• Odermatt / Vierwaldstättersee
  • Sunset

/// A Kind of Credo

Before we begin, we would like to offer a brief account of why we are beginning at all.

1. We are writers and artists, thinkers and actors, programmers, scientists and musicians.  We have our interests and disinterests, just like you, and our opinions, faults, and frailties.  We also live in this world.  It would be wrong to say there isn’t space enough elsewhere for the likes of us—there probably is, and indeed we have found our way into it now and then.  We have even, sometimes, liked the terms of entry and distribution.

2. That said, every moment has its forms and ways, and the present undertaking is at least in part to underline for ourselves that we are not satisfied by the forms and ways of the present moment.  We are not satisfied by its rhythms, by its idolatries or iconoclasms, by its social or technological forces, its criticism, or even its attempts at self-criticism.  Its interests and disinterests, its physical and spiritual requirements and dispensations, its perceptions and its representations almost invariably take too much, while giving and/or asking too little.  At the same time, it has become the universal objective of the corporeal world-at-large to sift its every part and party—constantly, and with purely quantitative guidance—through the several billion screen-mirrors of its inhabitants: to multiply and recombine every available map, with little or no regard for the territory.

3. Which is not to say we should throw up our hands, rather that we should apply them.  The abstract plane is subject to the same desertification as the living world; it harbors vast expanses of nullity, numbness, spleen, and sanctimony; but also like the living world it is not a fixed space: it is never done being put together, and perhaps it comes apart more readily.

4. It comes apart, and also it comes together again, yielding oases and treasure, representations and echoes of every kind of beauty, every kind of experience, whatever can be rendered in symbol or sound, whatever can be facilitated by algorithmic modeling—all this, plus a functionally endless repository of human ghosts.  We do not fear ghosts.  And we are not here to make simple distinctions between high and low, much less to draw artificial lines between the noble materiality of the “real” world and the vulgar simulations of its coded analogs.  We do not fear codes.  Or copies.  Indeed, a mystical shiver runs through every copy of the real.

5. As Éluard put it (by way of Patrick White): There is another world but it is in this one.  The Internet is a means of distribution, built on language.  It is identical with what it contains only in the structural sense; it isn’t the telephone speaking to you, but someone on the other end of the line.  And even if that someone is a ghost, or an automaton, or seems like one, it is still you there, somewhere, listening—and not in any other world than this.  Reality still precedes all claims and cannot be overturned.

6. We are interested in documentation, representation, transformation.  We are purveyors and interpreters of song, poetry, video, theater, photography, translation, philosophy, science, politics, anthropology, theology, and it is our principal intention here to collect, display, and otherwise point to fragments of culture that deserve attention.  Paint, land, stories.  Objects.  Images of these.  Radio transmissions.  All—minus just less than all.

7. We note with sympathy the observation of William James, that

Every one knows what attention is. It is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. Focalization, concentration, of consciousness are of its essence. It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatterbrained state which in French is called distraction, and Zerstreutheit in German. 1

8. And even in plain English we have decided to point our eyes in certain directions and not in others.  Our experience is what we agree to attend to, and we are concerned not only with this matter of attention but also with this matter of agreement, by which we make our experiences and ideas properly our own.  We peer into the bottomless glass, to join eyes with who peers with us.



So: look upon this sky, this body in the sand, this factory, this cave painting, this garden, this circus.

Look, or look away.

We are not free, but the possibility of freedom begins with making our attention ours.  Given everything, we must nonetheless choose something.  And though it is difficult to say of any line, at any given instant, which side we are on—and though we are not, strictly speaking, certain of anything—still we are mathematicians enough, not to need to count ten million in order to believe in it, nor two to believe in three.  We trust our judgment and recommend you trust yours.  What boundaries there are, we are not beyond them, that much is sure, therefore nothing will be excluded and nothing promised.

But a finger, leveled in one direction.

Or another.


Félix Vallotton, “Coucher de soleil bronze-violet.” Oil on canvas, 1911.


Photo credit: Arnold Odermatt – Vierwaldstättersee, 1972; Silvergelatine, ed. 8; 30 x 40 cm


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