Who bears the responsibility, and who possesses the imaginative capacity, to conceive of an ideal world? Though utopians, futurists, and visionaries have never been united under one standard, radicals and progressives used to be uniquely equipped and motivated to do this work, and today mostly defend the scraps of bygone idealism and attend to the detritus of twentieth-century achievements. But constructing an image of an alternative world, another way of living, has an essential social function, and reflects—or even determines—the agency of the constructors. This task, like forming an image of the past, is never neutral or impartial. And now those who make investments in the future—and whose investments pay off—tend to be libertarian technologists, financial engineers, and affiliates of plutocrat-funded think tanks. This issue is an exhortation to bet on the future again—to formulate propositions, predictions, and projections that make demands on the present.
This issue is devoted to the consideration of contemporary and historical modes of reproduction: copies of classical sculpture made with plaster casts and 3-D printers; texts replicated by telegraphs, pirate publishers, and PDF generators; the photograph as archetypal mechanical image, proliferating across formats such as the daguerreotype, diapositive, inkjet print, bitmap. Pointing Machines is named after the simple eighteenth-century measuring tool for reproducing sculpture in stone or wood by means of a system of adjustable rods and needles. The issue reflects on the proliferation of analogous tools and procedures in the digital age, in which the difference between goods (among them artworks) and information about those goods is constantly diminishing. Pointing Machines addresses the many forms of reproduction that unremittingly shape our daily lives—and alter the relationships between ideas and property, identity and originality—while asserting that each instance of reproduction can be generative and enriching. Pointing Machines is Triple Canopy’s contribution to the 2014 Whitney Biennial and includes an installation in the Whitney’s galleries; the issue continues the reproduction and circulation of the displayed objects beyond the museum’s walls.
This issue is devoted to the consideration of objects and objectivity. Today our sense of the limits of objectivity is troubled by the proliferation of intelligent, networked devices which, while not animate, possess kinds of agency and functionality that approach animateness. Perhaps humans have always lived with and among objects that resemble us and have a share in how we use language, but the efficacy and usefulness—as well as the intrusiveness—of contemporary objects is remarkable. It Speaks of Others is therefore a reconsideration of objects, across a variety of media and forms: in poetry and prose, performance, film, and other images. Here we explore materiality and fetish, the joys and failures of empiricism, automation, big data, stuff, the objectification of human beings, as well as the speech of dumb things.
The gradual loss of integrity plays out in various aesthetic milieus: A TV pilot corrupts true art, an authorless novel seeks to enter the marketplace, the degradation of the environment is countered by a scheme for a land-art-inspired green economy, Charlie Sheen’s salacity is looped. This issue recognizes the continuous phenomenal change that thwarts our best-laid plans and programs, but admits that total overhaul is rarely feasible. Instead, it focuses on evolutionary processes and the joys of departure from any original design, the likelihood that each thing is the same thing in a deceptive form, scenes from the decline of commercial viability, the work of waiting.
Exhumations, translations, masquerades. No matter how many times you Empty Trash, the contents are buried somewhere by Time Machine, waiting to be unearthed. For example: Richard III’s skeleton is found beneath a Leicester parking lot. An archaeology of alphabets uncovers glyphs that carry forgotten sounds. A zombie phrenology rises up from Whitman’s poetry, and into puff pieces for Time magazine. Pygmalion’s Galatea comes to life and starts working the Borscht Belt. A trio of ancient donkeys are likewise revived, and it turns out they’re comedians, too. Magnetic resonance scans pass as portraits before a jury. A Brazilian poet plays at peddling smut, but can’t help being highbrow. Liberties are taken, permissions ignored.
This issue is devoted to scrubbing the bridge to the twenty-first century. Some foci of this endeavor: girls in uniforms, walking; girls of a certain age at once auguring and manifesting capital. There is so much to buy in the magazines that reflect their faces, which are clear-skinned, decorticated, architecturally sound. One woman reads Flaubert and is filled with love. Then she is filled with rage. She tries to show us simply how she sees the world, saying everything she can possibly say in one hour. Elsewhere a word that can’t be said is uttered at last because the story requires the word. Ambiguity gives way to precision, even analysis of patterns of linguistic usage. But your own interpretation may please you better.
This issue includes studies of the culture and politics of online anonymity, photographic excursions into the nether regions of the mind and the USSR. Popularity has exploded. Painted smiles peel. Scrutiny of alienation, irony, and hate leads to altruists, sociopaths, and old desperate weapons, convergences of teenage fantasy and IP militancy. Seekers arrive at bunkers and encampments and chat rooms from Yugoslavia to the Springsteen state to Zuccotti Park; they are after evidence or the smell or resources. Whitman’s multitudes, Melville’s intransigent, contra immiseration and crisis. One can't help but wonder, are these last or first men?
In Triple Canopy’s first literary, or not not literary, issue, the promise of fact evaporates in the weird light of the subjunctive. The focus is on events transpiring on the page, on “events” “transpiring” “on” “the page.” The actual of our counterfactual is often only handwriting; a typo, a footnote, a facsimile; caps lock, scare quote, underscore. It is mere text, a line, or minor grammar; a mere sentence, mere diction, mere style, what substance. As Wittgenstein once proposed: “They say, for example, that I should have given a particular answer then, if I had been asked.” But the business of prediction, even of speculative pasts, is best left to justly compensated professionals. Dealing with the present, then, and the future in the past, the counterfactuals in this issue might not survive the time of reading.
Chewing the scenery and reacting poorly with a certain consistency, this issue brings together reflections on the sexual magnetism of the volcano, the history of the infamous Mankato execution, passport defacement, New York real estate, the ills of dealing in art, and other acts of personal and public mismanagement. Such acts may be unintentional or may be required for a given role: It’s no easy feat, for example, for man, who evolved from the sea, to reverse the process by returning to the oceans and asserting control over the depths. Indeed, as this issue shows, the perception of acting quality differs greatly between any two given perceivers, and therefore the extent of bad acting can be quite subjective.
This issue is devoted to considering how we view photographs—and make photographs to be viewed—online. Most of the photographs found on the Internet were shot digitally and published without any thought given to printing them in a physical form. Their material condition is not an issue. We are concerned with photographs whose materiality is at stake, for which an online presentation is disruptive, and therefore worth examining. Artists who traffic in physical photographic prints are asked to participate in a shared vision of dematerialized photography, charged with creating works intended to be experienced as JPEGs.
In this issue, metaphors are unexamined and not. The skin of a satyr is flayed and stretched on a tree. A body withers leaving only a voice. Here expression precedes and exceeds language. A photograph succeeds where words fail. Those seeking omniscience, infinite perception, find it at the ends of gravity. A sea traveler says to a poet, “It is difficult to know a person.” The poet replies, “There are many ways a person might be known.” She sees fissures in the Arctic ice and is reminded of futures foretold by creases in the palm of a hand. These she traces in color. Elsewhere a hand is writing, ink on paper: This writing might depict a life or not at all. A written life is only partly told, partly understood, even as the Name written in light is everlasting. Revision leads so often to miscomprehension. No symbols where none intended.
This issue surveys the ground and that which surveys it from above, draws a line of force and follows it, trades violence for puppetry, confuses major and minor aspects, reckons with the originality of credit, randomizes dystopia, accounts for innumerable other conjunctions and oppositions. From space: polygonal celestial bodies and quantities of nothingness. From Pandora and Palestine: the nightmare of shamelessness. From Peru: lessons in the manufacture of high-end human-hair wigs. From Moscow: “It's like diving into the ocean—no half-steps, for all your life, but it is worth it!” All problems of drawing people into the mystery of a shared existence.
This issue charts a critical genealogy for new-media publishing by way of identifying undercurrents that have defined and enriched each successive “new” medium, and the aesthetic strategies that have persisted after the obsolescence of cassettes, floppy disks, and laser discs. The projects included in the issue were the outcome of talks, conversations, and performances that took place in late 2009 and early 2010 and positioned Triple Canopy’s approach to new-media publishing within a broader historical context: The Invisible Grammar at the NY Art Book Fair, The Medium Was Tedium at the New Museum, and an interview with digital-publishing pioneer Bob Stein as part of The Page + The Screen, a class organized with the Public School New York at 177 Livingston.
This issue consists of creation myths, shore stories, bestiaries. An Internet play requests permission to watch and listen as you read, then asks: What fruit do you expect to reap from your fine arguments? A Belgian information scientist builds an archive of twelve million bibliographic index cards meant to catalog all the world’s information. A dictionary recognizes any of a group of colors that may vary in lightness and saturation, whose hue is that of a clear daytime sky. A Bedu hick shows the desert of Arabia to be America’s last frontier. A monkey copulates for the camera. A poet explains what you are about to see.
The second of two issues examining our urban situation and what lies beyond it: the city’s past and future; the suburban, the exurban, the frontier. This issue understands urbanism as exceeding any fixed notion of the twentieth-century city, encompassing informatics and third-world slums, modular megachurches and modernist office towers. It seeks an urbanism that looks backward to move forward, that looks forward to see the present; an urbanism that considers the voices of those without the power to build, and the ideas of architects and planners who have built modestly, critically, or not at all.
The first of two issues examining our urban situation and what lies beyond it: the city’s past and future; the suburban, the exurban, the frontier. This issue consists of the realization of elaborate fictions; the accretion of what is designed and improvised, what is chosen and received, what is imagined and experienced. It was assembled upon awakening from an agreeable dream—of what could be bought, what could be built, what could be justified; of easy credit and adjustable-rate mortgages masking stagnant wages and yawning inequality.
Journeys far and wide, remote and digitally delivered, between deities and degenerates, deliverance and circulation. This issue covers virtual prayer, analog dance; the smelling-ghost, the possessed Porky; deaths mistaken for jokes, catheters mistaken for obstructions; headbanger folkways, authenticity in crisis. Beef, biceps, and the Bhagavad Gita. Bees, wasps, and uncountable mosquitoes. People fall over themselves to be on camera. Cannibalism is the limit on the horizon of the breakfast room. The best part is that there’s hardly any improvisation.
This issue consists of strange bedfellows and pop dialectics. Leo Strauss with Sayyid Qutb; Stalin beside Picasso; Clement Greenberg as Emperor Palpatine. Jurassic Park read through the book of Genesis, and Heraclitus formatted for OS9. Stretched across New York and the former USSR, allegories of gentrification and displacement: Lenin presides over the downtown real-estate boom, amid Bowery condo-construction dust, while Tatars fill empty chocolate boxes with nostalgia for Crimea. Invaders and the invaded embrace, because Desmond Tutu says so. Jesus Christ by way of Walt Disney—just south of Golgotha, you’ll find the restrooms and concession stand.
Learning from looking at New Orleans on Hurricane Katrina’s third anniversary, and finding something related to the city’s life and death. This issue eschews the rhetoric of before and after but nevertheless addresses reconstruction and resurrection, the great distance between here and there, the common impulse to narrow that distance. Walker Percy describes the experience of novelty sought by the tourist as an “immediate encounter with being”; when not satisfied, the tourist “carves his initials in a public place … as a last desperate measure to escape his ghostly role of consumer.” Instead this issue seeks description—if not of New Orleans then of something related to its life and its death.
This issue reveals literature to be a dangerous occupation, or an unoriginal vocation, or an observational exercise, or an engineering endeavor. The language of the Web is juxtaposed with the language of the psychiatric ward; the Global Village Idiot awaits a friend request, Rocky Balboa occupies the Guggenheim Bilbao. Search results: “Burma is great for private parties”; “Citizens do not have a need for politics because their ruler decides for them.” Objects, prototypes, and remnants of prior experiments: a magical hairbrush; the troublesome V in Venezuela; a severed toe discovered in the mail. In other words: “There is always an angle toward the sun.”
In this inaugural foray, months of conversations and thousands of emails between friends and strangers attain a form: a side-scrolling multimedia magazine meant for serious reading and viewing; a concatenation of essays, video poems, false reports, scripted fictions, and urban reconnaissance. Chinese paintings copying Renaissance masterpieces, sidewalk encounters, meteors hurtling into Siberia, dust swept from center to periphery. Noting the Internet’s putative freeness and rhetoric of freedom, we claim the freedom to be unreadable, but also the disciplined freedom of form; the freedom to be excessive and recessive, polemical and lapidary, lucid and obdurate.