Humans logo

Justin Bieber Wakes Up in the South of France to Find He Has Painted Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

by Kate Sinclair 8 months ago in fact or fiction

a meditation on fame

It is a hot summer morning and Justin Bieber is waking up. This is something he does every morning, but most mornings he is not in France and it is not the year 1889 when he does it. “Boom” Justin Bieber says. He is not aware that he is in France. He is thinking about his former dog Todd, who was born with a limp. Justin Bieber reaches for his phone. He needs to make a note about Todd. The limp. He needs to write in his Notes app “I have been dreaming about Todd again.” His therapist, Julian, will appreciate this. Keeping notes is part of “the work” Justin Bieber has been doing. With Julian. On himself. “The most important work of all” he whispers.

Justin Bieber reaches for his phone. Specifically, he reaches for the “Notes” app in his phone. But there is no phone. “Oh no” Justin Bieber says. “Where will I put my dream?” He takes a deep breath. Deep breaths are an important aspect of the work he is doing. He opens his eyes. “I see” he thinks. He looks around the room. “This is not my room” he thinks.

Justin Bieber starts making a list of all the things he sees in the room. He lists: Two chairs. An easel. One towel. One table. One mirror. He thinks: there is nowhere to put my dream. He thinks: This is not my room.

A girl enters. Justin Bieber stands up. He stands up in an iconic way. Like a pop star. The girl does not react. This is weird, because the girl is clearly sixteen years old. She is part of the demographic that Justin Bieber considers his “core audience.” “Huh” he thinks. “The auction” the girl says. “What?” Justin Bieber says. The girl gestures to the easel in the corner of the room. Justin Bieber walks over to it and immediately recognizes the painting “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh. “Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh” he says. “Is that what you are calling it?” the girl says. “That’s what it’s called” Justin Bieber says. The girl looks confused.

“Where is my phone?” Justin Bieber says.

“What is a phone?” the girl says.

This gives Justin Bieber a lot to think about.

Justin Bieber and the girl walk to an auction house in France carrying the painting “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh, which is destined to be a T-shirt. They are walking in the past-tense. Because it is clearly the past. The painting is not a T-shirt. It's not even famous. At the auction, people walk past it without even looking. No one looks at the painting. And no one looks at Justin Bieber. Justin Bieber and the painting have nothing in common. Except that neither of them is famous. Justin Bieber takes a deep breath. For panic-management reasons.

Months pass. Every day, Justin Bieber and the girl walk to the auction house. Every day, they are ignored. Justin Bieber’s health deteriorates. He develops a limp. He limps around like his former dog, Todd. “Todd!” he whispers. He tells the girl “I think I am going insane.” She gives him a black notebook. He uses the notebook to transcribe several dreams, all of them disturbing. He begins painting. All over the notebook. And on the walls. He paints and re-paints “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh. He masters it. “I could paint this in my sleep” he mutters. And he could. And he does. But it doesn’t matter. Because no one buys it. Eventually, he blacks out and cuts off his ear. Just like the real Van Gogh. In an iconic way. Which is how famous people do everything. Even though he’s not famous. Not yet.

Justin Bieber wakes up in Los Angeles covered in paint. “Boom” Justin Bieber says. He reaches for his phone and finds a notebook. His eyes are closed. He opens them. The room is covered in starry night paintings. So is the notebook. So are his hands. Justin Bieber is not afraid. He is energized. He gets out his phone. He takes a selfie. He is missing an ear and there are Van Gogh aesthetics everywhere. He posts a selfie on social media. His therapist Julian replies “????” A museum in France offers to pay him. He accepts a bank transfer of $20,000. Several people ask him if it is performance art. He says “yes.” A girl enters the room. The girl is 24 years old and he is married to her. “You’re trending” she says. “I know,” he says. He looks out the window. “What happened to your ear?” she says. “I’m doing the work,” he says. “What work?” she says. He looks at her. “Of not hearing the haters,” he says “Of listening to my dreams.” She stares at his paint splattered face. “What dreams?” she says. He looks away. “What dreams?” he thinks. He takes a deep breath.

fact or fiction

Kate Sinclair

Kate Sinclair is a book designer and illustrator based in Canada. She is currently trying to drink more water.

Receive stories by Kate Sinclair in your feed
Kate Sinclair
Read next: A stitch in time

Find us on socal media

Miscellaneous links