Readers
Absence
8 essays
Compiled by Paul Boyé

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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Hu Fang
The Door to Slow Sunset
Originally published in December 2012

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.”

Doreen Mende
The Many Haruns: A Timeline Through Books and Hand Gestures from 18,000 BC–2061
Originally published in November 2014

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.

Anton Vidokle
Art Without Artists?
Originally published in May 2010

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, and government bureaucrats; in other words, they act as intermediaries between producers of art and the power structure of our society.

Raqs Media Collective
Stammer, Mumble, Sweat, Scrawl, and Tic
Originally published in November 2008

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 to the interrogator or to his circumstances.

Teresa Castro
The Mediated Plant
Originally published in September 2019

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”?

Hito Steyerl
Missing People: Entanglement, Superposition, and Exhumation as Sites of Indeterminacy
Originally published in October 2012

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.

Jalal Toufic
If You Prick Us, Do We Not Bleed? No
Originally published in December 2013

Dedicated to the living memory of Gilles Deleuze, a non-revengeful philosopher

Nathan Lee
Becoming-Undetectable
Originally published in April 2013

A narrative, it seemed to me, would be less useful than an idea.
—Susan Sontag, AIDS and Its Metaphors

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