lunes, 21 de marzo de 2016

Sci-Fi short story: PainStation

By Victor Hernandez

“Dude, dude. Check it out. Here come two more.”

“Oh jeez... Come on. This is getting old.”

“Ha ha! Don’t be a buzzkill. Switch the camera to the main monitor.”

“Fine… Camera 2 from hall B on main monitor.”

“The audio too.”

“God… Fine… Audio too.”

“You’re so full of shit. When they brought the PainStation machine you laughed so hard you fell off your chair.”

“That was the first weekend. Hey, nothing ever happens at this fucking art gallery and we have to sit here for hours monitoring the security cameras. So it was funny at first. But it got old by the following weekend.”

“How can you say that? We have unlimited access to idiots hurting themselves over a game of Pong. Pong! The oldest of the video games. And they don’t even play for more than, like, five minutes before they start screaming.”

“Like I said. It’s funny at first. But after a few days you start asking yourself why are people doing it? They know they’re going to hurt themselves if they play with the PainStation machine. It says so in the big sign next to it: “WARNING: Playing this game can cause you third degree burns, bruises or skin cuts.” But that seems to make people want to play it even more. They know they have to put one hand on top of an oven-taser with a small whip. If they miss a shot while playing Pong the temperature rises and they get a burn, or get an electric shock, or a whipping. If they miss several shots their hand gets severely burned and they start screaming. And if they take their hand off the oven they lose the game. So they get burned, they scream and then, to everybody’s surprise, they laugh! I mean, what the fuck?”

“It’s art. Only sophisticated minds understand the subtle meaning of this avant garde art installation.”

“Oh, is that why you always watch reruns of America’s Funniest Home Videos from the 1990s?”

“No. Because I watch security camera videos that could be in a rerun of America’s Funniest Home Videos from the 90s. See? There’s a difference. What we watch is live. And therefore it’s a performance.”

“What? You could put this machine in a bar and drunk people would do exactly the same thing; try to play a game of Pong until they burn their hands.”

“Ah ah ah! Not Pong. It’s called PainStation. It was made by the group of artists at /////////fur//// Art Entertainment Interfaces in Germany in 2004. That’s a hundred years ago. That makes this machine a huge success. This isn’t a regular pinball machine for a bar.”

“No, of course not. Pinball machines are for idiots in bars and the PainStation is for idiots in art galleries. It’s the fucking same!”

“Don’t you get it? It’s a clever commentary on the mundane relationship of people and technology as they become attached to each other and abandon their basic physical sensation and replace it with digital information that…”


“Sheesh… There goes today’s idiot burning his hand.”

“Ha ha ha ha ha! Oh man! Ha ha ha ha! He jumped! He actually jumped! Ha ha ha ha!”

“And now he’s kicking and hitting the machine.”

“Ha ha! Big deal. It’s pretty sturdy. Nice metal finishings. The plexiglass for the screen won’t break.”

“Wait, hold on… what the hell?”

“He’s climbing on top of the machine?”

“Fuck! He’s peeing on it! Let’s go!”

“Wait wait wait wait! Hold on!”

“What do you mean ‘hold on’? Let’s go!”

“What do you think it’s going to happen if we catch him?”

“He’ll get arrested and they will make him pay for the damages.”

“What damages? The machine is covered with plexiglass.”

“So they’ll arrest him and make him pay a fine.”

“And then what? Who’s going to clean up his pee?”


“That’s right. We are. The gallery is not going to call the insurance company over urine. They’ll make us clean it so nobody notices the next time they use it.”

“So what do we do?”

“Forward the video to the guards at the entrance and tell them to detain him. That way the paperwork goes to them.”

“They’re not going to clean it.”

“Of course not. They’ll send a janitor and then a specialist to make sure the machine is working in order.”

“But the pee will dry up in the ovens and it will smell.”

“And I bet you fifty bucks people will still play with the machine just to burn their hands and have them smelling like pee for the rest of the day.”

“Wait. That’s what this is about? Getting people to smell like pee?”

“Ha ha ha! Wouldn’t that be the works? People would go ‘OWWW! MOTHERFUCKER! FFFFT!! SHIT!!!’ Who says avant garde art can’t be entertaining and funny? Ha ha!”


AUTHOR'S NOTE: The PainStation DOES exist and I saw it in action at one of the galleries at Mexico City's National Center For the Arts. And yes, even though there was a HUGE sign telling people they would burn their hands or get an electric shocked if they played it, people played it anyway! As an art graduate, sometimes I can't figure out if artists are the bigger idiots.

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