Is he in your world or are you in his?

The world around you is filled with art. There are paintings in museums, songs coming out of headphones, movies on TV, books in bookstores. But what about the things that don’t look like art? Some of them are art, too. Just ask the Silent Rider.

“I’m a conceptualist,” says the Silent Rider. He pauses, chuckles, then lets out an exaggerated, menacing laugh. “No: I’m THE Conceptualist.” The Silent Rider has agreed to speak to this reporter by phone, though his number shows as “Unknown Caller” and his voice is disguised, emerging as a low croak in which words are barely discernible. “Every day, I am changing things around you,” he says. “Or am I?” Again, the laugh.

The Silent Rider says that he has a much more mundane identity that guides his everyday life. “I am a guy in a city,” he says. “Seattle. No, Boston. No, Austin. Wherever I am, I work my job, spend time with my wife, spend time with my kids. I have a song and a daughter or maybe two daughters. I drive a sedan.” 


A few years ago, a chance meeting in an airport changed the Sphinx’s life. The airport was in Denver. That much has been established.

“Yes,” says the Silent Rider. “Denver. I was in the bar, talking to this guy about how I was once an artist. The problem was that I wasn’t anymore. He asked me what kind of artist. A painter? A sculptor? No, I said. I was a conceptual artist. At this, he really perked up. He was fascinated by it. ‘You mean,’ he said, ‘that you think of ideas for art pieces that challenge the orthodoxy of our reality but you don’t always execute them?’ I nodded. I told him that I rarely executed them. I explained that sometimes it was because they were expensive ideas, but not always.”

The man that the Silent Rider met then laughed. “It was a similar laugh to mine, one of those fake-o Dracula laughs,” he says. “He said that he was a billionaire. ‘I’m not joking,’ he said. ‘I’m talking tens or billions.’ Before we boarded our flights—he was going to Chicago, and I was going home—he agreed to bankroll me under certain conditions.”


“He told me that he would pay me weekly if I called him with a conceptual art idea. He would accept it or reject it or modify it. Then I would make a short video explaining it, though in this disguise. Then he would flip a coin to see whether we should execute the idea.”

The billionaire also came up with the Silent Rider’s name. “He said it was a comic book villain from when he was a kid. I’ve never been able to find it. Maybe he was remembering wrong. Or maybe I’m incorrect about who came up with the name.”

The partnership started right away. The first week, the Silent Rider and his benefactor made a fake poster for a missing dog. “Did we put it up?” he says. “Did we?”

The second week, they made labels for signs (they said “Sign”) and then labels for those labels (they said “Labels”). “Did we put those up?” He says. “Did we?”

Silent Rides, as the projects are called, have been going for twenty weeks. “I have made a great deal of money,”  says the Silent Rider. “And there’s no end in site.” 


“In fact,” he continues, “my benefactor has told me that he is now paying the Weekly World News to host my videos. Every other week, a minute-long video describing a project will go up on the site. Weekly World News readers will not know if the project was or was not carried out, which is as it should be. You are now part of the project.”

This reporter gasped. This reporter picked up a second phone and made a phone call to confirm or deny. This reporter obtained confirmation. 

The Silent Rider laughed a third time. “You may wonder if this piece is itself a project,” he says. “It’s not. It’s an announcement of what is to come. We’re playing it straight, me and my benefactor, at least for the purpose of this announcement. Moments from now, who can say?”

A dog barks on the line. “Once I thought to record a dog and play back the recording during phone conversations,” says the Silent Rider. “That’s not happening now.” He cups his hand over the phone. “Quiet, boy. Nothing to bark at, boy.” The dog stops. The line goes dead. 

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