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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.

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[ Page 3 ]

AYN RAND
I am not idealistic at all. It is the opposite of idealism. Each individual acting rationally is in charge of their destiny not of the collective.
AYN RAND
What do you mean by the will of god.
SIDNEY NOLAN
The individuals will as his own personal god. Certainly but we dont live in shoe boxes Ms. Rand. Each action causes a reaction.
YOKO ONO
We all lead our own lives but our emotions and feelings connect us. Where is the belief in emotion.
AYN RAND
I do not disagree with what you say. But I do not understand why refer to a supernatural power to communicate your thought.
YOKO ONO
It is because our cultures have a spirit.
SIDNEY NOLAN
God is an idea in the end. History like I mentioned earlier in our conversation dictates this idea and we are unable to get rid of it even if we get rid of the idea of supernatural almighty power we cannot get rid of its essence which is what I think is omnipresent in your ideas because you seem to be making man into a god.
SIDNEY NOLAN
He is not.
JIM HENSON
The human spirit is so important. This is what can bridge the divide between us.
AYN RAND
I am not making man into God. I am freeing him from god and charging him to take control of his own destiny.
AYN RAND
What do you mean by human spirit.
SIDNEY NOLAN
Have you ever thought of yourself as the Nietzsche of our time Ms. Rand. Positive. A lady. Market oriented. He would be proud of you. The better more pragmatic him.
JIM HENSON
It may be the idea of god whether you believe in a deity or not. That element within us and around us that binds us to each other essentially. We are all human. We all connect I think somehow.
YOKO ONO
Yes and we must all be allowed an equal opportunity to participate in society and offer support to those that cant.
SIDNEY NOLAN
I dont care a lot for this idea of society either actually.
YOKO ONO
But you are part of society are you not. If your art isnt for society who is it for.
AYN RAND
I despise such mysticism. Acting in your own self interest aligns one with other people in a fluid non forced way. One does not need to be a slave to the concept of forced collective in order to achieve happiness across many people.
YOKO ONO
I am surprised to be in such a conversation. It feels like a deliberate test.
SIDNEY NOLAN
The idea of society is a logical predicament in the first place that is why it is so hard to argue for or against it. It just is what it is.
AYN RAND
Public institutions in society should exist only to support the individual not force it into abandoning its own private interest.
SIDNEY NOLAN
I agree Ms. Rand.
AYN RAND
Thank you Sidney.
SIDNEY NOLAN
But not in the total.
JIM HENSON
I think Ms. Rand and my character Oscar the Grouch would have a lot to talk about actually. I am laughing out loud at this idea.
AYN RAND
Why would I want to talk to him. What has he achieved or trying to achieve.
JIM HENSON
He has achieved what I think is the ultimate goal of your way of thinking.
YOKO ONO
But society is what makes our culture and is what makes a people different. I know the US is different to Japan. The US should try to get on with societies it doesnt like. Vietnam was a catastrophe.
JIM HENSON
Isolation. Contempt for others. A hard heart. Yet even he can muster a bit of empathy every now and then.
SIDNEY NOLAN
When Ms. Rands idea of individualism is amplified to the extreme things like Vietnam happen.
AYN RAND
I am not isolated. I have no contempt for others. Millions of people read my books and find my thoughts inspirational. I hardly spend my time on the sidelines in a trash can grumping.
JIM HENSON
Not yet anyway.