The Bite: Chapter One
There was a din in the city, usually was at this time of year because Artprize had quickly become the most interesting art exhibit in the world. It had done this by taking out all of the barriers to becoming an artist and placing that uninhibited art throughout an entire city with very little in the way of what some might call “quality control.” But that was what made Artprize, cool. Anyone could have a go at the nearly 1 million dollars in prize money. The prize money, which had started at $250,000, slowly climbed up to what was now a lottery-esque number of 1 million dollars spread out over 10 winners.
Everyone is an artist. Now anyone can make art.
The city glowed, honked, and shouted into the late hours of the night as most of the nocturnal art goers gathering into the center of the city at what was known as The B.O.B which was a 100 year old building that had been converted a decade earlier into a series of restaurants and named “the big old building” but tonight artisan sausage and craft beers were not of much interest, what was of interest was a gaunt 20-something with sanguine colored skin and bags under his eyes who was holding court in the center of the parking lot.
The parking lot of the B.O.B has become the place for performance pieces. In earlier years there were men who painted themselves as amber statues, a replica of Saddam Hussein hung in effigy, the next year a man tried to hang himself in effigy not truly understanding the meaning of the word but hey, it was art. The following year there was a life-size dragon that was able to breathe fire and doubled as a DJ booth, and more recently a man who cut himself and used his blood to paint portraits of patrons who passed by.
If you were a performance artist, you got your art installed in the parking lot of the B.O.B if you wanted to win, and this kid wanted to win. What he had done to himself was both shocking and far beyond the “emo-kid” who wore all black and pretended he was sad because his iPhone X was the wrong color. The piece was a giant black obelisk that seemed to reach for the sky the surface of which shimmered with its own internal alien energy. On all four sides of the structure, there were holes similar to those one might find in the cribs in a neonatal hospital ward sealed with the same sort of suffocating rubber flaps that keep the infection from the infants. On this night, that was certainly not his intention.
He called his piece “the bite” and the performance was more cerebral than an overt performance. On the black surface of the structure would be digital photos of the artist looking as if he was suffering from ebola or some other terrible disease and each photo would be more visceral than the next. Onlookers would be encouraged to place their hands into any of the 16 holes around the obelisk and hold them there for as long as they could as the man inside, unseen and raging, would growl and thrust himself at the hand holes keeping the terror at a high level and filling the B.O.B parking lot will shrills of glee from the fear of being a victim of “the bite.”
Did you know the average person touches their face 5 times a minute? Take a second to take that all in, every 24 hours you expose your face to everything you have touched that day nearly 3000 times a day. It is a wonder we have been on this planet as long as we have, it is like we are just daring pathogens to test our immunity, our resolve as the human race. Well that resolve was about to be tested in a profound way that one night in September.
My wife and I took the kids around the city taking in the sights and sounds of 300,000 visitors over a 10-day stretch and while we had been to every single Artprize as lovers, as newlyweds, as new parents, and new parents two times over, there was something in the air tonight that was different than any other time we had been downtown. The sort of pressure you feel on the surface of a balloon moments before it explodes in a cacophony of carbon dioxide and loud noises. We just hadn’t heard the pop yet.