Editorial

Issue #127
May 2022

In this issue, Asia Bazdyrieva offers a broader picture of Ukraine’s significance as a biopolitical resource for Western European appetites. In Ukraine’s operational capacity as Europe’s “breadbasket,” a colonial imaginary unfolds that sees the country’s human, agricultural, and material resources as inert—ripe for extraction by a conqueror who can release their inexhaustible transactional benefits. Through this strategic lens, Russia’s invasion appears to be the latest in a longer line that implicates Germany, which today speculates on Ukraine’s material and territorial benefits while hoping to distance itself from the Nazis’ ruthless interest in controlling the ukrainische Kornkammer.

Also in this issue, Josephine Berry attends to the insurgent role of feeling in maintaining an affective sensorium of organismic creation. At present, interest is growing in transitioning away from creative acts grounded in imagination, sensation, and technical experimentation. As many turn toward a cold scientism of autonomous worlds inhospitable to human life—whether alien, animal, or material—we might ask about the relation between such expressions of “environmental distress.” What sensorial reciprocities—with place or each other—might be more insurgent? In a sequel to last issue’s “Personal Entropy,” Gregor Mobius shows how a visual device for representing RNA/DNA might be meaningful not only as a code, but as an image of what earth’s first life-forms saw. Seen as representations of extremely low-resolution images, what can such elementary matrices tell us about the seemingly endless variety of life that shares the same basic code, and about the human drive to find organic life beyond our own planet?

Charles Mudede looks at the recent comedy series South Side and its brilliantly dystopian near-future scenario of rentier capitalist debt-servicing and hopeless speculation. Set in Chicago’s South Side, the show can be seen as a detailed Black analysis of a postwar American legacy of economic shocks, with one weapon hidden inside its comedy of capitalist totality: the wonder of an amateur astronomer. Meanwhile, Boris Groys considers the role of ancient and modern Gnostic doctrines in warding off the tyranny of reason. According to Groys, Gnostic roots ran through the particular “wisdom” of Soviet dialectical materialism. This allowed Soviet Marxism to integrate mysticism and philosophy in ways that were revolutionary to 1970s–80s philosophy, and still seem surprising and contradictory today.

A roundtable discussion between Hanna Baumann, Adriana Massidda, Bassem Saad, Elizabeth Saleh, and Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins probes the relations between art and toxic waste. Two films anchor the conversation. In one, a speculative Palestinean future is carved out from under a West Bank landfill. The other, which also faces the future, shows a coastal dump northeast of Beirut. At that site, noxious refuse and its corrupt management spill into the sea. The filmmakers ask how, in a shattered present, we can make sense of toxicity’s many visible and buried temporalities—as well as its entwined nonhuman/human byproducts.

In Belarus, Aleksei Borisionok travels queer timelines through three post-Soviet museums—a journey marked by deep geological time, flashy (fashy) decay, raves, and fintech. Borisionok discovers how the museums played a role in anti-fascist protest movements of the the past two years (and the past century). There’s a very different museum, in North America, that was near-impossible to enter even when “open.” With an essay in this issue that’s been years in the making, Mary Walling Blackburn draws a lumpen line through Fred Sandback’s eponymous museum. The Massachusetts town that once hosted it contains open and suppressed realities of space, form, race, and class. Walling Blackburn shows some of them through a linear(ish) narrative from 1847 to 2017. One thread has to do with the backs of nineteenth-century workers in the manufacturing town’s mills. Another shows strata of local twentieth-century bravery and hate. A further line: the long, dampening, and chilling effect that a sweater had on telling a true, complex, classed art-world history.

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