right expression.
But then Françoise-the-business-woman returns and their conversation changes tune once again. “So I’ll take your new bookings from the 1st of January, is that correct?”, she wants to know.
Zoe laughs, “you’ll get over it, Françoise. There are lots of other hot models under your roof to keep you perfectly happy.” She steps over and kisses her cheek. “I’ll see you in a couple of months again. I won’t take any mobile with me and I’ve decided not to do any emails either.”
Zoe’s spreading her arms and bending her knees in an ironical stage-performance. “This will be it then …”
“So where’s this place you’re going again?”, Françoise asks her, mainly to keep her lurking melancholy under control.
“Iceland. A friend’s already been there a couple of times and she says it’s absolutely amazing.”
Françoise glances down on Broadway again. She catches another ant-scout and thus once again successfully represses any too uncomfortable emotions. “Sounds great”, she mutters, in her mind somewhere else already.
“Take it easy, Françoise. I’m already looking forward to seeing you again”, Zoe says in her sweetest voice. “Byyye.”
She turns around and leaves the office, passing by a ridiculously busy agency floor – to reach the postmodern, slick hyper-speed-lifts bringing her back down to baseline.

“Yeah baby, exactly, for six months … that’s right.” She’s back at her place and on the phone to her ‘boyfriend’ David. For a few minutes he’s totally with her, something he hasn’t been since they’d met at last year’s Golden Globe after-show party and which also then only lasted right until they’d fucked-out their brains back in her room, coked-up and turned-on like two lonesome lab-rabbits. Now he’s again behaving like this boy whose mother’s just told him to stay put while she’s gonna pop down to do some extensive Christmas shopping. Her announcement’s obviously triggered his ‘caring instinct’ again – let’s call it ‘love’ to keep things simple. Well well, my poor David – perhaps you do want to progress into some deeper and more serious, perhaps even lasting relationships, after all?
“You won’t miss me anyway”, she jokes while packing her suitcase.         “Yes, of course I will”, she replies to his almost fatherly advice to look after herself. Toothbrush? Tweezers? She roams through her bathroom cabinet. His tone of voice’s gone back to normal again. Like so often, he’s probably with a girl or two and even as they’re talking about her leaving for quite a long period of time, one of them will have already pulled down his pants in giggling anticipation of his admittedly accomplished lovemaking skills. She’s suddenly got to laugh at this thought. He just loooves sex and never really gets tired of telling her – good old David.
“Well David, I’ll see you again in winter. Have a good time until then – I know you will. Thanks. Byyye.” She closes the phone and chucks it onto the bed next to the suitcase. Has she got everything? It really doesn’t matter since most of the time she’ll be naked anyway. “The only thing you need at the retreat is your Self”, it promises in the brochure. Somehow this makes sense, to turn up like a baby, fragile and exposed, if any rebirth is supposed to happen.


The mud is completely covering her body like a second skin. She can feel the cooling, caustic consistency of the loam-pack even inside her ears. Alone in the darkened room, which looks a bit like the tomb for an intergalactic war hero, she notices that this earth doesn’t smell too bad at all. Slowly drying, its rejuvenating juices are dissipating into her slender and tanned body. The whole thing is indeed beyond anything she could’ve ever imagined and – well, definitely absolutely amazing.

Later on in the evening, she has a swim in one of the hot sulphur-pools outside. Through the thick, crawling steam she can glimpse the vast ice-crusted landscape surrounding the spa. For a good while, she cheerfully paddles with her arms, hanging in the water, before leaning back to let herself float on the surface. The beauty of the stars, as they glitteringly flicker through heavy layers of steam, overwhelms her on the second day. She’s starting to cry – an already poriferous valve has suddenly burst open. Between alternating waves of pain and bliss she lets go, at once, of all the stress and tensions accumulated from years of hiding. The years of lying. And it just wouldn’t stop for another three days.

“Do you like it here?”, the short, chubby guy asks from the opposite bench of the sauna. At this time they’re the only guests there. His white, fluffy towel has been carefully draped around his waist so that the flabby chunk of his belly can present itself to the dry heat of the room with a sweaty but polite bow. She’s noticed this guy for a couple of days now. Despite her flawless body and her pretty relaxed but all-the-more in-your-face way to present it, she hasn’t seen any signs of the submissive demeanour most other men would usually display in her presence. She’s getting up from her comfy position for her cute, pear-shaped tits to poke straight into his eye. Not the slightest reaction and he doesn’t seem to be gay either – how funny.
“For me it’s the first time I’m here and to be honest with you I’m totally blown away by the whole thing”, she finally answers, introducing herself on the way – “I’m Zoe.” She stretches her slender neck every-so-subtly.
“I’m Paul, it’s very nice to meet you”, he says, “for me it’s also the first time and I’m also absolutely loving it.”
“It’s beyond any dream.” She gives him one of her sweetest smiles. He seems to be a really nice guy.
“I’m a … molecular biologist”, he then says, a bit awkward, somewhat out of context, almost as if he was a bit ashamed of it, but then again, not really.
“Oh wow, that sounds really fascinating.” For some reason she feels very relaxed with this guy and somehow trusts him completely – although she couldn’t exactly pin-down why. “I’m working in fashion, basically selling clothes with my looks”, she tells him, leaving her job description as low-key as she’s spontaneously being capable of.
“I see”, he nods, understanding.
Still smiling, she goes back into her favourite lying position. It feels so good to meet this guy.
A friendly staff member pops in with a wooden water-bucket, obligatory at half-hourly intervals. “Aaah, very good”, Paul welcomes her and then gets up while the woman leaves again quietly. He draws water out of the bucket, adds a few drops of the mandarin oil he’s been hiding somewhere deep in his towel. Then pours it all in one go on the gleaming-hot stones of the heater. Outbursts of steam keep flooding the room and they’re both groaning in unison – eaten alive by zillions of rejoicingly gnawing water-particle piranhas.

Breakfast usually takes place between seven and eight in the morning. If you don’t turn up on time you’ll not get anything to eat for another five hours. After almost two weeks, she still can’t get used to the tight regime of the sanctuary. She’d gone to bed late last night and couldn’t possibly drag herself out of it this morning. Now she’s bloody starving and unfortunately has got to hold it for another three hours. To manage, she opts for the steam-room. There are a few people there. Paul is one of them, although almost entirely hidden behind the thick fumes.
His day’s so far been quite good. He enjoyed a green loam face-pack in the morning, followed by some therapeutic deep-organ massage which had been really painful to start with but after a while felt almost outrageously relieving. This was then followed by a refreshing swim in the eucalyptus-chambers around the main pool area. He now feels fairly ‘content’, if that’s the right expression. ‘Happy’, if that wouldn’t sound too silly.
After everyone else has left, him and Zoe move closer together. She stretches back into her favourite position, naked and dignified. A goddess. Endless layers of fog sweep through the room like vacant, translucent visions.
“Did you know that we’re continuously photocopying ourselves?”, Paul starts. His voice is calm and consistent, she finds it extremely comforting to listen-in to. “This photocopying seems to be Life as we know it.”
She doesn’t feel the need to answer or to interrupt. In fact, she can’t wait to hear more.
He continues, “every single minute we photocopy several kilometres of our DNA. That’s like … – … it’s in a way like the heartbeat of the universe, isn’t it?”
With her eyes closed she’s riding the waves of thought he’s just imparted on her. It’s quite an odd journey but she can’t remember a time when she’s felt that much at ease with herself.
According to his experience, it’s definitely not an easy task to take the truth about life on board – about us, the futile, transitory machinery that we are. Awareness needs time to settle. This gives him a chance to look at her for the first time properly. Through the heavy, hot fumes he examines her excruciatingly flawless grace. What a sheer perfect code. It is in fact of such mind-boggling magnificence that he can’t remember of ever having seen anything like it, not even under the microscope and most definitely not this alive and sprawled-out right in front of him. Her magnetism is so overpowering that he has to literally force himself to look away. Endorphins rush through his brain in a frenzy, underpinning his general contentment with a broad grin on his face. The hormones of love. Yes indeed, he does feel profoundly ‘complete’ at this particular freeze-frame of eternity. What an amazing experience. He breathes in and out deeply, indulging in the feast of comfort swelling up in his chest.
Slowly he carries on, letting it pour out from even deeper, this time. “Any sloppy copying alters the initial code and thereby results in mutations. Some of them are advancing us, making us ‘better’. But most of the time they’d simply just drag us down. Ageing itself is ultimately just a mutation.”
Heavy wafts of steam continue to float through the room quietly. Again, he’s letting the data settle before he eventually concludes, “hence life on earth is merely a six-million-years-long history of photocopying primordial soup-recipe to eventually look like you and me here, sweating away in an Icelandic steam-chamber.” Pause. “And while I’m talking to you and you’re listening to me we’re actually photocopying ourselves into the future.” Another pause, this time it is final.
She sighs. So this is what existence comes down to then. Here it is, the truth she’s always felt somehow. The steam above her head is now so dense that it almost seems to stand there, without any signs of movement, without any sense of weight, just waiting for something to happen, some code to be generated, some time to be passed, some light to be shed into yet more corners of darkness. Pinned down to her bench. her mind is drifting-off deeper into this world – the Real World, the Universe and her deserved place within. This is for sure the most amazing trip she’s ever had. Both her body and mind have never been more pristine and clear than at this very moment, in this timeless parallel-universe of an Icelandic steam-room where she’s having the time of her life with some overweight guy who just happens to be incredibly sweet. And she’s starting to feel like a crystal.

After another day of massages, steam-baths and saunas she wakes up from a dream where her and Paul have been touching each other in one of the sulphur-pools outside. The dream really irritates her, firstly because she hasn’t had any sexual ideas for ages. And secondly, because she doesn’t even remotely fancy Paul. Of course he’s really cool – an absolutely amazing guy and everything – but making love to him, that’s a different story entirely. Perhaps it is sad, but looks to her are really important and in this department Paul’s definitely not her kind of guy – sorry about that.
Unable to go back to sleep, she heads towards her kitchen. She flicks-on the kettle and prepares herself an organic nettle-tea. In the mini-fridge, there’s still a little bit left of the flame-grilled soya steak from the day before, garnished with still surprisingly succulent leaves of baby-spinach. She decides to devour it cold. The steady chewing calms down her itching nerves nicely. “I know, the realisation that our life is futile and pointless is a very lengthy and painful process”, she remembers Paul’s words and takes a sip off the tea. It is nice and further contributes to calming her down. Can she ever go back to her old life again? Could she basically ever do anything else than model, snort coke and hang out with people who’re only pretending to be her friends all the time? And what’s all this about Paul? It is true, she really likes him and everything and there’s something really strong goingon between them. But what does this ultimately mean?

It feels odd the next time they meet. There’s also a pang of loneliness in the air as she knows that he’ll leave in just a few days.
“I can’t sleep at the moment”, she starts today’s conversation in an attempt to distract from the extremely uncomfortable situation. He moves closer towards her on the sauna bench that day and rubs her back comfortingly. It must be the first time that they’ve actual physical contact. Although he remains as distant as ever, the gesture alone is soothing her.
“I know how it feels,” Paul says with a hoarse and low voice. Father to girl. It all feels so bloody comforting. Zoe resists the urge to drop her head on his lap, allowing herself to turn into the melting receiver of his delicate strokes through her hair. What the hell is happening? Could this be love then, after all? Is this how it feels, this ‘love’?
No, it’s simply impossible – it can not possibly be. And yet, there’s this almost painful urge to be close to him and … whatever, today she simply can’t deal with it.
“I’m really sorry, Paul”, she finally says and gently pats on his shoulder. She gets up, grabs her towel and heads towards the exit. Before she’s leaving, she turns round, with a shrug and a grimace indicating something like ‘it’s-just-too-hot-in-here-today’. And it skilfully allows her to escape without leaving any traces of tension or sadness behind. At least not this time.

They’re in the sulphur-pool outside. It’s around 11.30 pm and most guests have gone to bed already. This evening, there’s an icy breeze pulling the steam swiftly across the water. It’s Paul’s final night. A grey cloud of depression is hanging above their heads, waiting to come down as soon as they’d lose their frail composure. It’ll be extremely difficult to say goodbye. Of course they’ll try to stay in touch but it’s in reality highly unlikely. He lives somewhere in countryside England, with a wife and three kids. And she’s going to be back in New York again, with an after her absence most likely to be even busier timetable than ever before. The prospects of a friendship like this are not particularly rosy, are they? Perhaps an email every now and again. But she’s just not the kind of person to bother about typing what she feels into some machine connected to  another machine. And she knows all-too-well that he wouldn’t be the kind of person either. Mutual holidays here in Iceland every two years? How pathetic.
“More or less this is it”, she thinks. “More or less this is it”, she says. Finally, after four months of innumerable loam-packs, steam-baths and massages, her thoughts are entirely in tune with her actions. Everything comes out pure and unadulterated.
“I’m not sure how to deal with this either”, he answers after a while. His voice is coarse and trembling.
The stars have now become completely hidden from them. They’re both entrenched in an infinite capsule of white fog. Here and now. The heartbeat of the universe. She’s resting her head on his shoulder and doesn’t say a thing. He also remains silent – staring blankly into the lucid, transiting steam as it keeps changing its shape, size and position.
Fractals. Fractals passing through time and space.
Both their lives are nothing more than this. But then again. They’re also nothing less.

london, june 2005 – march 2009
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