Six Histories: An Essay


Arising in the early 2020s, the Frustrationist movement blurred and confounded the boundaries between art and context. Frustrationists would hide, encrypt, and isolate their works, distancing art from both the creator and the audience. Due to the unreachability of the original artwork, the process of searching for it became the art instead. Indeed, vastly more effort and ingenuity was put into their hiding than into the works purported to be hidden. Many historians today speculate that most Frustrationist original works did not even exist. In fact, only one of some four hundred documented Frustrationist works has ever been discovered. This was, of course, Diorama by Jon Davos – a small terrarium found inside the trunk of a tree, 57 years after the artist’s death.


Futilism was formed largely in reaction to Frustrationism, exaggerating its themes of challenge and difficulty and bringing them to their logical conclusion – impossibility. The Futilists were enamored with the impossible, from riddles and paradoxes to blatant disregard of natural laws. Unlike traditional schools of philosophy that sought to analyze and reconcile paradoxes, Futilists used their work to display the beauty of their incongruity. The essence of the art became the unattainability of resolution. Futilist pioneer Alice Satie is perhaps best known for her piece How to do Impossible Things – a collection of event scores detailing entirely absurd tasks. Notable scores include #12, which instructs the performer to open a door from the other side, and #54, which instructs the performer to imagine every color at the same time.


A celebration of the ephemerality of art, and indeed of all things in existence. The Ephemeralists engaged in a perpetual cycle of vandalism and creation, of demolition and reconstruction. Rather than preserve their art (or anyone else’s) Ephemeralists aimed to destroy and mutilate existing works and make way for new ones. Drawing influence from Graffiti, Salvagepunk, and Guerrilla Art, Ephemeralism became enormously popular and influential towards the late 2020s. This popularity culminated in the Paris Gallery Riots of 2031, which led to the absolute decimation of the Louvre, Pompidou, and Musée du Gauche Nouveau. It should come as no surprise that no Ephemeralist works exist today.


An almost cultic movement arising from the worship of decay. New Decadents believed that the most beautiful is the most deteriorated, and sought to harness or replicate natural processes of degeneration. As the movement reached its peak in the late 2030s, a market grew for tools and materials intended to expedite these phenomena, such as corrosion paint, prepared rot cultures, and crumbling agents. This allowed for unprecedented works of putrefaction to be completed in short periods of time. Into the 40s, however, the movement began to lose traction. In 2042, the New Decadence lost the last of its withering ranks to the suicide performance piece Visum Mortis, in which the artists infected themselves with a variety of necrotic diseases and were displayed publicly in glass capsules.


Alterrealism emerged shortly after the development of the first Universal Simulation Engine (USE) in 2048. Alterrealists operated entirely within imagined realities and laws of nature, while remaining absolutely precise and consistent within them. This was made possible by the USE, in which worlds could be simulated upon contrived systems of physics and cosmological axioms. A leading proponent of the movement was renowned mathematician and painter Shannon C. Conway, known for their landscapes in which light is never reflected – only refracted through bodies of matter.


By 2050, gnostic religion had all but vanished from the earth. While the political, sociological, and discursive ramifications of this were undoubtedly positive, many longed for the spiritual fulfillment promised by religions of old. Artists of the Nostalgic Theist movement sought to remediate this through hollow worship and the establishment of new religions, turning ideology itself into a medium. This resulted in a vast and rapid proliferation of micro-faiths and engineered mythologies. The most enduring of these is the Order of the Third Rail, invented by Charles Melville in 2058, whose god is an endless train. The Order retains a number of devoted followers to this day, who are likely unaware of their participation in an ongoing performance piece.


– Cameron Henderson, class of 2019