jude schutz — crystal knocht presents
Crystal Knocht stands as a rare example of the genius artist who is recognized in her own lifetime.—(Not like Kristallnacht. Nothing like Kristallnacht. But of course, rather: Crystal Knocht—the woman and not the pogrom. Kinda like Crystal K, sensational hāfu Japanese R&B idol, just with “nocht” added on the end.)
(Pronounce it the Scandinavian way—Karl Öve Knausgärd, anyone?—ergo Crystal Knocht—Crystal “kuh-knocked” [although with “knocked,” in this instance, still pronounced with a notwithstandingly silent ‘k’ (how odd, by the way, that one feels reticent to write out “nocked” without prefixing to it a quisling ‘k’, so indoctrinated are we into the orthographic conventions of the times, even to the point of condoning aberrant, abominable letters that serve no purpose except to pervert our spelling-pronunciation nexus [thus perverting too, our young children in their rudimentary language instruction]).]!)
Quite exceptional to Knocht however, is how her estimation has only grown, never diminished, since her tragic yet fatidical end by electric chair. Today, one cannot in good faith discuss “art,” such as “it” is, without devoting the lionshare of the conversation to KNOCHT: the person, the work—the icon, the symbol.
We as enlightened modern subjects can now come to identify, with the astounding clarity afforded by retrospection, a veritable turning point within the annals of art history (such as they are): between those infantile and, frankly, quite pathetic attempts at creation that characterize past “artistic periods” (s.a.t.a.)—your cubists, your Romantics and your Salon des refusées (French for “The Abortable Barbershop”), your post-Internets and your prehistoric cave painters; your art with a lowercase-A, your irrelevancies and your trifles—and the mature, living, culminating works of capital-A Art being produced in our own “time”—such as it is (because truly, what can one say “time” even is in the aftermath of Knocht?). The turning point—of course!—is her, it is Knocht: there is pre-Knocht and there is everything else, there is post-Knocht and then there is trash—utter, fettering, festering, abject—trash. There is Knocht and there are imitators. There are even those prescient artists who managed to imitate Knocht before she was even alive—but they are lost to history all, they have been rendered obsolete.
Knocht is life, Knocht is time, Knocht is everything. And vice versa. But then again, in a realer sense, Knocht is nothing, she is no-time, and she is death; Knocht is our carnal blood and the earthen soil whence we sprout and bud.
The scale of the universe is godly, infinite—one feels almost ashamed to have been so lucky as to have been born in The Era of Knocht. Truly, however, our shame is misplaced: whom we should rightly pity are the shameful and desolate souls of our ancestors born in darkness; and posterity, doomed to wallow in backwash.
Almost instantaneously upon her arrival onto the perennial New York, and thus world, art scene, Crystal Knocht wasn’t just the most critically revered and popularly received artist of her generation—she was her generation. And in fact, every other generation as well.
Her influence was unavoidable: that is, her influence can be read in the measly works of those contemporaries who did not immediately succumb to suicide after Knocht’s first solo gallery show. And how miniscule were their ranks: upon the success of her debut outing—and what man, woman, or even tiny infant among us cannot instantly call to mind Knocht’s preternatural freshman effort with a rueful yet wholly satisfied sigh?—nearly one
hundred visual artists working in the City killed themselves, almost all of them by jumping in front of a subway train. (This event is now remembered in the popular consciousness mostly from Bob Dylan’s epochal album, Blood on the Tracks, which, as well as commemorating Knocht’s opening, brutally lampooned the cowardly and newly irrelevant “7-Train 77,” as they were known in the media. It is also interesting to note that while based in New York, Knocht’s first show also spurred a string of suicides in Berlin, Paris, and Garden Valley, Idaho—and even locales as exotic as Hawai’i and the Orient!)
Like all ingenious minds, however, Knocht encountered her fair share of scorn as well—mostly from the State. While the public wholly embraced the woman and her almost pathologically trailblazing oeuvre (literally translating to “eggs” from French, this idiomatic expression refers to an artist’s body of work), the powers-that-be at this time were distrustful of Knocht’s powerful, revolutionary ideas. It’s almost laughable today, when Knocht’s thought is now taught to schoolchildren the world over and her bronzed likeliness is on proud virtual display on Reddit: The Front Page of the Internet And The Front Lobby of the Cosmos—but believe it or not, man once walked the earth in cimmerian ignorance.
But perhaps Knocht’s most enduring gift to the orgone—were one possibly to choose—would have to be her last exhibit before her untimely death by electric chair:
Displayed at Gallery 46, located on 45th Street, “MEIN FRACT/MEIN LEBEN” (a German expression meaning, enigmatically, “My fract/my leben”) has remained open for nineteen eons to date (of course, this is a relative calculation since the final dissipation of “time” as a concept, which took place approximately 452 myrs ago [again a relativistic calculation]).
When the work first appeared at the prestigious (prestigious by the very fact Knocht would deign to host her work there) Gallery 46, its curator readily acknowledged the work’s unorthodox form: an interactive, fully immersive simulation. Just when we thought Knocht could not possibly trailblaze any further, she “Knocht” (this time pronounced “knocked,” and not with the more accurate “kuh-knocked” pronunciation) the wind out of us once again—and with a videogame no less!
Despite being invite-only, the crowd at Gallery 46 that night overflowed onto 45th Street; some journalists even reported on rumors that more invites were sent out than people could physically fit into the relatively small gallery space, as a PR tactic.
It was esteemed curator Camillo Baumeister who addressed the swarming masses: “Martial discourse between two criticerial camps has been waged since the dawn of ‘time’—incidentally, a notion exploded within this very exhibit—on the subject of video-gamic art: some critics say videogames are art; some critics, on the other hand, say that videogames are not art… and then, I cite some examples from both sides.”
Flash-bulbs were shattering left and right, journalists were stammering for a scoop—the energy at Gallery 46 that night was, to say the least, palpable. One brazen critic shouted out—
“Did you just say, ‘And then you’ll cite some examples’?”
Mr. Baumeister remained as poised as ever. When he is remembered today—usually and endearingly referred to, simply, as just, “Camillo”—it is for that same poise.
He went on: “Along with her new work, Gallery 45 is pleased to present the peerless, the hauntological, the incontestable Contessa herself… one Crystal Knocht!”
Another hand shoots up. “Like Kristallnacht?”
“No, not like Kristallnacht. Nothing like Kristallnacht. She’s actually Norwegian, so it’s pronounced ‘Crystal Kuh-knocked.’”
“But that’s not what you said, you said Kristallnacht.”
A clearing of throat, an elegant, poiseful return to his original train of thought: “Forever put to rest are flaccid, fetal dualisms such as the ‘videogame-art’ false dichotomy. Along with, incidentally, all other dualisms, dualities, dichotomies, and dichotalisms.” There were those in the crowd who gasped, but then got embarrassed and pretended they hadn’t.
“One may very well be quite shocked by this advancement.” Gasps abounded now. “The exhibit, however, is simple. Though of course, also quite complex—this is Knocht we’re talking about after all!” At this juncture, scattered laughs ran through the enraptured audience. “Ha ha ha! So, at this juncture, without further ado, I will indeed bid you all—adieu…”
Camillo holds for laughter that doesn’t come. It is an unfortunate moment in an otherwise poised career.
“... and introduce the main event of the evening—Ms. Knocht.” And then, there she was. Everyone gasped again, then proceeded to hold rapt, rapturous attention.
Knocht that evening was especially opaque in her description of, as the artist herself called it, “Mein Fract slash Mein Leben”. This is not least because her face was totally obscured by a black mask—which one would traditionally associate with members of ISIS, the radical liberation group. But even muffled thereby, her voice rang out like a thousand and one church-bells on the holiest day of the year.
What she described was not a videogame in the traditional sense—certainly not, almost certainly not! One shudders even to compare Knocht’s master stroke with the trifling time-wasters that characterize your average videogames! No: instead, the work was nothing less than a complete summation of the incomparable reality of life. Each gallery guest, going one at a time, would have the inimitable opportunity to be the experiencing subject of “MEIN FRACT/MEIN LEBEN”. And they would have this opportunity exactly once.
“Herein lies the genius of her work,” lauded the head critic of one leading industry rag, NYC: And The C Is For “Creativity and Art”:
“When you finally make it to the front of the line—oh, and trust me: there will be a line—before you can strap on the virtual reality headset, the virtual reality boots, the virtual reality mouthguard—before you can strap in virtual reality anything—including the virtual reality gloves, the virtual reality fleshlight or virtual reality dildo or both; the virtual reality chestplate—before you can do any of that, you have to register with the fingerprint scanner.
“‘Hey!,’ you the reader might well be reading this and saying—‘Hey!,’ you might then repeat. ‘Hey, you! You! Hey! Yeah, you, jackass. Head critic at NYC: And The C Is For “Creativity and Art”, that leading industry rag for the art industry. Yeah, you. Hey.’
“Don’t worry, I hear you, and I’m heading over. How can I help you, I congenially respond.
“You the reader again: ‘But hey!’
“I get it, I say—please, do go on. I am a little pressed for time as I am on my way to an appointment, so what is it you’ve stopped me for, I say. (In all honesty, I have no appointment, but I disdain to be stopped in such a manner by a stranger, even if they do read my criticerial writings.)
“You go on to say: ‘Doesn’t all this fingerprint scanner jive kinda sound a bit like something out of the authoritative-authoritarian-author regime from Haruki Murakami’s dystopian post-modern novel, Nineteen Eighty-Whorwell?’
“Well, to you the reader I would respond back: Rest assured. Just those two words. But in the way I say it, you the reader will know I really mean it. And that I understand your concern, but that, I promise, I’m looking out for you—and that I know you, and that I want what’s best for you.
“In other words, do not worry: your fingerprints are stored quite anonymously, into a machine known only as ‘THE MACHINE’, and are only used for verification purposes—Camillo (don’t we all just love him!) from Gallery 46 told me that even Gallery 46 doesn’t have access to the data within:
“‘45th Street will turn to 54th Street before anyone’s fingerprint data escapes “THE MACHINE”,’ Camillo told me, and then we both laughed. Camillo is so quick with a turn of phrase—just like 45th Street, if you follow it westward long enough, is quick to turn into the icy, ceaseless, and unforgiving waters of the Hudson.
“But whatever the case, once your fingerprints have been safely scanned, you will proceed to be allowed exactly one turn at Knocht’s ‘MEIN FRACT/MEIN LEBEN’. Truly, then, this is a once in a lifetime experience!
“Don’t miss ‘MEIN FRACT/MEIN LEBEN’, folks, down at Gallery 46 on 45th Street—critic’s pick! If you hit 46th or 44th Street, you’ve gone too far! Or, conversely, not far enough! Depends what direction you’re coming from!”
Unfortunately, this critic was de facto blacklisted from the criticician biz after the foregoing review, under accusation of his being a crypto-anthropocentrist: every man, woman, and raccoon knows that the particular works of Knocht are each ineffable at their very essence, and thus have each been subsumed into history—such as it is. Raping these works with the phallus of language was, as it still is, considered a major faux pas (French for “no bueno”). In all the other major industry rags, critics of superior intellectual honesty refused to resort to mere description in their write-ups of ‘MEIN FRACT/MEIN LEBEN’. Most reviews in the days following the opening largely consisted of awe-full aphrasia, taking the form of stark white pages; or otherwise inky cacophony, signifying the elated possession of the writer in their brave, yet fundamentally fruitless, attempt to transcribe the effect of Knocht’s artwork.
However—the aesthetics and ethics, not to mention esthetics, of criticism aside for a moment—the review as excerpted above is helpful for our purposes since it provides an invaluable and curious illustration of the exhibit as it first appeared to the public (I have special permission from the head of the new state—to delve into the previously closed volumes of /r/MeinLibrary—to thank for this adumbrative secondary source material). We also have record of a “ditty” that children once would sing while queued all down 45th Street:
Crystal Knocht, Crystal Knocht
We’ll all line up
Around the block!
Unfortunately, as the line extended to an absurd degree, the children of this early post-Knocht era did not indeed line up “around the block,” as goes the “ditty,” but instead queued up dutifully even into the very pitch-black waters of the Hudson, which are swift. The adults and stronger swimmers among them fared fine, as did those clever gallery-goers who brought along cayaks, kanoes, or other raft-like vehicles—but many, many children drowned. Some say you can still hear their ghostly song on foggy nights when the river’s low. Of course, how long one had to wait in line for their go-around at Knocht’s chef d’oeuvre (literally, in French, “one, esp. a chef or cook, who prepares eggs,” but here meaning “trans-artistic masterpiece”) was a measurement as variable then as it is now—the only certainty is that it will be a long one!
The rules of “MEIN FRAKT/MEIN LEBEN” are exceptionally simple, so simple that even one of the toddlers that was drowned in the Hudson could have understood (before they were swept under its turgid, fearful waters, that is): When you enter “MEIN FRAKT/MEIN LEBEN”, also known as “Knocht’s MEIN FRAKT/MEIN LEBEN”, you may only exit when you perish.
The current record for longest experience—along with it the much-longed-for title of “Biggest Survivor” and the concomitant bragging rights—belongs to a man who lived in the exhibit for 3 generations. Imagine waiting in line for that guy!
Some guests try for the strategy of hiding out, sometimes called “the hiding-out strategy” or “the hiding-out plan”—preferably near a virtual fruit-bearing tree for sustenance. Biggest Survivor, on the other hand, was constantly on the move, and this plan proved quite successful. It’s been said he was in there so long that he had a kid, just from masturbating: he saw to the boy’s rearing and, eventually, he witnessed the boy’s death. (The burial was a simple affair, replete with your predictable wicker casket, your tear-strung eulogy, your mark of Cain and your cane of Mark; your born in a preode of primordial prayer, falling, and dying in a socialist State of sin--the man did what he could.) In the final analysis, though, everyone “skins the cat” of “MEIN FRAKT/MEIN LEBEN” a little bit differently. And that’s what makes this piece so special.
Here’s how it all works on the inside: once you have registered with ‘THE MACHINE’—and remember, you can only do this once—you must put on each and every facet of the virtual reality. When you are finally outfitted, you will be covered head-to-toe in cutting-edge tech—cutting-edge because of its sophistication but also because of the virtual reality suit’s jagged corners, which frequently draw blood. When all is said and done, the devices weigh a walloping 19,000 metric kilo-tons—but you must remember that “weight” (such as such a thing can be) is an abstract formulation and exists only in the mind. Once the artwork is activated—the same artwork that Knocht sacrificed her life to create, the same artwork that others before you faced persecution at the hand of the State so that you, yes you, might one day have the opportunity to experience—you will have entered. Entered where?
Well, where else?
You have entered and you are inside. Would that the world “outside” be half as beautiful, half as rewarding… There are fruit-bearing trees, trees infecund; there are raccoons and pork-bearing pigs; there is every variety of flora and fauna. You can feel the wind against the skin of your back—you must be naked! You try running… It works! Why, you’ve never felt so free! Yippee!
There are, by the way, lots of other leaderboards besides just the one for Biggest Survivor. There’s even loads of them, in fact. For example, one woman, a dainty little old thing, took advantage of her technologically-enhanced abilities endowed to her by the virtual reality universe to construct a tower, winning her the title of Biggest Tower.
A fun, quick little side story about Biggest Tower: she “ended up” (the expression popularized by mega-ads in Time Square and on every page of Reddit, paid for by Gallery 46: “How will YOU end up?”) dying—quite decisively as well as decidedly—with a SPLAT! during the course of her hubristical construction project, that of her eponymous “biggest tower,” unfortunately. Fell off the tip-top when the stone she was hefting swung her off-balance. She thinks it was all worth it, though, for Cannonade Camillo ended up letting her set out a folding chair in the lobby of Gallery 46 so she could look at the thousand-yard smiles of the boys and girls as they admire her towerly handiwork upon entering ‘MEIN FRAKT/MEIN LEBEN’!
And I myself have met Biggest Tower: she’s a nice lady, sweet as can be and swell as a Honeycrisp apple from the eponymous “Big Apple,” home of apples and home of ‘THE MACHINE’.
Perhaps it should here be borne in mind that the leaderboards are horizontal, in a diabolically clever twist on the part of Knocht—that means, technically, that everyone wins in a tie. Because while there may be hierarchies in nature, in nature there is no such thing as power. In the end, all life amounts to a tie, and we shall all be laid to rest in parallel under the auspices of six feet of dirt and gravel, our blood merging finally with the soil.
(That the world existed before we are born, and will continue to exist after our death, is an illusion, a fabricated ideology supported only by the shaky foundation of general assumption; in other words, it’s just fiction! Just fiction, see? Like those highfalutin ol’ books by Ol’ Hanky-Pank Haruki and the Murdersome Murakamis—that band you like, the one that also writes books!)
Knocht was later executed for the cardinal sin of denying cardinal numbers, along with other cardinal and numerical sins and transgressions. She explained in a profile in New York Magazine the artistic decision to shirk numberhood, rankings, and even imaginary numberhood in “MEIN FRAKT/MEIN LEBEN”: “Everyone’s tied, because compared to the vast scale of the universe, they are indiscernible… then again, the universe itself is only an atom.” It was Caterwauling Camillo, that cantankerous Jew, who added leaderboard rankings after her death—but after the dissolution of numbers entirely, existential justice was restored.
In the post-post-Knocht era of today, you’d have to have been murdered in the womb by an abortionist not to have heard of ‘THE MACHINE’: the most iconic feature of the “Big Apple” as well as a popular pilgrimage site, flocked to by trillions of tourists (this of course being a relativistic value, what with the extinction of “numbers” some eleven quintilenty dog-years ago) with near cultic devotion—yup, if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed from the time of all those children’s drownings, it’s how long you have to wait in line!
You might be forgiven, on the other hand, for scratching your head when you read ‘MEIN FRAKT/MAIN LEBEN’, or “Mine Fracked Slash Mind Leavened”, as Knocht herself would mysteriously refer to it in the period before her execution, after which she couldn’t refer to it in any manner whatsoever—but don’t throw out your glasses, you’re not reading that wrong! It’s just the “old” name for Knocht’s final exhibition, the one we all know (and love!) as ‘THE MACHINE’. It’s just like how people started calling “Frankenstein’s monster” “Frankenstein,” or “tissues” “Kleenex,” or how people used to use numbers.
And fingerprint scanners—was that critic from earlier smoking crazy pills or something? In point of fact, he was. But all evidence suggests that at the time of his review of ‘MEIN FRAKT/MEIN LEBEN’ he was as sober as a bone, at least as far as his account of there being fingerprint scanners goes! It may be hard to imagine, but when the exhibit first opened, any Joe Schmoe with a thumb to his name could stumble onto 45th Street and log into ‘THE MACHINE’. Pretty soon, as one could probably guess, issues began to arise with this set-up. For one thing, craven opportunists began burning off their fingerprints just to have another go at Knocht’s art show, and some were even recorded as volunteering for expensive and hyper-invasive finger surgeries that gave them new arches, loops, and whorls. Knocht, naturally, remained calm and impassive in the face of these cynical cheats. Her belief, or, more precisely, her lack thereof, that “right” and “wrong” were crypto-anthropocentric pogroms against the orgone, prevented her from throwing herself carelessly into judgement or discrimination of any kind. It was ol’ Choleric Camillo—as we lovingly know him today—who jumped on the case and bestrode it sternly yet with great compassion.
A face-scanner was instated at Gallery 46 some half a trillion years ago. The added benefit of allowing arm- and hand-less people to partake in ‘THE MACHINE’ was certainly salutary, though in no way intentional. Hand- and arm-less freaks are generally discouraged from “giving it a go” (an expression made popular from Gallery 46’s international publicity campaign, entitled “You’ve Only Got One Shot: Give It A Go!”) due to their inability to use the virtual reality gloves, without which one’s experience is markedly deficient. Again the same problems: people burning off their faces, rhinoplasties, eye-gougings—a whole suite of tactics being employed just for one more “shot” (see above parenthetical) on Knocht’s wild ride.
Now, as we all know, there is an orgone-scanner which analyzes each gallery-goer’s essence and logs it in ‘THE MACHINE’. No cheating that system!
The unveiling of ‘THE MACHINE’—accompanied by the “veiling” of its creator, Crystal Knocht, in her ISIS mask—is now understood, correctly and with the benefit of hindsight, as the defining moment of the past trillion-point-two decades.
As if blasted through the ozone-layer at hypersonic speeds, Knocht’s magnum opus (“large phallic eye” in English) shocked the city of New York (additionally known by the moniker “New York City,” or by the apple-ation “The Big Apple”) to its very foundations, stripping bare the homes of sinners and saints, ripping through the asphalt streets and concrete sidewalks, exhuming the ancient ghosts of Indian dead underneath. Upon its arrival, workers cried and businessmen crawled on their hands and knees. Grown women were as infants; children could no longer claim innocence. Knocht was upon us like the dewfall—oh how sweet she tastes!
Great winds came upon us in that time, great, great winds, blast of fury from the sky it seemed. They buffeted off the sides of buildings and blew birds from their perch.
Children in the Hudson’s bemoanful waters, tethered to the mainland by only a human chain, linking them elbow-to-elbow, child-to-child, all the way to 45th Street. Gators snatched them up in their snouts and fed. The waters grew dense with blood, ungodly monsters, coffee cups, sewage, fire and smoke and smote metal, liquified gold.
Look not away in disgust, nor tremble in horror nor orgasmic pleasure. Whether you walk the earth and it’s summer or you walk the earth and it’s Hell, what matters is that you walk the earth.
The august soil on which we plant our feet has once again been poisoned by crypto-anthropocentric, cosmopolitan, and Bolshevik, not to mention atonal, degenerates. These insurgents pray for chaos, and not the good kind—they stand for nothing, not even the orgone. People think they’re God, that they ought to do all the sorting. They vye for Biggest Survivor, Biggest Tower, Biggest Earner, Biggest Pig Devoured…—What’s worse, that they see Knocht’s work but see it wrong—or don’t even see it at all?
Who alive today can claim to know Knocht? And I mean truly know: who among us can attest to faith beyond doubt in her work, her life? I often hear tell different rumors or interpretations of Knocht—goes one: Knocht was not just a unitary, singular artist, but the pseudonym of a working collective of sculptors, academics, and hackers; goes another: “Crystal Knocht,” an obvious anagram for “Klystron Catch,” was actually a cybernetic frequency interloper implanted into the orgone by the universe—excuse me, but is anyone really buying this?
We must return to the original material, that concrete foundation on which the house of man/house of Knocht itself was built, and was also at the same time built by. Wasn’t it Knocht herself who once said, that “those that fail to learn from history are doomed”? Of course, that to which she was referring was the history of “MEIN FRAKT/MEIN LEBEN”; and she didn’t precisely “say” it so much as we all collectively just understood it, as an unconscious impulse completely devoid of orality and bereft of dualism—but the point still irreflagably there stands.
(Do not call me a degenerate for exploring Knocht as an artist, for the purpose of exploring Knocht as an entity, as an origin. Call those who shirk exploration, who claim to already know—call them the degenerates, I tell you! For I am no art critic, and should shudder that I may be considered as one: typing up words, as an art critic so carelessly does, is simply what I happen to do at my keyboard, at my desk; but I criticize everywhere, at all times, with every iota of Mein Being [as opposed to the collective, colloquially deemed “MeinBeing,” a hip new product from the Gallery 46 team, led by everyone’s favorite, Mr. Concupiscent Camillo—that old rascal! The pig-fucking degenerate!].)
(Langage, the house man lives in—language, the house with vaginal walls and phallic chimney! Knocht, Knocht—open the door! Coughin’ Cornelius and the Phlegm-Hangin’ Henchmen called the Corneliii, all scatter like so many rats and cockroaches, summoned to the floorboards and hollowed attic rooms of time, to be sfumatigated by venerable Art History, the dispediculation of the orgone. Leaden paint, exfoliating off the walls in samizdat ribbons—[The real secret would be the formula by which the "now" keeps exfoliating out of itself, yet never escapes. What is it indeed, that keeps existence exfoliating?].)
A googolplex more children must drown—and then again and again. The line must continue snaking, snaking, snaking through every nook, cranney, alley, pier and underground sewer. Mucus comes in one end; phlegm out the other. A Shannon’s number of folding chairs and camping tents and kayaks will be purchased; countless, all told, verifiably countless dads and moms and children will set them up, wait in line, move their tents, move their folding chairs, row row row across the maelstromic waters of the Hudson, its unmade bed beckoning with seaweed fingers. They live in the subreddit where the Knocht never sets, some accursed, eternal dawn.
They’ll wait their turn.
PETER SCHUTZ is a writer.