Ars Jupiter Calling

Illustration by Peter Rostovsky

June is the hottest month, as many who are still on Terra know. Venture out from the climate-conditioned tunnels or out of the inland green zones and you might get that suntan you never bargained for. But there’s something else that makes it especially hot each year: The Ars Jupiter Art Fair, where you can bask in the stunning views of the gas planet and other moons while perusing the latest creations of the elites and work colonies at once. Whether it’s the art, the parties, the celebrities, the combating critics, or distinguished dignitaries, this prestigious exhibid can humble even the most tireless culturati among us. And this year, it offered an even more sprawling playground of things to see, drink, eat, and of course, buy. Continuing the traditional focus on virtue, this year’s theme of “Prefiguring the Remembered” might call to mind last year’s “®evolutions or the critically acclaimed “Nano-Utopia: Is It in You?” Yet, curators Zan Vilehoosen! (Luna Central Kunsthalle), Redrexa Boon (Saturn FREICA), arch-collector Krump Klugvein, and Xiabing Nute (of Europa’s PHUCA Collection) also delivered a new focus on history as well as various nods to the recent political turmoil embroiling the creativity market. Can creativity survive the latest uprisings and financial downturn? Is the Io worker hive a new untapped resource of talent? And, just as importantly, how exactly do you dance in zero-g? However one answers these questions, I was committed to sampling all the memorable offerings on hand.

The glitzy and grueling schedule officially started at Basel/Luna, where I was swept up into a private party hosted by L@vin Loan and an installation by 12_Rubz, of last year’s Venus Biennale fame. Here the guests began with a lavish dinner party—a bottomless theme—only to end up crawling through lubricated velvet canals and into a pool of Lunar chocolatine. “It’s about low finance, birth, and rebirth,” 12 said to me over a cocktail. The spawning symbolism may not have been as obvious to us writhing in the sweet substance, but when your neighbor is trillionaire Bob Chum of the Duma Credit Consortium, you’ll swallow any metaphor. Did I mention the food before the writhing commenced? I had synth pheasant tartare, courtesy of an especially charming food shuttle, and just happened to spot the festively attired Gore Brooch of the Pfizel Incarceration Collection chowing down on bioluminescent trout pellets. As soon as we cleared our sugary pool party, we were served aerosolized dessert and then all descended onto the dance floor, where the ever-mysterious DJ Alg0rythm played retro-hits from the 2090’s. The dance-off could have continued until the lunar dawn if I did not have to make a widely anticipated combat bout between critics Benjamin Clamp and Spar ://4 Bladdy.

The grudge and issue to debate was “invisible politics” or as U-What? channel’s Bradcock explained: “whether exhibids could politically enlighten the workers who are never, and could never, be aware of them.” Clamp of course argued no, and was prepared to prove it in the cage while Bladdy remained undefeated in his support for the indirect effects of the fairs on those perpetually barred from the circuit. As with many such critic matches, this one was eagerly awaited but ended all too quickly. Fortunately, surgeons were immediately on hand to reconnect Clamp’s foot, and the esteemed judges—collector Prune #Potless, dealer Crispin Zi-Zi, and artist 7@9 Goldstein—hastily concluded that victory lay with Bladdy. Criticism…

Next stop: the giant gas planet itself. No matter how much you’ve traveled in the solar system circuit, nothing can prepare you for the Jovian pavilion as 1000 exhibidders display their wares silhouetted by luminous swirls of orange clouds. I’m not certain if it’s the altitude or the magnitude of the sums changing hands that produces such giddiness. Minted enterprises like Du Pain, Grob & 8 dominated with a show of rising star Alexandr_T’fu, displaying holo-sculptures and kinetic, white synth-flowers. The work was a tribute to the artist’s humble origins as a son of a diplomat. And although modest, each piece was eagerly snatched up—all by institutional store-hedge collections, I am told. Zepper & Stuch, meanwhile, kept it traditional with a recreation of Allfur Burr’s historic installation where participants donned holo-costumes that made them look like obsolete workers. If there is a special frisson that comes with actually feeling progress, this is it. Across the hall, E-fluviat was the talk of the fair, presenting Moot de Optie’s transcendent gamespace in which a fictional island makes all of your dreams come true, for another individual. I played for about ten minutes, enough to make me feel warmly generous, and vowed to return to the game later. Alas, such promises are quickly broken at Ars Jupiter, especially when your VIP implant is firing and Europa beckons.

For any culture lover, this stop is not to be missed as the aquatic exhibids and special projects make the most of this ravishing, icy planet. Here one could participate in the virtu-paintings of Guber_Zick while reclining in Zu Bra’s sinister looking massage pods. Advisor Melanie Drump 12 personally told me that she owned a pod and I could not resist checking to see how many were left. But things move quickly, even on tranquil Europa. Before the day’s end, several dealers told me they were cautiously optimistic that they could start expanding right there before the fair concluded. I closed my eyes and wished them expansion.

Of course, one would be a fool not to acknowledge that some sense of anxiety also pervaded the thin atmosphere and was only bolstered by the politically themed exhibi-parties happening seemingly all at once. Aldesterone Pu showed a series of synth-body-drawings at Johann Lisp that came attached with a contract to replace an AI sanitation worker or AI educator for a day (which is worse?), while the contentious Jusse 4bler stunned audiences with a performance of a revolt. It was hard not to see the timeliness of the piece as I looked at the revolting participants. Indeed, the recent uprising on Saturn, where 320 elites were killed, added a spirit of gravity to at least one zero-g dance I attended. I also noticed some sad faces at the exclusive Elizanie von Fiste sense-orgy, the proceeds of which will go to the building of a more secure barrier at the St. Zuckerberg resort.

A second issue on everyone’s minds and lips is the recent crisis in the creativity market itself. It was highlighted by Margerine Bume’s special edition currency at Spax & Gandle, and this reflexive tack was also struck by the centenarian bad boy Alistair Mandles, who violently (though charmingly) threatened passersby with the repeated question: “What creativity is?” It is true that the last few years have seen a sudden rise for this most stable of currencies, and many wonder if such stability is in jeopardy. Creatit’s always candid Roget Quornefoie told me that he had to personally hire an expert program to wade through some elaborate AI counterfeits this year. Dealer Jubika Junkers 2, meanwhile, confessed that it’s become increasingly difficult to tell if one is feeling authentic creativity produced by licensed or untrained, pure producers, or by “gaggles of scrappy, provincial hive-bots.” Strong words, but can you blame her? Sadly, these developments coupled with the recent uprisings near Terran shorelines, where workers and nature are always angriest, have also impacted spending allowances. The creativity trade is not what it used to be. But these obstacles were not enough to put a damper on things either. No sooner had I left the pavilion when I was joined by advisor Morey Pinchbuck and socialite 8than Toot on collector Clooney De Strapp’s shuttle, and we were off to the year’s new focus: Io.

Until this year, Io has long been a forgotten worker colony isolated by trade, travel restrictions, and Io’s own ideology. “They don’t believe in progressive separation,” dealer Clamber Rich whispered to me in the Sekkai 6’s therma-pool. However, new shifts in policy have now lifted the curtain on this worker hive and unleashed a surplus of Ioan creativity into the stellar market. P@nika Scrota, Glandestine Ghah, and Curder Hiss are just a few dealers featuring Io talent this year, and, whatever your preferences, Io’s proving to be a real game-changer as it joins the perennial Luna, Jupiter, Europa express.

“Io: On Fire” was certainly a marvel. Organized by Axela Ma# and Luci Snoot, under the excellent AI supervision of the Pfeizel Security Collection, the team spared no expense at preserving the raw volcanic appeal of the landscape. Volcanoes erupted near every wall of the exhibidding enclosures, and to make things even more interesting, several artists made site-specific pieces utilizing the moon’s natural geology. The ever-fashionable collective Nu Shanz allowed guests to maneuver into the core of the planet via pods and through a set of virtual sculptures projecting from the rock. Here, I bumped into retro-tech guru Manfred Dick enjoying the subterranean vista. He was here to see @Jubbles!, who channeled some of the volcanic exhausts into monumental, kinetic paintings. As if this wasn’t enough, a sensational performance crowned the installation as the artist appeared dressed as a giant robotic bird, releasing actual birds into the fiery geysers. While these oxygen-deprived flocks burned up immediately, plummeting to the ground, the crowd erupted in applause. The spectacle was incendiary.

Illustration by Peter Rostovsky

On my way out I ran into dealer Spazz Yuchi, who whispered that they sold out their exhibid pod six days in advance and are looking to start a venture on Io. “Aren’t you afraid of an uprising?” I asked. “Who cares,” they replied, “Anything for the sake of creativity.” As the old adage goes: “A business is only as strong as its guards and security wall.” I couldn’t agree more. But I’m also a hopeless romantic. My fantasies take me beyond the walls and into the hives, where life is simpler, harsher, and creativity purer. Thankfully, Ars Jupiter never fails to deliver on this front, allowing this fantasy, however briefly, securely, and pleasurably. As I savored this thought, my last stop awaited.

Suspended above the pock-marked surface floated several of Mitzvan Kuh’s prize-winning commissions, built over the course of the year with Io’s youngest miners. These floating shrines made of children’s clothes, food canisters, credit chips, and mining equipment offered a quiet rumination on just how far Io had come in its history and how long we still have to go as a solar system. It was a needed respite before yet another night of festivities. How to choose between invites to three dinners, four sense-orgies, a critic panel combat match, and five zero-g after-parties? Fortunately, the motto of Ars Jupiter is you don’t have to choose; choices went out with the last century. Here, you simply program your outfit, check your credit balance, and say yes.

— Marie-Xin Solomon