Feel free to not believe me. I’ve done little to earn your trust, and I can’t blame you for your doubt.
On Saturday, October 11, 2008, I had just gotten out of bed and, for whatever reason that I can’t recall now, started talking to Elyse of The Skepchick Empire on Skype. Anyway, in the middle of our conversation about how inferior Sam Ogden makes me feel with his hotness and his superb writing, Elyse said “oh, Rystefn passed away”.
Rystefn was one of the readers and commenters on Skepchick, Teen Skepchick, and this blog. Oh, how much laughter he used to bring to me when I read through the comments of our posts. What wit, what eloquence, what genius.
I never talked to him on IM, much less met him in person, but he seemed far from a stranger. He might as well have been a part of Skepchick, so constant a name to appear in the blog comments.
Elyse linked me to Rystefn’s blog, The Last Road, and I poked through the posts, reading the story of his last days.
Damn it, I never told him that I loved his commentry, and damn it, I never followed the link in that ever-so constant name to his blog to find out that he was dying. What an arse I felt like!
Given that I hadn’t known that he’d been dying it all came as a shock to me.
Mum came in to my room, and looked upon my saddened facial expression. “One of my mostest favouritest commenters in the world just died,” I said.
I made a post, a clever interweaving of some of the comments I had scavenged for on my blog and on Teen Skepchick with my own words of mourning. But I didn’t post it (a post that wasn’t posted, aha!). I waited for more word from his girlfriend, “Sabrina” who had been the bearer of bad news on the blog, because she seemed to have hinted at writing something else in rememberance of Rystefn. I waited, not wanting to take away her moment of rememberance from her.
As I waited, doubts began to grow. Doubt had already been there, knowing that people on the Internet do create hoaxes, having heard many stories. But, not wanting to be an arse I decided to continue on the assumption that Rystefn was indeed dead, even without evidence.
I was faced with a nasty thought, I would rather Rystefn be dead than for him to be hoaxing us.
I waited, with each passing day thinking that if it were a hoax he would have revealed it. And if it weren’t a hoax Sabrina would surely have posted.
It was a hoax.
By now I had begun feeling pretty apathetic about the whole thing, and more and more doubtful, but I still couldn’t help but feel a strong, powerful disgust as I watched Rystefn’s video. I chose to ignore the urge to vomit, and decided to simply forget Rystefn ever graced even the outer layers of the blogosphere.
What seemed to be most upsetting to people was that in calling it “performance art” they thought that Rystefn might be trying to justify it as being art. He says he doesn’t think it’s justified as art but…
I began thinking… As despicable an act as it was, could it really be called “art”? And if so, could it still be justified?
The most useful thing I was ever taught about art was that art is hard to define. I can make some generalisations about it though, a few of which I’ll summarize here.
- Art is often aesthetically pleasing.
- Art usually provokes emotion, makes people think, bothers them.
- Art tends to have lessons.
- Great art is often controversial.
Can writing be aesthetic? I’ve been told that some of my posts are “beautiful” and while I admittedly am not entirely sure I know what that means, I’d argue that there are beautiful pieces of writing and that that could be considered aesthetics. I found The Golden Compass to be strangely aesthetically pleasing although I don’t know what that means even though I’ve just said it was.
The Last Road provoked emotion. It examined the human condition in the face of death. And I suppose this post might be evidence that it provoked thought.
Rystefn seemed to be saying he had the intent of teaching a lesson had he followed through with the rest of the story of The Last Road, but we shall never know what it was, it seems.
And was this contoversial? Controversial in whether or not it’s art? Yes.
But, the major difference between the catharsis of a great play, or a moment at which a great work of literature has played your heart-strings is that you know it’s fiction. Fooling people, while it may give you a good laugh, makes you a bit of a jerk. People tend to have no respect for you.
Lonelygirl15 was an actress on YouTube, though her videos were of less substance.
But maybe that is part of the art. Artists try to make things seem realistic, but making somebody actually believe it’s real… Is that perhaps a new and radical form of art? Isn’t that just controversial, a part of being great art?
And perhaps Rystefn, or whatever his real name is, is simply mentally ill. A plausible enough idea.
Van Gogh once cut off his own ear.
I think that The Last Road could get away with being called art. I will say with weak conviction that I am willing to go along with saying that it was art. Whether it can be justified… While I find the means of provoking emotion in what I suppose Rystefn thought was an artistic manner were definitely deceptive and vile, he did provoke emotion. Whether or not you liked the art, well, that’s all subjective.
Maybe I was enchanted with The Last Road before my disillusionment, but I am certainly now disenchanted with its artist.
Yesterday as David Grinspoon was giving his lecture at Auraria, I couldn’t help but noticing a man in the audience with a pair of glasses, a cowboy hat, blonde hair, and a beard much like Rystefn’s. Having only seen a few pictures, that video, and never having met him in person, I couldn’t say for sure. Perhaps it was the cold fury spilling over into paranoia making me see Rystefn where he was not there.
One question I think we will never have answered and that I am, admittedly, still curious about is how The Last Road would have ended, and what would have happened in between had Rystefn continued with his “art”. But, most curious to me… why would he give up all his friends for this? He certainly must have known that he would be stripped of all his respect and dignity, left with only the pity from a few of our hearts (including my own).
Throughout this post I’ve merely tried to make people look beyond our anger or apathy or whatever (and hell, maybe the story is not even about him dying, maybe it’s about how we react when we know it’s faked) at Rystefn’s distasteful actions and see if, perhaps, there was some taste to it after all. I don’t know the answer to this question, and now more than ever, I’d like to hear from you, the readers, especially if you’ve never commented before.
As much as I think Rystefn deserves a swift, forceful kick in the balls, can we still have appreciation for his “art”? Again, I’m calling it “art” with weak conviction.
However, perhaps the most telling thing he ever said was on his YouTube channel, and I think I shall end with it…
I am not a nice person. Do not mistake me for one.