It’s 1967, and I’ve just crashed a party at The Factory on East 47th Street.
Outside it’s a bitterly cold New York night, all salted streets hemmed by oil-sodden snow slush, and seemingly every alleyway home to a cluster of bums warming themselves by the trash-fires they’ve lit in forty-four gallon drums.
Inside, I find myself in a glistening hothouse. Batteries of lights pierce the smoky haze and bounce randomly from the silvery walls. Balloons like floating mirrors drift idly on currents of air exhaled from the mouths of literati, glitterati and just generally beautiful people who pack the space; a roiling mass of the chic and the hip — poets, models, artists, musos, junkies, hangers-on, trannies, fetishists, outlaws, hippies, activists, surfers, bikies and the odd junky-transsexual-outlaw-surf-musician.
The heat rising from all those bodies is intense, and after I catch a glimpse of what’s happening on the red couch in the middle of the room I find myself visualising gallons of body fluids evaporating away, forming bonsaied rain clouds in the dark corners, then precipitating out and trickling down the slick foil of the walls and re-entering this little ecosystem; this little food-chain of cognoscenti preying upon ingénues, social barracuda cruising schools of sardines with stars still in their eyes.
I shoulder my way through the throbbing crowd. My target is conspicuous by his absence, so I make my way over to a side-room, which looks to be the focus of some intensely localised activity. En route I receive four offers of sex, six of drugs, and three which my contemporary slang is not up to the task of understanding.
A man (I think) dressed in head-to-toe black leather, and adorned with a variety of instruments ranging from a cattle prod to a rusty rabbit trap, all hanging from a six inch wide studded belt, raises his (or her) arm to prevent my entry to this sanctum sanctorum, but I sidestep and slide quickly inside.
Himself, leaning tensely forward out of a battered old leather chair as he holds court to an inner circle of most favoured guests. A thousand impressions of archival images and footage flash through my mind and fuse with the man before me. White hair flopped foppishly across his forehead; agile fingers, flickering parentheses to his latest witty pronouncement, now frozen mid-gesture; diverse apostles arrayed before him in varying states of drunkenness, druggedness and dishabille, preparing to witness the testament of the great Pop Prophet.
I feel like a gunfighter in a spaghetti western as the room falls silent and all eyes are turned on me. I stand silent, hoping to provoke reaction through inaction. For a good thirty seconds nothing happens. I can sense the twitchiness of his acolytes. They know instinctively that I do not belong here, and they yearn to expel me and restore the comfort-zone of their confirmed clique, but life and Andy are unpredictable, and they fear to jump the gun.
Finally he speaks.
His voice – his real, physical voice that is, not a scratchy recording or digital remastering or method-acted recreation – is exactly how I imagined it. Soft and gently inquisitive. Strangely hesitant, given he is God-Emperor of this world he’s created, and yet infused with an overweening arrogance and awareness of the power he has learnt to wield. I have to consciously fight myself to avoid falling under his spell.
“Ahhh,” he says, breaking the impasse, “A new friend. A new, and uninvited friend. And who are you, our new, uninvited friend?”
A titter runs through the room. My status has been clarified, and everyone is more comfortable now. Andy will toy with me awhile before sacrificing me on the altar of counter-social acceptability, and they will play the part of appreciative audience.
I tell him my name, and I tell him that I, like him, am a well-known and influential artist.
He looks at me for a long moment, letting the tension build before he slips the leash on the guillotine and gives the crowd the blood it is silently baying for.
“I’m sorry,” he says, “I’ve never heard of you. Are you a traditional artist?”
The crowd roars its appreciation.
I tell him no. I tell him that what I do is so cutting edge that he probably wouldn’t understand it if I explained it to him in words of two syllables or less. I tell him that the reason he’s never heard of me is that my first exhibition will open in fifty-three years time.
He’s looking a little shaken. I must be coming across as a lot more confident than I feel.
“I’m sorry,” he says again, “I don’t think I quite understand what you’re saying to me. Perhaps you could elaborate a little further? Or maybe we could all have a little taste of whatever you’re on?”
I can see he thinks he’s regaining the high ground.
I tell him I’m into multidimensional portraiture.
“Oh,” he says, obviously relieved, “Sculpture! How sweet.”
I tell him no. I tell him my work transcends the traditional three dimensions of the sculptural work he might be familiar with. And as I tell him this, I thumb the control on my wristpad.
And there it is, laid out before him in all its glory, awaiting his intimate perusal. His own corpse, laying cold and silent on a bed of colder steel, its breast flayed wide in a Y-shaped window to his heart of hearts. Impersonally masked technicians dictate his innermost secrets to an overhead microphone; an irreverent cop smokes a camel non-filter and takes the occasional note.
Andy’s face is a picture. Lucky I’m recording.
I tell him I’m from the future. I tell him that in the future we know how to travel through time as easily as space. I tell him I’ve received a grant from the Global Arts Council for my latest installation. I tell him I’ve been tracking down historical icons, confronting them with images of their own mortality, and capturing their reactions to display on a thirty-second hologram loop. I tell him it’s all very non-traditional.
Andy spends a long, silent minute contemplating his future, then he giggles and tells me I’ve given him a fabulous idea for a film.