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Vol. IV

ARPANET Test April 1976
with Jim Henson, Ayn Rand, Sidney Nolan & Yoko Ono

Published on 4 March 2012. Presented as a contribution to Roundtable Issue 1, a journal for the 9th Gwangju Biennale. Featuring guest contributor Natalya Pinchuk, an artist based in Pittsburgh, USA.

17 April 1976 – The transcript presented here records a conversation between four figures from the broad spectrum of culture: puppeteer Jim Henson; Russian-American writer, philosopher and playwright Ayn Rand; painter Sidney Nolan; and artist and musician Yoko Ono. A few months after the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, The Agency’s tests with the ARPANET convened these four individuals, each with a distinct sense of, as well as the potential means for, a competing world-view. These individuals, who cross different hemispheres, were to help with considerations towards the viability of broadly implementing Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.* Please note that the respective computer terminals for each participant were identified by the names of gods from Roman mythology and have here been changed to reflect the actual names of the participants. The application, still in its early stage of development, had limited syntax capability, thus punctuation was limited to the full stop. Also, the original timestamps for each transmission have been removed for the sake of legibility.

* Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country. (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

* * *

AYN RAND
Hello this is Ayn Rand.
YOKO ONO
Hello. This is Yoko Ono
SIDNEY NOLAN
Good evening.
JIM HENSON
Hi. Im Jim Henson.
SIDNEY NOLAN
Sidney Nolan
JIM HENSON
I’m a puppeteer.
AYN RAND
As you know I am a philosopher and a novelist.
YOKO ONO
I myself am an artist and musician living now in New York.
SIDNEY NOLAN
I paint.
YOKO ONO
I would love to appear on one of your television programs Mr Henson.
AYN RAND
why?
YOKO ONO
They are very funny and I like how the puppets get on.
JIM HENSON
Thank you its kind of you to say so. Im also a fan of yours and John Lennons music.
SIDNEY NOLAN
Who is your favourite puppet from the line of characters you have created Jim.
YOKO ONO
Thank you. John loves your programmes too.
JIM HENSON
Each character is special for me they represent different aspects of myself. Kermit the frog is perhaps closest to me. An altar ego of sorts.
AYN RAND
What does that say about you.
SIDNEY NOLAN
Big laughs. He is exceptional.
JIM HENSON
I dont know. I don’t think too much about it.
YOKO ONO
My favourite is Big Bird. He is so tall and gentle.
AYN RAND
To be honest I find it to be senseless entertainment. I prefer the celebration of men and what they can achieve.
JIM HENSON
Do you have children Ms Rand.
AYN RAND
What do children have to do with what I prefer.
SIDNEY NOLAN
Entertainment is never senseless its always within the sensible even when its farce.
JIM HENSON
I find that being a parent being close to children has broadened my perspective allowed me to empathize and understand more than I ever did before. I hope that empathy comes through in my senseless entertainment.
SIDNEY NOLAN
I prefer not to celebrate anything or anyone. Celebration is something that should become something that grows from within creation and not something that we take as a goal.
YOKO ONO
I think this is very important. We need also to offer our children a chance.
AYN RAND
A chance for what. If people cannot be proud of what they do and of their achievements what kinds of world are we giving the future generations?
YOKO ONO
Children have a better chance to do these things you mention if they empathise. I think this is Jims point.
AYN RAND
The empathy you point to obviously serves you well. I am happy for your achievement.
JIM HENSON
A chance for peace. Is that right Ms Ono.