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No. 63 | The Desert
Cecilia Sjöholm
Brian Dillon
Maria Golia
Emilio Distretti
Elizabeth Knafo
D. Graham Burnett

and more

<<January 2018>>

Out of Site

Quotation Marks Gone Wild The proliferation of the use of quotation marks (for everything except citations, that is) is now well documented. "Enjoy". ­Knitting Hyperbolic Spaces How to knit mathematics' most convoluted topologies ­ The Chicago 7 Trial Bios, trial transcripts, and more! "We demand the Politics of Ecstasy! We are the delicate spores of the new fierceness that will change America." ­When Only Screaming at a Human Being Will Do A cheat sheet for how to talk to humans at various companies ­

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Orphan Utopia

Reed McConnell

When the angels appeared to John Ballou Newbrough early one morning in 1881, he was nothing if not well prepared. A dentist and Spiritualist, he had spent the last ten years purifying himself for supernatural contact by abstaining from meat, bathing twice a day, and rising before dawn. The visit was expected.


Ingestion / What’s for Dinner?

Leonard Barkan

Suppose that you were a lonely analphabetic with no religious education—the year could be 2017 or 1617, it doesn’t matter—and at the same time zealous for initiation into the narratives that the New Testament offers by way of instituting the Christian faith. You are fortunate enough to have access, whether by magic carpet or internet, to the world’s treasury of sacred paintings. And from this rich sampling you set yourself to deduce the leading features of a creed that, from humble beginnings in Galilee, managed to spread its good news throughout the world.


I Feel It Is My Duty to Speak Out

Sally O'Reilly

Dear WhiteWave Foods,

I am writing to complain about one of your products: namely, Silk Cashewmilk (with a touch of almond). I imagine that you receive many complaints about your use of the word “milk,” and frequent challenges to specify where exactly on the cashew nut the teats are located. This, however, is not a problem for me, since I simply mop up what I take to be a sloppy euphemism with a pair of quotation marks. No, what I wish to complain about is the recent redesign of your half-gallon “milk” cartons.


Journeys of Lactic Abstraction

Melanie Jackson and Esther Leslie


Milk is a primal substance. Milk is the first fluid to enter our mouths, to touch the tongue, to fill the belly. Our first words form around it and it flows into our language: in our thoughts and actions, we skim, condense, homogenize, express, churn, curdle, culture, sour, combine, separate. Milk, the milk of human kindness, is there with life from its beginnings and is essential for its continuation. For a premodern order, milk was life-giving and productive. Life, milk-sustained life, linked to fate and destiny. The land that flows with milk and honey was a specific reference to the homeland of a herder people—Canaan. This bountiful pasture became the model of a life sweet and fulfilled. Contemporary idiomatic speech is replete with spilt milk, milksops, milch cows, cash cows, sacred cows, the milk-hearted, the milk-livered, milk for free, milking it, milking it for all it’s worth—all expressions of negativity, weakening, and exploitation. These phrases signal something of our contemporary dis-ease with anything that evokes dependency, an abject state in an age dominated by a form of capital that despises welfare, but thrives on precarity. There is, then, a milky language that speaks to our emotions, our socialization, and our hopes. If we disrupt milk’s turbid body, it may be mobilized as a “filter” through which to explore the contradictions of the present.


The Desert Is a State of Mind Cast over the Earth

Michael Marder

The desert is an invention, a creation of emptiness in the plentitude of existence, an introduction of barrenness into the fecundity of being. However dry this biome, it is never entirely vacant. Besides containing rocks or sand, the actual desert from Atacama to the Sahara and from the Gobi to Mojave is propitious to certain animals (coyotes and scorpions, chipmunks and rattlesnakes) and plants (barrel cacti and Joshua trees, tumbleweeds and ironwood) that find themselves at home there. It would be the height of arrogance to deem these and countless others of its inhabitants so insignificant that they are sidelined or forgotten, leaving only the vast vacuum, the expanding nothingness, that the ecosystem in question has come to denote. An automatic association of the desert with lifelessness betrays precisely such forgetting and neglect, which are, in my view, the side effects of a devastating project—refashioning the earth in the image of abstract thought. “The” desert is abstraction realized, cast over the world at the expense of biological, ecological, and ontological diversity.


Artist Project / Reconciliation

S. Billie Mandle

Saint Christopher, the enigmatic martyr and patron saint of travelers and children who bore the increasingly heavy Christ child across a deadly river before his own decapitation, bears brown water stains across his acoustical tiles. Light falls in displaced blades through his half-shut opening, across his little ledge, glaring the green cover of a volume lying there, angling down brown half-wall panels into the shadow realm. Saint Elizabeth—who vanishes from the Bible eight days after giving birth, when the men who are to circumcise her son arrive and try to name him Zechariah, whereupon she cries out, “No, he is to be called John!” for this is John the Baptist—is transformed, as in a Greek myth, into the black constellations of perforations in her soundproof paneling, then mantled with a jointed beam of light. And Saint Thomas More, intently principled, severe and merciless, who would not bow to kings, is a single, narrow ray plunging down a wooden wall, illuminating the grain in patterns reminiscent of a seizure patient’s EKG.



Justine Kurland

I want to tell you why I sold my van. It’s not the first van I’ve left behind but it might be the last. I would like to publicly renounce a belief system that once seemed useful and true to me; I’ve outgrown the romantic escapism of this mode of travel. The boy who bought my van was excited to have it. He had just graduated from Bard and was planning to use it to drive to Marfa, where he had an internship. I felt like I was passing a baton. But exactly what kind of baton was it? Few things in the popular imagination are as symbolically loaded as cars. Or as guitars, for that matter. But let me start with vans.


Between the Mine and the Stream

Justin E. H. Smith

Gwalia, Western Australia, 1897. A young man, an American man, rides with his entourage into town, on camelback. He is covered with blackflies. He has the air of an arrogant yet honorable man. The ragged miners assembled there know that the man has recently earned a degree in geology from a university on the other side of the ocean. He has come to apply the most advanced knowledge of modern mine engineering to extract, with their labor, the metal riches from this continent of red dust.