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Karl Marx pulled his battered MacBook towards him and punched out the url of a search engine. At forty-one, Karl had reached a crossroads in his life. A decisive crossroads. Until recently he had been hailed as 'that promising young net artist'. No longer. Web 2.0 had changed all that. Now virtually everyone was posting mobile phone videos on YouTube and insisting they were a net artist because they had a MySpace account too. To top it all government backed arts funding was being disastrously diverted into subsidising the 2012 Olympics. Karl's chief  benefactor, a career minded civil servant,  had made it clear that if the online audience for his work continued to decline, then his funding would be cut. There were too many distractions on the net, art just didn't compete with an online market place like eBay, and Karl's website no longer appealed to the public regardless of critical acclaim. Karl himself had to admit that some of the capitalist sites could be fun, and that he often wasted hours at a time putting together fantasy furniture he'd like to own from Ikea, using the enticing html this Swedish firm offered potential customers.

On the brink of disaster Karl had one of those inspirational flashes common to artists. of 'genius'. He had read a broadsheet article by Tom McCarthy about how all the smartest literary writing was now being issued by art publishers. McCathy had spent years trying to find a commercial publisher for his novel 'Remainder'. Eventually in desperation he'd given it to art outfit Metronome, and once out in the world in an edition of only 800 copies, a buzz developed around the book and by this circuitous route it had been bought up by a corporate operation and gatecrashed the New York Times bestseller list. Being a post-modernist, Karl found it easy enough to produce a novel of his own; he'd simply trawled the internet for out of copyright material and eventually hit on the idea of using the find and replace function on his computer to transform Grant Allen's 'The Woman Who Did' into a new book which he (re)named 'I Shot Valerie Solanas'. As a print on demand item his first major work of fiction had proved a huge hit, and it had been snapped up by a commercial publisher who'd demanded a new novel as a part of the deal he'd cut with Karl.

Karl finished a packet of hemp seeds, opened another and poured himself a generous double espresso. He tried to remember the name of the book he wanted to find. He'd read it many years earlier. It was about a coin and the life stories of all the different people who came into possession of it. Karl did a search for "Story of a Guinea" but got no result. He tried "Story of a Coin", which brought up an account of the holocaust by Primo Levi and several recent works of fiction exploring probability theory. The book Karl sought pre-dated the twentieth century. He altered his search terms to "Tale of Coin" but fared no better. He tired substituting 'coin' with 'guinea' and then 'penny' but still couldn't locate the tome he sought.

Karl tried the phrase''Victorian pornographic literature', which produced an interesting article on 'the fifty mile per hour club' addressing the nineteenth-century obsession with sex on trains, a perversion that mirrors our own contemporary 'mile high club' fetishes. This search also produced a frustratingly large number of subscription only academic articles. Karl knew the free market was an ideological construct and that even in the virtual economy there was no real 'free' circulation of goods. After this reminder of the irrationality and arbitrariness of capitalism, Karl was excited when he stumbled across a posting he'd made ten years earlier and he decided to re-post this as a blog on one of his many MySpace profiles:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007
The web sex archives of Karl Marx
Current mood:  bouncy
Category: Romance and Relationships

QUESTION: When you say a female 'cums' does this refer to large amounts of fluid being discharged from the vagina, or fluid being expelled from the urethra? What is the terminology used for each of these?
1ST REPLY: The dictionary definition of "cum" is "combined with," or "along with," as in "My garage cum workshop." Its slang meaning (the 62nd definition in my dictionary) is "to have an orgasm." The derivation is Old English "cuman." Walt Whitman is credited with popularizing the expression "to come" meaning "to have an orgasm." In Victorian pornographic literature characters are likely to describe an imminent orgasm by saying, "I'm about to 'spend'!"  Interesting, isn't it, how "come" replaced "spend?" And of course "come" and "cum" can be nouns as well as verbs: "I came, and here is my (come/cum)."
KARL: That's not really all that helpful. Could someone please try to answer the original question?
2ND REPLY: When a female 'cums', it refers to her having an orgasm regardless of whether or not she ejaculates. The ejaculation comes from a gland within the urethra and is similar to the male equivalent of prostate fluid. Some women expel this fluid regardless of whether or not they have an orgasm. It's related to the g-spot stimulation which some women respond to, while others don't.
Currently reading: "69 Things to do with a Dead Princess" by Stewart Home.
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FABIOLA:  Men defining women's orgasm? Yeah - that makes sense....... I liked the title - alluring lol. How in hell do you have this - are you really Karl Marx, and the holy spirit?
KARL: I was just trying to remember the title of a novel so I typed in "Victorian pornographic literature" and the search engine came up with this and a few other things...
OEDIPUSSY: What he means, kids, is that he was doing his usual 'research' for a new novel by looking for out-of-copyright Victorian porn to 'playgiarise' for a new tree-felling...erm.. best-selling novelty...erm.. novel. I'm hip to the techniques these so-called writers use to create an air of magic about their Bill Burroughs-style cut and pillage of proper texts written by the literary lost-profits of yesterberry. But fear not! Originality will triumph as we turn our eggs on the wilful post-moderns and their pub-lit, pub-rock, pub-dub agendas. Down with the literary old-bill of wannabe Beats. We need an army of tree-huggers who will stand between these smash'n'grab hacks and their medium. Who needs a printer when you can be a legend of the silver screen?!!
DAVE KELSO-MITCHELL: Spend, spend spend!

Satisfied he'd done a good night's work, Karl crawled into bed around 5am. He awoke five hours later and while he was making a generous espresso it struck him that the title of the book he was looking for was "Adventures of a Guinea". Karl rushed to his Mac, booted it up, called down a search engine and found exactly what he was looking for: "Charles Johnstone: Chrysal: Or, The Adventures of a Guinea." His search threw up much else of interest too: "Adventures of a Bank Note by Thomas Bridges (1770-71)...  Adventures of a Rupee by Helenus Scott (London, 1782)... The History and Adventures of a Lady's Slippers and Shoes (1754)... The History and Adventures of a Bedstead (1784)... Autobiography of a Pocket Hankerchief by James Fenimore Cooper (1843)...."

Despite Karl's curiosity being partly frustrated by net capitalists who insisted he pay a subscription to read the academic material they posted on the web, he quickly learnt that the object narrative dated back to the early eighteenth century in Britain, and often involved currency or other articles of daily life. Some academics even seemed to take the position that these novels were produced to resolve the crisis of meaning created by a vastly expanding market where there was no longer any binding social tie between man and wo/man other than the cold cash nexus. Karl had to decipher these meanings from the odd sentences various searches produced, and these often featured ellipses indicating a lacuna in the text, but rest assured Karl's interpretations were almost certainly superior to the original works which he could only glimpse in fragmentary form.

After many hours of happy speculation, Karl remembered he had a book to produce, and so after locating a free electronic version of "Chrysal: Or, The Adventures of a Guinea" he ran it through a software programme called MacTravesty, which mangled the text. Before long he’d created a book he called "Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Oekonomie". The opening of his new tome read as follows:

"In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as a vast accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into representation..."

Karl's publisher complained that this work dealt with commodities on the level of their circulation only, and that it neglected to address their production. He refused to publish the manuscript but Karl made it available online for free and it quickly gained a cult following. However, it wasn't until another net artist ran Karl's book through MacTravesty a second time and re-circulated it as "Murdering The Dead by Amadeo Bordiga", that the art world took note of Karl's groundbreaking political and economic insights. By then, of course, it was already too late; Karl had changed his name to Jean Baudrillard and reversed the positive and negative polarities of his own critique of alienation – claiming a la Andy Warhol that the masses had taken on the destiny of objects – and that he, like them, wanted to be a machine.

Next piece: "Nude For Satan" meets "The Irresistible Force"

Level 2 Gallery Project



colour field by Stewart Home
This story is a response to the Irresistible Force exhibition theme of economy. For further information go to Level 2.