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Absence

There is an absence, but not quite like before. Given so many are staying at home, spaces are emptied: the interstitial swells and expands. A new kind of haunt has crept into these spaces once populated. These texts explore moments of emptiness, of without-ness; silence and disquietude.

The pandemic has many mirrors and echoes with other moments (ongoing or otherwise), yet there is something different here. So we look back into the archive for clues, suggestions, and devices.

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Compiled by Paul Boyé
8 Essays
1. Félix Gonzales-Torres wrote this postcard on August 2nd, 1995. It was one week since he returned to New York, heading next to Miami. “It’s very hot down there, ” he wrote of Miami, “but it’s clean, and it has the most beautiful slow sunsets.” The following year, Félix González-Torres passed away. I got the chance to read these words recently from a friend who received this postcard, and I then realized that Félix’s “slow sunsets” live on today. 2. Looking out my...
A few moments from encounters with Harun Farocki materialize in the form of his films and his own texts, passages from emails exchanged with HF over the years, my porous memory of dinners, and our reunions in the years to come. The time-fragments presented below begin long before we met and exceed the factual-temporal event of Harun’s untimely, depressing, and shocking passing on July 30, 2014. Such a method of selecting bits of time refers, first, to HF’s insistence on reflecting on...
It is clear that curatorial practice today goes well beyond mounting art exhibitions and caring for works of art. Curators do a lot more: they administer the experience of art by selecting what is made visible, contextualize and frame the production of artists, and oversee the distribution of production funds, fees, and prizes that artists compete for. Curators also court collectors, sponsors, and museum trustees, entertain corporate executives, and collaborate with the press, politicians,...
To be legible is to be readable. To be legible is to be an entry in a ledger—one with a name, place, origin, time, entry, exit, purpose, and perhaps a number. To be legible is to be coded and contained. Often, when asked an uncomfortable question, or faced with an unsettling reality, the rattled respondent ducks and dives with a stammer, a mumble, a sweat, a scrawl, or a nervous tic. The respondent may not be lying, but neither may he be interested in offering a captive legible truth either...

The mediated, sentient, and intelligent plant potentially invites us to think about nature, plants, technology, and ourselves-as-humans in different ways. As plants in particular are revealed as agentic, intentional beings, the mediated plant potentially invites us to develop more caring, attentive, and communicative attitudes toward the vegetal. In this way, the mediated plant can push us forward in the urgent “struggle to think differently” that Val Plumwood called us to join. Perhaps the mediated, sentient, intelligent plant can help us to queer nature, to queer botanics, to queer ourselves-as-humans as we “go onwards in a different mode of humanity.” But why to queer? Why not “simply” to “decolonize”?

X. In 1935, Erwin Schrödinger devised an insidious thought experiment. He imagined a box with a cat inside, which could be killed at any moment by a deadly mixture of radiation and poison. Or it might not be killed at all. Both outcomes were equally probable. But the consequence of thinking through this situation was much more shocking than the initial setup. According to quantum theory, there wasn’t just one cat inside the box, dead or alive. There were actually two cats: one...
Dedicated to the living memory of Gilles Deleuze, a non-revengeful philosopher Have we not eyes ? No: “He [a Japanese man]: ‘You saw nothing in Hiroshima. Nothing.’ She [a French woman visiting the city]: ‘I saw everything . Everything .… The hospital, for instance, I saw it. I’m sure I did.…’ ‘You did not see the hospital in Hiroshima. You saw nothing in Hiroshima.’ … ‘Four times at the museum in Hiroshima.… I … looked thoughtfully at the iron … made vulnerable as flesh …...
A narrative, it seemed to me, would be less useful than an idea. —Susan Sontag, AIDS and Its Metaphors I want to talk about what happened to us: to a very specific “us,” and some very strange happenings. I want to tell a story, to give a history to things oblivious to history. What I’m after is a queer problem and it won’t stop moving. I like how they say, you’re just going through a phase. That’s what’s happening to us, we’re going through phases. But a phase isn’t a thing,...
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