A Model Citizen

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A look at a "future" world where egalitarianism is taken to an extreme.

The details were truly amazing.

“James, look at this one. It’s just so gorgeous”

Christina, her flowing auburn hair spilling down across her alabaster face as she leaned over the glass display stand, was utterly mesmerised by the exact miniature of a turn of the century English pub. The studious bustle of the invitation only audience receded as she peered closely at the vivid tableau that lay before her. James, her constant companion both in life and in bed, was himself engrossed in the incredibly vivid street Aegean street scene in another display cabinet a few metres away.

The artist was a genius; there was no other word for it. Rising from nonentity only a few short years previously and with no formal training to speak of, Eduard Mensch had miraculously carved out a niche market of his own. Defying common sense and practice, he had promoted his miniature architectural replicas as an art form by holding those early exhibitions in art galleries rather than craft shops.

Sight unseen, serious art critics had scoffed at the audacity of what was basically a hobbyist pastime being associated with the lofty heights of fine art and refused the invitations to openings. It would be a demeaning exercise they asserted, an assault to their finely honed sensibilities that they could well do without. Eduard Mensch was a fraud and a shyster and should be ignored and pilloried as such.

Until the groundswell of chatter at the soirees and dinner parties of the cultural elite finally piqued their interest. When Lady Havisham declared the man a genius at a $10,000 a head fund raiser for some god forsaken charity, Charlotte Knott, the self-proclaimed arbitrator of taste for the prestigious Artisan quarterly decided that it would be worth the damage to her critical faculties to prove the man a charlatan and she finally accepted an invitation to one of the rare exhibitions.

Converted into a believer from one viewing alone, Knott changed from a detractor to a champion of Mensch, devoting the lead article in the next addition of the influential magazine to the question of the artist’s identity. The art establishment, as always mere supplicants to the vagaries of the critics, quickly followed her lead and turned the reclusive figure into a sensation overnight.

Quite an achievement as Mensch exhibited barely once or twice a year and then by invitation only. There were no pieces on display in any of the galleries or museums as the man frustratingly refused to sell any of his works and rebutted any offers of interviews or publicity, even to the extent of threatening copyright lawsuits if even a single photograph of one of his creations was published.

It seemed impossible that the artist had no ego and only displayed his creations to “get a better feel for his art through the vision of an audience” as the exhibition notes put it. Any acceptance to these increasingly sought after invitations now required a signed non-disclosure agreement prior to entry and sophisticated scanning units were installed at all entrances and exits to make sure that all undeclared electronic devices were surrendered.

Herself refused an interview, Charlotte Knott became furious, saw it as an insult to her profession and to her role in championing Mensch. As contrary as ever, she began a series of articles vilifying the artist, once again declaring him as fraud and a charlatan. But the proverbial cat was out of the bag and her influence, and some say her sanity declined.

In his entire career, Mensch had only sold one piece – a depiction of an Australian outback lavatory traded for art materials to a London wholesaler at the start of his career. The piece had been snapped up by an aging American media baron and had not been seen since. Of such things legends are born and despite the powerful, persistent voices of those who derided him, the enigma of Mensch’s identity and the scarcity of his art was just too good a story to ignore and without effort he was propelled into the pantheon of great artists of our time.

While Knott hurled abuse and sarcasm, the disregard for fame and riches coupled with his incredible talent transformed Mensch into exactly the sort of thing the tired, cynical art community thrived on. He could have sold thousands of pieces, appeared on any number of talk shows and his refusal to do so was seen as an artistic statement in itself, creating an even bigger mystique. Eschewing fame and fortune seemed to be against every known human construct and the reasons behind the disavowal of this most basic instinct had become a hotly conjectured subject

A new school of art dubbed “Anonymous Disruption” was created and its adherents, known as “Anonruptivists” began to display their works in random popup shows that disappeared in a matter of days, sometimes hours.  Books were written about the movement and its silent patriarch Eduard Mensch.

It seemed of little matter that the great man neither gave sanction nor denial to the movement. Indeed, its adherents thought such a statement would have been against the very foundations of Anonymous Disruption and so therefore, in the quixotically way of art movements, his silence on the matter was seen as an affirmation of the righteousness of their cause.

Of course, the financial realities of such a noble and altruistic posture eventually abrupted its lifespan. The reality of the starving artist was less appealing than the hyperbole and the new young breed of artists coming through began deserting the movement in droves. While it was refreshing for an artist to espouse that they decried fame and fortune, unfortunately mortality and practicality thwarted even the most ardent supporter.

The “Anonymous Disruptive” movement dwindled away to a few independently wealthy practitioners and was replaced by a reactionary new cooperative that countered the previous movement by espousing an embrace of all art, even the worst sorts of excess and mediocracy, as long as it was in the name of fame and wealth. Any sort of creation, the most mediocre, crass and even the downright repulsive would no longer be judged on any sort of intrinsic value but rather on the ability of its creator to garner interest.

Basically, if you could figure out a way to sell it as art, then it was art and the school of “Flame Art” was born. With fame, riches and the excuse of art to justify it, the adherents were self-christened as “Fartists” and the movement grew exponentially.

The “Anonymous Disruptive” collective was almost buried in the rush to join this new movement which promised glory and fame without the need for any sort of talent, integrity or work. Indeed, actual talent or recognisable intent was seen as denial of the movement’s aims and its creators slandered and mocked anyone perpetuating antiquated art forms. Traditional creativity was pilloried and derided as an imperialistic, anachronistic view of the world, a fascist hierarchy based purely on talent that debased and defiled the masses, a slap in the face to egalitarianism and the equality movements popular at the time.

Protests, called “Fart-Ins”, became regular events outside Museums and Art Galleries, decrying the elitism and patronage that shamed and humiliated the common person. Placards bearing slogans like “What about ME!” and “Gainsborough was a Fascist” in scrawled red paint were typical of the time. But it was the Louvre that became the epicentre of the beginnings of “the Art Wars”

In what police would later confirm as an inside job, Dr Alphonse Garibaldi had reportedly become disillusioned with his role of section curator of one of the world’s most revered art galleries. Some say it was revenge at the rejection by his young artist lover, a painter called David Hart, for the affections of the traditionalist Art Historian, Margaret Simeon but whatever the reason the good Doctor became a strong support of the FART movement.

It was from his position as supreme guardian of the incalculably important art work commonly known as the Mona Lisa that he was able to disable the security system, remove the bullet proof glass and shred the painting, scrawling “FART” across its remains in a potent acid solution. As a final statement, he slashed his wrists and bled to death before the secondary alerts and alarms summoned security guards to the tableau of desecration and death in the hallowed halls of that great institution.

The traditionalists and the aficionados were desolate and inconsolable, speaking out scathingly of the FART movement and its adherents, calling them Neanderthals and thugs and comparing them to the worst excesses of despots like Pol Pot, Stalin and Hitler. But as the traditionalist art world huddled and shrieked in mourning and loss, the Fartists were preparing their defence and a manifesto that would ignite a generation

“While we do not condone the destruction of private property” began the statement, signed by El Diablo, the known pseudonym of Amanda Stucchi, a former art designer at the global marketing giant Omnicom Group “We can understand the actions of Dr Garibaldi.”

“The so-called Moana Lisa (sic) has stood as a testimony to the tyranny of talent for hundreds of years.  From its position of prominence in the Louvre, it has glared down in reprove at millions of formative minds. The intolerable sanctimonious smile smugly proclaimed to all comers that they could never hope to achieve the same rights and recognition, that their own talents, indeed their very existence was meaningless and without worth.”

“Flame Art decry such elitist and anti-egalitarian edifices. While we do not advocate violence and destruction as an effective means to an end, we find it hard not to accept that the world is a better place if we rid ourselves of these antiquated and offensive objects. We salute Dr Garibaldi as a true if misguided hero of Flame Art and our committed struggle to uplift and empower the creativity of the common person”.

While the traditional art world seethed and rankled at the words, the best legal minds in the country shrugged – the statement was perhaps unsavoury but legally, it fell under the First Amendment and she could say whatever the hell she wanted.

There was considerable debate about the statement even within the echelons of the Fartist movement. Some believed the purest response would have been a simple “FART” or perhaps at most, “FART the Mona Lisa”. They argued that the statement itself implied a level of literacy that was against the purest ideals of the Flame Art imperative and so went counter to what they were actually trying to achieve

However a quiet minority decided that it had been a disguised call to arms;  a legally immaculate way to get the message out to burn the museums, destroy all old art, rise up against the oppression of elitism and privilege. And so they did, starting first with the theft of the singular Mensch artwork and its public destruction by fire, broadcast live over the internet.

It was at least a year before the disquiet was arrested but in that time, many of the greatest collections of art and culture around the globe lay in tatters. Bombs had been detonated and fires lit in the Tate and the V&A museums in London, the Louvre in Paris, the MoMA and the Guggenheim in New York, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Brandhorst in Munich, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the list was endless and truly international in scope, proving once again what a small group of focused individuals could do if they put really their mind to it.

Arrests and punishment were thin on the ground as many of the activists took Dr Garibaldi’s lead and committed suicide at the place of their desecrations, often incinerated by the very bombs and fires they had planted. The “Official” missives from the headquarters of the Flame Art collective in New York decried the damage done while at the same time “understanding” the actions of the perpetrators.

Eventually, the authorities could no longer sit idly by and amidst cries of persecution and desecration of the principles of free speech; the FART movement was denounced as an “Un-American” activity and its followers as enemies of the state.

Facing long terms of imprisonment and the threat of the seizure of their personal wealth, most of the leadership disassociated from the movement within days, saying it had all been a lark, never meant to be taken seriously. The hard core supporters saw this as a forced capitulation and vowed to keep the fight going for as long as it took. However, their numbers gradually declined as one by one the more hot-headed and dedicated died at the scene of their destructive statements and by unnatural attrition the furore died, the “movement” disbanded and the bombings petered out.

In later years, historians would recount the fate of Amanda Stucchi, who many saw as the instigator of the more militant side of FART. During the ascendancy of the movement, she had collected a huge amount of wealth, largely by her “art” sales promoted, in the best spirit of FART, through her avid and loving photographed “art happenings” which basically consisted of posing nude and giving fellatio or cunnilingus, as the case might be, to a selected members of the audience.

After an entanglement with the court system and found guilty of public indecency, she served a short two year jail term, registration as a sex offender and earned the vilification of most right thinking people. She retired to New Hampshire and a huge mansion, reportedly most noted for the garden billboard portrait of Michael Manton, the artistic director of Omnicom who had sacked her for incompetence years ago, overlaid in spattered red paint with the words “Fuck You” and the childish representation of a penis pointed at his mouth.

As for Eduard Mensch, a huge amount of time and money was consumed in the search for the shadowy figure that had, in a very disjoint way, led to the formation of the FART movement. It was discovered that all of the exhibition bookings and arrangements were done by third parties, who themselves were contracted by shell companies. More like tracing a corporate swindle than a history of artistic endeavour, the researchers were never able to reach a definitive conclusion but the most widely accepted story is as follows.

Eduard Mensch is/was the pseudonym of the heiress of a global shipping firm. Legal reasons prevented the naming of the company or its owners but when the father died, he left his only daughter with billions in assets and strict, legally binding instructions that her identity and her likeness were never to be broadcast in any form or manner.

The daughter had acquired a crippling form of Asperger’s in childhood and whether from shame or a need to protect her, the father had hid her away for years. Educated and groomed via various internet and remote learning facilities, those tutors and servants that were allowed in her presence were bound by harsh non-disclosure agreements and lavish salaries. It was well known that the father had deep connections with many underground “business” organisations which further induced those poor souls to a life time silence.

The daughter had a penchant for model making, specifically architectural designs and graduated from several prestigious online architectural courses.  She had the time, money and inclination to build a number of intricate architectural pieces but as she matured, her Asperger’s increased to the stage where she could barely stand the presence of anyone bar an old trusted servant who shared her passion for architecture.

After the father’s death, it was this servant who encouraged her to show her works, albeit within the boundaries of her father’s Will. It was this same servant who had arranged the clandestine first showings, meticulously filming the audience reactions and streaming the results live to the girl’s hidden studio. The one piece that had escaped was explained as a sample sent to the first gallery the servant had approached; a sample that was then purloined by an art student working part-time at the gallery and it was he, not Mensch who traded it for the needed art materials.

It was reported that the young student’s body was found the following day in his one bed studio above the Thames. It appeared he had died of a massive overdose of a narcotic and although no evidence of prior use was ever reported, his death was ruled as accidental. A side note was that the gallery itself was burned to the ground the same week and the owners, a couple who lived in an apartment upstairs were asphyxiated by the fumes before their desiccation by the intense heat of the fire below.

The story, though sketchy in parts and without validation, is seen as a reasonable explanation of the unusual career of Eduard Mensch. At least all the pieces seem to fit the puzzle of the anonymity, the neglect of sales, the disregard for promotion and the distain of publicity. There are no known examples of the artist’s work and no further attempt at public showings, so unless some startling new facts are revealed, it is doubtful that the mystery of who Mensch really was will ever be resolved.  

A side note is that the ashes of the destroyed depiction of the Australian Outback lavatory were bought from the Fartists on behalf of an unknown party for a reported 6 figure sum. It was then flushed down a nearby lavatory. The instigator of the purchase was a well-known art brokerage firm who would only say they were operating on the orders of the buyer who, by reason of a strict confidentiality agreement can never be named.

Submitted: August 30, 2020

© Copyright 2023 Paul R. All rights reserved.

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