The Butterflys Don’t Mind It At All

That little gathering of the brow finally caught up with the conversation, which was formally about nothing. What, what is it, Z asked. Well. Two things.

One. In that little room created by plastic sheeting over there, we have a shimmering fishbowl view into a lab where a woman is cauterizing the genes that produce the eyes on butterfly wings. Apparently she is not altering the germ line, but she is creating butterflies with wing patterns that could not be otherwise produced in nature. And. Well. That’s just topiary. She’s brought the world’s tiniest topiary to Austria.

What’s the second thing?

I can’t remember, but I feel, somehow that this sort of thing with butterflies is a form of nonconsensual bestiality. As does the guy from Italy who curated a bunch of internet porn featuring amateur documentation of fetishes: from sneezing to sneakers, and a significant number of images of bare feet on accelerator pedals.

That night, I rifle through my imagery like a midnight cowboy, waiting for the accelerator pedals to take their spot in the erotic encyclopedia that includes everything from a 4th grade fantasy about the sexual humiliation of the 6th grade teacher by the 3rd grade teacher (not even my fantasy! told to me by my fellow 4th grader and lodged in my pin head for thirty years!) to the always unbidden recollection of a friend casually mentioning he had posed for a book on sexual positions to highly conceptual and reflexive association: the color of the upholstery of the seats in the theater where I first actually saw Midnight Cowboy and discovered my metaphor: corporate teal. Accelerator pedals. I prop myself up on one elbow and focus on the middle distance: accelerator pedals.

Accelerator pedals. Accelerator pedals. Accelerator pedals.

Nothing doing.

The next day, I’m spread eagled (not on the floorboards of a sedan) on a yellow… pad about 28 inches high and… 6 foot square. Vinyl. It’s on the grass on the banks of the danube, where six construction cranes suspend six clusters of head flattening loudspeakers. I think it’s hour 10 of 57 of public sonic space, with an ambitious libretto and a dozen or so commissioned composers, but I just like the wee microaudio clicks and wind filling trance. It’s extremely relaxing. And although it’s being streamed live on the net, and has serious corporate sponsorship, and it’s the only installation of its kind in Central Europe at the moment, only seven of us are on the grass, soaking in it. A beleaguered stringer from the austrian media interviews four of us, but passes me by. Initially hurt, I recover as I realize it’s the press pass I had clipped to my toe as I lay on my pad. I vow to be more cognizant of when exactly I’m throwing tude.

Back inside, Z is smiling as the butterfly gardener concludes her interview, which was broadcast not only in the room, where you could also see it for yourself, but on the web, which you call up in a streaming window at a workstation in the room. Three chances to feel the present tense, but none of them satisfying: yes, the gardener acknowledges, the gene cauterization is an intervention in the development of the butterflies, but they are permitted to live out their natural lives. No, the gardener explains, the butterflies have no recognition of the fact their wing patterns have been changed.

I immediately wonder if I would notice if someone had come in with a blow torch and given me a new hair style last night.

Is it possible for a butterfly to agree to anything?

We have to assume not, Z says.

But what about the improbability of being a butterfly, versus, like, um, a chair, or a fox, or a glass of beer, or a fetishist? Aren’t we all built of the same stuff and therefore when a portion of the stuff is insulted we all imprint the insult on a sub-stuff level?

That’s a lot of stuff to keep track of

I nod in agreement, tearing a tag off my toe.

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