:: Essays

Unboxing My Father’s Suitcase published 20/05/2019

Close to five hundred photographs came back: seagulls, abandoned buildings, skyscrapers, street lights. There were holiday snaps mixed in with abstract photos, images concerned with shapes and the arrangement of shapes, taken in the late 1970’s, many taken in the dark and in the rain. My father is not present in any of the photographs because he is always behind the camera: this is his eye onto the world, only I don’t know why he wanted to remember and preserve these sights, what he was doing in these places, so late at night, why he kept these photographs. They are images that are supersaturated with biographical experience that I can’t decode. To paraphrase Freud, biographical truth as I wanted it was not to be had, and what I did have I could not seem to use.

By Stephanie Bishop.

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Grazing Earth published 14/05/2019

His writing is simple and legible but perfect in ways that are hard to recognize at first. He untapped the potential of language, not as a poet—with meaning encrypted in words in that order—but as an oral storyteller—with meaning encrypted in narrative structure so it can be retold in other words. In “Decálogo del perfecto cuentista” (Decalogue of the Perfect Storyteller) he instructs the aspiring writer to describe an event with only the immediately evident words. He is always sparse. A never-ending sentence halts before something too harsh to say with an exclamation point or ellipsis. He insinuates the worst truths to the reader. His characters enter an illusory state. Silence is not a lie but a gesture of respect towards the humanity of the character.

By Elisa Taber.

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On What Is published 13/05/2019

The necessity to pay has been revealed in countless signs to be interpreted as letters of demand that must be answered. Intensifying heat, melting ice, rising seas, violent storms, drought, flooding, failing crops, mass migrations, and extinctions: what they point to is impossible to say except in terms of future finance, or the terms by which the presence of the debt may be restructured. That the nature of those terms cannot be thought about with any understanding in advance of their acceptance is no reason not to hope that that might happen.

By Christopher Clifton.

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reconstruct this: consolation and neural networks published 09/05/2019

If séances are less of a therapeutic staple in the twenty-first century, and the ‘spirit’ element of photography no longer a requirement of its consolatory power, the drive to brandish visual records as proof of something nebulous remains compelling. If, in 2016, I clicked like a metronome through a desktop file of images from the previous half decade, the motivation arose not from any need to prove the continued existence of their subjects’ souls, but certainly from a need to affirm the significances of a life that now felt previous. Such comfort was, obviously, elusive. To trace, in a photograph, the line between my former boyfriend’s face and my own, as though to isolate and circle the point on that vector that signified love, felt as dumb as it was manifestly desperate. A child of the postmodern era, I should have known better than to search for objective meaning in an image.

By Amber Husain.

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Four Fragments from the Prince’s Tomb published 06/05/2019

As he approached the end of his task, he found himself filled with doubt, not just about the way in which he had made use of Prince Kim’s notes, but about his own life and his chosen path altogether. He was increasingly aware of the vast divide between the deep intentions which animated the texts, and his personal preoccupations. His meditation practice had almost disappeared in daily activities. He reviewed what had become a little book and doubted that anyone would find it readable, much less comprehensible. And, even though he was strangely confident in the way he had assembled and edited the text, he was not sure that he comprehended it himself.  Completing the last section intensified all his uncertainties.

By Douglas Penick.

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Round: an excerpt from Blank Sign Book published 30/04/2019

A circular composition comprises Janet Cardiff’s sound installation The Forty Part Motet. Here, human space acuminates into an uncanny assertion of spiritual high beauty. Inside an expansive and cavernous gallery space with polished concrete floors and warehouse windows (sailboats knocking together beyond them), the complex sixteenth-century choral composition Spem in Alium emanated from forty small, rectangular, ear-high speakers. Thought to be the pinnacle of early English music, this song braids the voices of eight five-member choirs. In a complex round, they toss Latin phrasings back and forth. Art made by this many voices is a high feat of humanism, and is easily understood as having aesthetic (if historical) value. In the early twenty-first century, this felt like a vestigial kind of pleasure to be taking in an art space.

By Anne Lesley Selcer.

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Dear Angelus Novus published 25/04/2019

You closed your eyes, and tuned into the warm impermanence of things organic. You were suddenly snatched away and propelled elsewhere. In this elsewhere, you felt as if you were orbiting around me in a space capsule and you distinctly heard my strange and eerie wail. You were bewildered to see millions of fragments from dumped satellites and rockets, orbiting the earth, promising collisions with new ones, spelling out trouble ahead. Amongst the space junk, you recognised orbiting past a flying aeroplane door, an astronaut’s glove, an ejector seat.

Susana Medina‘s contribution to Letters to the Earth, read at the Extinction Rebellion protests in London.

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Knots and Not Seeing published 18/04/2019

At which point does a knot become knotted? Can some knots appear unknotted?    Computers can make everything seem calculated and worked out, all is well ordered to the algorithmic eye that constantly seeks out the path of least resistance: but to a human it is complete chaos. There is a certain potential in the path of most resistance, where strands come close and rub against each other and the friction creates comforting warmth as you struggle to unfurl it. I wonder what this liminal ‘special Space’ between being simultaneously knotted and unknotted looks like.

By Matthew Turner.

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We Are The World: Jordan Peele’s Us published 08/04/2019

The prismatic character of our times is such that all works of art might have something to say about it, some sliver of reflection caught in the shattered mirror, even if unwittingly or unintentional. When the overarching theme of this of not-so-fun house-of-mirrors is the perception of perception, then everything is a clue—every chance encounter, every uttered phrase, every fragment is an artifact, a symbol of a symbol of a symbol in the infinite regress of what is really going on. What dark forces are determining this? In what corrupt reality are we in fact living? Corrupt like a file. The copy of the file. The copy of the copy of the copy. Corrupted perhaps by the degenerating consequences of the replication itself – otherwise we must assign blame, mustn’t we? And where does that get us these days?

By Jeff Wood.

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Thoughts on a Queer Gaze published 03/04/2019

If “male gaze” as defined in Laura Mulvey’s seminal essay, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, objectifies women as stereotypes for heterosexual male viewers, and the “female gaze” responds to this by subverting the object and positioning women as viewers, then both stem from social power buried with the act of looking—who sees and who is seen. In theory, a queer gaze would deconstruct such gender-based power dynamics, changing not only the object but also the intent of the male and female gaze. Ideally, a queer gaze would create a world completely free from binary notions of desire and storytelling, creating space for plural identities and possibilities.

By Molly Moss.

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