This is the ♫♪NDNMK↕ ☼Solutions™ Foldscape:
Philip Coyne says in brackets to Sherida “is there a term that we should continually use?”.
I reply in my head no, whatever is fine but I didn't email him that to say so.
Camus, Albert. 2006. The Fall. Penguin Modern Classics. London, England: Penguin Classics.
Philip motions in brackets “(Not sure if this should go in, particularly here, because it’s jumping the gun a bit but your work and our brief conversation about has made me realise how incisive this metaphor actually is ha. So how the smug accusing sovereignty of the narrator in The Fall, the whole 'I’ve been made a subject of power so you should live your life the way that I say you should’ thing, is so central to Dutch liberalism, and how it connects to the quote that you mentioned from Toni Morrison about being tall because you’ve brought everyone around you down. Also there being like an inverted accusational tone within your work, one that is aimed at power instead. So if the movement through the sewer births a self-knowledge of power or whiteness, then the nastiness of the Fall narrator is his wallowing in the cafe’s of Amsterdam instead of his movement through the concentric circles, which might have constituted a rebirth for him. Not sure if this sounds interesting but I could either rewrite it or we could come back around on it further on?)”
Miura, K. (2023). Berserk deluxe volume 14. Dark Horse Comics.
Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) was a Ukrainian/Brazilian short story writer and a literary icon renowned for her exploration of existential themes. Her works include The Chandelier, Near to the Wild Heart and The Passion According to G.H. Lispector's writing is often characterized by its philosophical depth, the complexities of human consciousness and the enigmatic nature of existence.
Goosebumps is a series of English language horror novels for young kids that were particularly popular in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Mostly they were straight forward novels, but they produced around 50 Give Yourself Goosebumps books in the choose-your-own-adventure style. These were stories with branching plots, where each section would end with a choice that would direct you to a different section of the book. ‘You come to a fork in the road, do you go left (proceed to page 56) or right (proceed to page 70)’ for example.
Thinking here about Politics Surrounded, the first chapter of Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s The Undercommons.
Camille Sapara Barton, is a Social Imagineer dedicated to catalyzing social change. Rooted in Black feminism, ecology, and harm reduction, they use creativity and embodied practices to drive cultural transformation. Operating as an artist, facilitator, consultant, and curator, Camille extends their influence across various domains, including embodied social justice, grief, pleasure, and drug policy.
Oshii, M. (1998, May 29). Ghost in the Shell. Shochiku, Manga Entertainment, Metrodome Distribution.
Note from editor Sherida Kuffour:
I've been thinking about including certain paratexutal elements on to the Brave New Lit. website to aid in readability, but I've always been stuck at how to do that in a way that doesn't impose certain skill levels—like when articles say a 5 minute read, I'm never sure if they mean a digestive read or a thorugh one instead. And then on top of that a 5 minute read by whose standards? Maybe it'd have to be an interface like Wordcounter that calculates the reading time by school grades.
Yates, F. A. (2013). Art Of Memory. Routledge.
Yume Nikki is a surreal and influential Japanese indie game created by developer Kikiyama. The title "Yume Nikki" translates to "Dream Diary" in English. Originally released in 2004, the game gained attention for its unique and atmospheric design, as well as its emphasis on exploration and dreamlike experiences.
The protagonist of Yume Nikki is a character named Madotsuki, who explores her dreams by navigating a vast and abstract world filled with different surreal environments and creatures. The game is notable for its lack of a traditional narrative or explicit objectives. Instead, players are encouraged to explore the dream world, discover various "effects" that alter Madotsuki's appearance or abilities, and interpret the symbolic and often bizarre imagery encountered throughout the game.
Yume Nikki has gained a cult following over the years, and its non-linear, open-ended nature has led to various interpretations and fan theories. The game's abstract and atmospheric qualities have inspired other indie developers and artists, contributing to its lasting impact on the gaming and internet culture.
From ♫♪NDNMK↕ ☼Solutions™
Email Sent: 29th September 2023 at 09:38
Sherida i forgot to cc you~
Hotel Bar Session - Death, 0:20:00 https://hotelbarpodcast.com/podcast/episode-87-death/
Octavia Butler's Patternist series is a collection of science fiction novels that explore themes of telepathy, power, and the evolution of humanity. The series is comprised of five novels, although they were not written or published in chronological order. The series explores themes of power dynamics, evolution, and the consequences of genetic manipulation. It's worth noting that while the books share common themes and some characters, they can also be read independently of each other.
Lauren Oya Olamina, from Butler’s Parables.
Obviously there’s the problematic of separation here, in the way that Geinoh Yamashirogumi takes culturally embedded music forms and repurposes them away from their context, but I did know a lot about underpasses or empty building complexes, and they did teach me more about these spaces. Furthermore I do think this problematic of separation is central to the forms of art making that we currently have, and I tend to think it is more of a question of ethics then a question of avoiding it altogether. So perhaps how do I contribute more then I take or do I only take from contexts and communities I’m in, and does that make it ok?
Boaventura de Sousa Santos
Campagna, F. (2018). Technic and magic: The reconstruction of reality. Bloomsbury Academic.
(Technic and Magic was very present in the making of sS&T)
A text written for Brave New Lit. by Aidan Wall features topics of eating and digesting plastics.
Dwarf Fortress is a game developed by Tarn Adams and Zach Adams that features detailed simulation and construction of a dwarven outpost/colony.
Wikipedia contributors. (2023, November 8). Hobby tunneling. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hobby_tunneling&oldid=1184138251
In 'Invoking Worlds' Sherida Kuffour and Ama Josephine Budge talk about Ursula Le Guin’s text and its significance.
Ruth Wilson Gilmore is known for her work in the field of prison abolition and her emphasis on the concept of "abolition geography." Her ideas emphasize the importance of building and sustaining alternatives rather than merely dismantling existing systems. Gilmore argues that prison abolition is not just about tearing down prisons but about creating conditions that make prisons unnecessary. In her view, true abolition involves addressing the root causes of crime and social issues, such as poverty, racism, and inequality. It is about building communities and institutions that foster social well-being and prevent the conditions that lead to incarceration.
Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677) was a Dutch philosopher known for his major work "Ethics," where he developed a comprehensive and geometrically structured system of philosophy. He proposed a pantheistic view, identifying God with the entirety of nature, and he argued for determinism, positing that all events, including human actions, follow necessarily from the nature of God. Facing excommunication for his radical ideas, Spinoza's impact on Western philosophy endures through his contributions to metaphysics, ethics, and political philosophy.
Samuel R. Delany (1942) is an American science fiction author, essayist, and literary critic. Renowned for his contributions to the science fiction genre, Delany has been influential in pushing the boundaries of speculative fiction and exploring complex themes such as sexuality, race, and identity. He's recognised for his groundbreaking contributions to science fiction literature as well as for his intellectual exploration of societal norms and the human experience.
18th August 2023 at 15:20
SK [Sherida Kuffour] I’ve spoken to both of you individually about a piece that I’d like to work with you on. When ♫♪NDNMK↕ ☼Solutions™, you first proposed your project to me,1 you asked me how I felt, and I told you that I was slightly confused, definitely uncomfortable and being that I feel like quite a square person, I was a bit annoyed at the un-linear way of going through the link you sent. Nevertheless, I was intrigued and excited because feeling uncomfortable helps me lean more into curiosity which if not tended to can lead to a sort of creative death. So I thought for a while about how I would do your work justice, and I felt that it would be better to have a third person, a third eye in the process.
This is how I came to Philip Coyne—it was really a perfect moment when he came across my Instagram timeline with an exhibition he’d just completed called "I am Carried Along Down the Stream”.
Philip is an artist and writer. Why I consider him relevant to your work is the way in which he observes and gives space to oddities, and how comfortable he is sitting with things and coming back to them with interesting references. With your work, it was important to me to not have you stuck with me asking you level 1 questions, so here I am, hoping actually only to be a facilitator and editor of you guys’ meandering minds—really, I’m only bearing witness and keeping the formalities like time budget, publishing schedule and so on. This email, may or may not be published alongside you guys’ text as a sort of foreword. I haven’t decided yet.
In any case, I explained to you, Philip, that I wanted this to be a meandering interview where you send each other emails in the vein of Teju Cole’s conversation with Aleksander Hermon (bombmagazine.org/articles/teju-cole ). ♫♪NDNMK↕ ☼Solutions™ just so you know, this is mostly because Philip will be in and out of the country for a residency and has some family to tend to in Leicester.
Thanks, speak soon
4th September 2023 at 14:34
PC [Philip Coyne] Hope you’re well and sorry for not getting this off to you last Friday, I’ll explain below. Let me know if you think we should keep things a little shorter. I thought it might be good to lay a bunch of stuff down to start with, but if every email is this long we might be in trouble? I know there was an idea about starting the text in the middle, but maybe we need to start in order to find the middle. So I thought I would do this by telling you about what happened when I sat down to write this last Friday. I thought that I had already worked through the majority of the work/publication 2 once or twice and that all I needed to do was to figure out how to open up the Hall of Stomachs RPG-Maker game on my Mac.
I have to open Windows files on my computer every now and then, but each time I do the process is totally different. The programs I used last won’t work on my current operating system, or it’s become defunct and no one is updating it. I’m not someone who knows enough about these things to really understand what I am doing and I don’t have to do it enough to warrant learning, so the process is one of stumbling in the dark over and over until it works. Bashing things together until something falls out. When the Mac doesn’t understand what these files are they seem to try and unzip everything, leaving broken half files all over the place. Producing some unknown extension that doesn't appear to correspond to any software that I have, with bizarre titles that start to clutter up the folders. As your work itself spreads to take up all of the nooks and crannies of the various media that make it up, I did find myself imbuing these broken files with more significance and intention than they warranted. I suppose at the very least they’re ready-made.
"How it is that those first few pages seem to write into a plasticity, into an empty space, an emptiness that is full and open, where the process is one of stumbling around to get your bearings"
As I was figuring the RPG player out and making a mess as I went, filling the work full of chaff (I think more the metal strips than the wheat skins), I opened a PDF file that I must have missed. It contained a link which took me through to a MEGA folder that contained a whole second folder, suddenly doubling the same size of what I thought was the whole work. So just as I thought I was nearing some sort of qualified ‘end’ that I could grab onto to kick things off with, its bottom fell out.
Bashing things together in the dark, I stumbled into the second sewer, the second circle perhaps. I read Albert Camus’ The Fall3 just before moving to Amsterdam, and in it, the protagonist claims that the concentric canals of the city are based on the concentric circles of hell. 4
All of this is to preface the literature or the literary phenomenon that I think this work moves through, which might be most easily explained as the experience of starting a book. How it is that those first few pages seem to write into a plasticity, into an empty space, an emptiness that is full and open, where the process is one of stumbling around to get your bearings. There are two bodies of work, which have had profound influences on my own thinking in recent years, that seem to be able to drag out the disorientation of this experience well. The first being Kentaro Miura’s manga Berserk5 particularly the first few volumes, where you are given a sense of the scale of a profound darkness that is at the heart of the story, first via its affect and then via the introduction of the God Hand6 , but its contours and constraints remain out of view. The further you move into the manga and the more you know of the story the less immediate this embodied potential is, and I think in this there is a trade-off; the less immediate the less terrifying it is.
The second is the entirety of Clarice Lispector’s work 7 . In her novels, she manages to maintain this plasticity throughout, opening out these cavernous spaces for human experience under even the most mundane acts. In most of them, nothing really happens, but they’re full to the brim with this thronging potential. The implication of vast spaces of feeling and vast quantities of stuff is somehow ever present within her work.
The form of sSludge (is this the title?) allows it to maintain this much more imminently open narrative, where conceivably you will just stumble on a whole other section of it, and in not giving you any respite, any solid ground, it cuts through the casual distance between yourself and the text. I remember having a choose-your-own-adventure Goosebumps book8 as a child and it scared me in a much more profound way than the original series. Because of the agency it gave me but also because unless I read it in every single possible way it would always contain new ways to scare me. Now, I find myself now wondering about whether this was a kind of reactionary fear, a fear of the fort and the surround9, one which perhaps we should resist and sSludge has already taken itself up in opposition to. For me this is one of the really important questions, how does the profound openness of the form, as well as its messiness and the antagonistic tone of the narrator, fold into the politics of the work?
But seeing as music is so central here, and you use it so deftly within your performances, I thought we could start there. I love music in the most earnest way. It reminds me of the importance that my mother holds for me, obviously on different orders of significance but still. I cannot see the contours or the edges of my own relationship with music, I cannot simplistically understand myself without it. I know that if I send my friends to it they will be treated well, but even though they will be treated differently. It cuts the distance between myself and thus my relationship with it has to resemble one of belief somehow, it has to be opaque, and it both maintains and blurs difference.
So yeah, how do you see the music in your work as something which can contain or maintain narrative? And I suppose maintains an openness within the narrative, while simultaneously projecting itself straight onto your brain? I was also wondering about the notion of it as a Sonata? (Did I read that somewhere correctly, I’m not totally sure where I say that in the work) Perhaps you could talk about that a little? And maybe your own relationship to music?
04 September 2023 at 14:51
SK OH MY GOD!
(in a good way!)
7th September 2023 at 23:38
ND [♫♪NDNMK↕ ☼Solutions™] You’re not the first one to think, that the end is in sight, that you know what to do, where you are, and what to work with. This happens mostly when people are indeed going through sSludge and Tricknology for work purposes. It makes sense also to navigate like that in a work context. You have to go fast. But it’s still funny to me. While making it I often felt like the form of it, a foldscape 10, wouldn’t work in today's environment. I worried that this might be too annoying—‘jarring’, Sherida called it (bless her) or staccato to move through. But I’m really enjoying the awkward ways that people try to make sense of it all; how they try to understand the rules of the project; the small discomforts; the Fear! Some people fear there are viruses lurking in the dungeon, or they feel guilty for intruding into what seems to be some person’s private desktop, or they worry that they’re not doing it the right way. I laugh but there are real sharks in there…Sharks and dolphins, but also friendlier animals. (Recently I learned that ostriches have escaped and are surviving and multiplying in the forests of Poland! I’ve been telling everyone. At some point, I’ll fact-check this)
I like how that awkwardness goes with the themes in there, like you being in the cave for example and asking where the beast is…Where is the beast? And true, it takes time, time spent guessing, digressing – that is the nature of the dungeon, time spent with the white man inside. Mine tells me I can’t do math. How do I make friends with this person? I’d rather kiss the devil than kiss someone who tells me I can’t do math. Philip, do you have a white man inside? Or what shape do the voices take?
Clarice Lispector lulls me to sleep on most nights.
Music is nice and earnest and like your mother but music is also brain damage. They put the short music in the short videos, they whistle in advertisements, they play it in the local supermarket Albert Heijn, and every YouTuber is cloaked in stock music. Most strongly I felt this with – I almost dare not say it as merely mentioning it summons the beast - ‘I gotta feeling’ by the Black Eyed Peas. I’ve rarely felt so attacked by a song, it takes something away from me, nightmare vibes, the feeling of when they put the matrix pod to 100 suctions, my adrenochrome is being harvested, it’s in my head now.
Music is essential in any seduction scheme. This summer there were free organ concerts in the Laurenskerk in Rotterdam and I went as often as I could. There’s the big catholic organ that is just a gigantic, Enochian menace: like you and your gut flora; a singular beast made of an armada of angels–so sweet but also such an amorphous terror of blood, iron light, teeth, yelling, air trapped under the skin bursting out in a waterfall of feathers and shame, huge and relentless. The authority of the church rides on that instrument.
18th September 2023 at 12:11
PC When I sat down to write this it spiralled so I’ve had to do some fairly heavy editing. Let me know if you think a different tact or a different direction would be useful for either of you. Maybe I’m writing too much and it would be nicer to let you riff ♫♪NDNMK↕ ☼Solutions™? And not sure if there is something you think we should touch on specifically? Yes, that makes sense, that being ‘at work’ when navigating sSludge and Tricknology would amplify any potential frustrations, dissociation or discomfort. For one thing, we should never be surprised by work’s capacity to belabour our movements or sap joy out of the things we love. There is going fast because we want to, because the occasion calls for it because it feels good, and then there is needing to go fast because you’re on the clock. The way that your work evades the viewer and resists any simple ending or completeness is totally antithetical to the ways we often work. But I think this all runs in tandem with the forms of apprehension that the format produces in me. In fact, I think I am at stake within sSludge and Tricknology in really rich and important ways.
Maybe one way to explain this and illuminate my white men a little is to tell you about something that happened to me in my early twenties. While I was in the second year of my BA I had a minor psychological breakdown that had some quasi-psychotic aspects to it. It was triggered by a number of sensory hallucinations that turned out to be caused by too much drinking and not enough sleep, but regardless by this point, they had fundamentally undermined the way that I understood myself and my relationship to the world. I won’t go into a huge amount of detail because it’s a pretty heavy tangent, but suffice to say I went into this period implicitly believing that the world was a simple and ordered place; where our agency within it is derived out of that order and our actions have little to no ramifications beyond the purely physical. I felt that the way to protect myself from the world was to understand things, that if I could understand something then I could own it or control it in some way.
This is why I struggled so much when my senses appeared to be failing me when the solid ground of my rational cartesian brain started to crumble away. This worldview that I had been socialised into is a profoundly reactionary one, one that provides the affective weight for the subject positions of power. Extraction, exploitation, oppression, constant pointless growth, the theft of life and labour, and a radical violent individualism, all become easier to carry out when you believe that your actions basically don’t have ramifications when you believe in agency without effect.
"sSludge and Tricknology remind me of these processes, in part because they remind me of that sensation of the loss of stable ground, and in doing so they remind me that the work is never done untangling myself from the forces of reaction."
While moving through the dark dissociative cave system opened out below my previous conception of the world was profoundly unpleasant, it did force me to rebuild a sense of the world that I have come to love and to confront the nastinesses and the cascade failures of the one I had clung to for so long. sSludge and Tricknology remind me of these processes, in part because they remind me of that sensation of the loss of stable ground, and in doing so they remind me that the work is never done untangling myself from the forces of reaction. These are the sharks that I see in your work, again in much the same way as Clarice. You both pose a real and present danger to a part of me, but it is a part of me that I have been trying to endanger for years.
This is all partly to say yes I do have a white man within me, perhaps many. But he tried to make me in his image by telling me that I can do math, and that this means I should be able to tell people how to live their lives. As you say, spending time with him in the dungeon, dragging him through the sewer, is important, it helps to illuminate him. While you and Clarice might be lulling each other to sleep every night, I think you're both teaching me the shape of my own reaction, the contours of my white man and the nefarious things he does through me. For that, I am very thankful.
This is what I think the format does, but I’m interested to hear how you thought it might not work? What are the conditions of today's environment that might push back against a foldscape? Is it not smooth enough? Right now it does feel like we oscillate between the very smooth and the profoundly coarse. Between ten easy things that’ll change your whatever and the next climate disaster. Maybe the Black Eyed Peas are like the organ, unsuspecting fronts for the bone-crushing violence of their times, a smoothness to hide the rough. I hadn’t realised that ‘Where is the Love?’ was a protest song against the Iraq war until I went to relisten to 'I Gotta Feeling', this is mind-boggling to me. I wonder too whether music's capacity to slip past our defences, the way it wers its way into our brain, is also the reason can be so effectively used as a narrative device?
I’m also interested in hearing you talk a little about the opacity of the work, the difficulty of seeing it all, and the way that the folders obscure your view and create little cul-de-sacs that can hold very conflicting affects or vibes right next to one another.
29th September 2023 at 09:38
ND Sherida I forgot to cc you~
28th September 2023 at 18:12
ND Aye, no worries about the timing of sending a reply – this all has to fit our lives, and life is crazy There’s nothing wrong with how (long) you write either, let your heart sing. Thank you so much for sharing about that voice inside and the journey of relating to it. That means a lot to me. In my experience, this part of growing (up), seeing the world you’ve held on to and the people you’ve looked up to – become human, can come with some real grief. I wonder if ghosts are born out of a dying body or out of the grief felt by the living – a phantom saying she is your lover and that she never left you. When someone close dies it’s more obvious how necessary grief rituals are, be it a burial or something you drew up yourself. I’m curious about different ways, collective practices too, of how we can deal with death of (or nostalgia for) something less tangible.
Camille Barton11, who is part of this project as a voice actor, worked on a grief toolkit I really like. I’m really happy to hear that sS&T feels like an antidote to rationality/objectivity somehow. I hoped the choose-your-own-adventure form would contribute to an unsettling feeling. Having to interact a bit more means you have to touch the muck a bit with your fingers as you click, and when you do you create consequences for something you did... that can be a bit scary.
"Seeing the world you’ve held on to and the people you’ve looked up to – become human, can come with some real grief."
I worried that a foldscape wouldn’t be catchy enough to entertain people long enough. It’s not short videos screaming at you – how much are people willing to get into something that doesn’t jump at them? (I was giving a workshop to teenagers 14/15 year olds and I showed them Ghost in the Shell12 and after 5 minutes they were all bored shitless (Can You Imagine??) And indeed the lack of a visible horizon makes it harder to guess if it fits your schedule – news articles now have an estimated reading time. 13 Going through the foldscape is a bit of an archaeological process. The folders themselves have been around since early PCs and what you find in them is often something small that might disappoint a little. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure but also a make-your-own-adventure. The themes in the work – stories we tell ourselves that inform us who we are in relation to others, social categories we create to make palpable/to dominate/to create potentialities/to ward off fear/to create an 'us' by creating a 'them' – are faceless dolls that come alive when you animate them with your own voices. The journey through the sewer is yours. Will you make the dolls dance and kiss or will you tell yourself there’s no whiteness in you because your skin is dark or something?
There is this picture:
Music bypasses our defenses for sure. For example, I like Taylor Swift now – at the time I was very team Kanye, but the Dylan Brady remixes and whoever else made me admit she has really nice vocals. 14 For me the music in the project allowed me to communicate things I wanted to be understood non-rationally; the subliminal warmth, confusion, and care. Sound sets an environment very quickly; you play the tune and you are in someone else’s house, someone’s smell is on everything. I often refer to the project as a dungeon but also as a memory castle. Centuries ago15, in Rome for example, orators would walk through these mental architectures to remember their speech as they walk through each room full of furniture, entities and objects. The way you decorated each room in the castle, and the placement and choice of the things should remind you of what topics/arguments/anecdotes you planned to say next. Each room should be differently decorated, and the objects in it should be poignant. And so, in meditation, you would design a castle of symbols and trace a route through it.
Some years ago I tried to make such a castle to remember rituals I was doing at the time. At some point I stopped building, I stopped revisiting. But it’s fun to make such a thing. You let associations walk freely and forms reshape in the room. It can become nightmarish in a fun way. Playing Yume Nikki16 feels like walking through someone else’s mind castle. Behind each door is a new room and a new song. I wanted to hear them all. I really like the idea of having a mental space that you tend to and can visit. People with tulpas often make one for their tulpa to live in. A place where the host can be comfortably together with them. As the rent keeps increasing, having a mindscape such as this might become more popular.
10th October 2023 at 10:45
PC I think we might have missed Sherida off the email chain17, not sure if you noticed and passed it on yourself but I cc’d her back in! I guess the images won’t be represented though.
Oh wow this Earthbound theme, love the 16-bit dub baseline. It’s funny, I was listening to a couple of episodes of a new podcast this morning, in the way I tend to listen to new podcasts, where I bounce around listening to a bunch of disconnected episodes, and just before sitting down to respond to you, I was listening to one about death. One of the hosts paraphrased a speech Derrida gave at a funeral, saying something like each time you lose a loved one the world ends18. Each time the world ends a new one has to be rebuilt, or “rewoven", and when it is, "it won’t be rewoven as the same fabric”.
This sort of rhymes! Losing a worldview produces real grief and real grief ends the world, while both produce new worlds in the process. It reminds me of another statement that I once heard someone paraphrase (although I have no idea where it originally came from), which is that falling in love is the process of really believing another world is possible. Ah yes, I’ve met Camille I think, just before they started leading the Ecologies of Transformation programme at the Sandberg, this is a really amazing resource. Grief or funeral practices are really interesting, particularly if you think about the ‘grief felt by the living’ as a kind of physical thing. Maybe then they become processes of figuring out how we move forward with all this new stuff, even though it is stuff created by an absence. I was wondering whether sS&T could both act as grief rituals and if one of the roles that these rituals play is to remind us that we actually have to get on with rebuilding then maybe it is. But then I remember the sharks and think that perhaps it is cause and remedy.
"I often think that it’s good to think about the ways that works insist, how they insist that you spend time with them or come back around on them"
This all makes me think of Doro from Octavia Butler’s Paternist series19, whether he could move through Yakub’s sewer and remain unaffected (how do we credit the file in the folder?). Your doggy pal also makes me think of Lauren Oya Olamina, from Butler’s Parables. 'God is change’ and ‘God can be shaped’. 20 I can see this about the foldscape, but there is one way of engaging the work that is paralleled in story-forward gaming right. I’m thinking about the way that I’ve played these kinds of games before, for example, Disco Elysium 21, where you have to pick up from where you left off. I suppose this is also the case with novels. And where the negative space of what you’ve forgotten since you last picked it up ends up being productive, fertile ground.
I often think that it’s good to think about the ways that works insist, how they insist that you spend time with them or come back around on them and I think in the muddiness of sS&T there’s a really interesting one. Which is the way that you get lost in it, not knowing what you’ve covered, or even if you’ve been there before. Does this folder look familiar, am I going around in circles. This kind of opacity can create really rich second readings. (Haha yeah I feel like busting out the Anime should get them on the side but I guess it’s not as much a bolt from the blue as it used to be, also I used to hate Shakespeare when we did it at school, so…)
" Maybe this is how music gets past our defences, it has the keys to other corridors that allow it to come back around, and suddenly it’s in the room with us."
Oh yeah, I think that giving us new kinds of space to think in is a wonderful and important thing for art to do. Maybe this is how music gets past our defences, it has the keys to other corridors that allow it to come back around, and suddenly it’s in the room with us. The first time I came into contact with the Akira soundtrack for example, knowing nothing about Gamelan or the Bulgarian and Japanese folk choirs that the record is influenced by, it was like a huge beautiful new way to think about the spaces depicted in the anime 22. I often think this about painting as well, it seems to have the capacity to describe totally new relationships to space or new types of space together for viewers to think and feel in. I guess Castles and Dungeons might be useful for different kinds of thinking, even different kinds of thinking about the same thing, and the same is true for music or painting.
It’s somehow very cool that this would have such a straightforward application as remembering a speechLike a remarkably ornate way of rehearsing a narrative. The memory castle moves between rooms right, I assume you’re able to move back and forth as you see fit, but sS&T have a kind of direction to them. A kind of continual downward and forwards, where you might momentarily get back but only in aid of more down and forwards. It's a kind of digging motion, through the work, through the sewer. It is such a specific motion for narratives, actually somewhat different from the choose-your-own-adventure, how did it factor into the dynamic of the forms of narrative that you produced within the work?
25th October 2023 at 20:07
ND ‘Falling in love is believing another world is possible’ strikes me somehow. Maybe because I am in love at the moment (hihi!). But this feeling… I’ve felt/am feeling something similar not for a person but indeed for something like a world. This other love flares up when I try and do magic when I take time to navigate myself through another way of map-making. Now that I think about it, it’s very similar in that I feel that I am not alone or trapped (in a specific knowledge system), I like the person I become when I’m with this map, an entirely different book is opened before me that I am completely in awe with and that I neeeed to explore, learn everything about, surrender myself to and have sex with, a sheet of glitter covers everything I see and I giggle when I walk. And that whole process of getting to know, and moving through that other map is also scary and madness-inducing, but unbearably delicious because of it or something.
"Our responsibility as a culture to pass on our aesthetics or ideas or whatever not for the next in line to repeat or build upon linearly, but for them to take and misinterpret, misuse and disrespect, as it is the only way in which dead cultures are passed on."
And it's good when you notice, it inspires you to do good things. Boaventura de Sousa Santos23, I think in Epistemologies of the South, talks about that you can judge the value of a knowledge system, not through any ideas of truth, but through the actions it inspires in you, your way of interacting with yourself and the things around you. This helped me coming from the university and jumping into a coven. God is change. I just started to read another book by Federico Campagna (Technic and Magic was very present in the making of sS&T): Prophetic Culture. 24 There’s something in the first few pages about ruins making – and our responsibility as a culture to pass on our aesthetics or ideas or whatever not for the next in line to repeat or build upon linearly, but for them to take and misinterpret, misuse and disrespect, as it is the only way in which dead cultures are passed on. I haven’t yet gotten to the part about how to build with that in mind. But in my work, I try to find how to make the most of the trash around us, mental trash and shitposts and the like. Our ruins will be in the undigested plastics 25. My mum is very good at not throwing anything away. All is treasure. I think here is why I keep coming back to some kind of sewage or recycling metaphor. God is change.
In that book, Prophetic Cultures, he also mentions how our digital works are even more fragile than ancient papyri and will dissolve much sooner as much more complex systems (computational, economical, logistical, etc.) are needed to access and decode the content. Already, after maybe a month or two(?) since sending it to Sherida I noticed the link rot has started, hehehe – very fitting for where the link was supposed to take ppl, I’m not saying which ha! In my wildest dreams, I have a lot of time to spare and I give a heavy chunk of it to playing disco Elysium.
I did not factor in too many ideas about how the text would change by rereading. But I’m happy and grateful to hear your experiences. Though I had it all schemed out topic-wise, for me a lot of it made sense in a pre-language way and I just needed to dig the tunnel. Have you ever played Dwarf Fortress? 26
The original version is made in all Unicode graphics, what a treat.
But your dwarfs can be overcome by some sort of digging sickness. They’ll stop listening to your orders and they'll just keep digging deeper into the ground, with what I imagine are eyes dilated and foam at the mouth. People have also experienced similar digging deliriums 27. I wanted to make a space for people to get lost in and wander aimlessly, for them to start doubting who they thought they were and start talking to the walls. I also liked this idea of catching something in the corners of your eye and seeing shapes pass too quickly, which now thinking of it is a scary concept. But really, like any encounter with people, the best way to deal with entities of the dark is with respect, open communication and setting boundaries. I wanted to stress that you may come across scary creatures but you can really surprise yourself if you give them the benefit of the doubt and just talk to them. If you deal with them as scary demons they will become that, the same goes for many other projections. This really changed my sleep paralysis experiences, the shadows are part of you, there is nothing about you that can/has to remain uncorrupted, and there is no ‘I’ that is separate from them – and then I got lost in the folders myself.
No, but yeah, I had no idea how people would react to or use the foldscape28 form. I just liked the idea of a place full of treasure and trash that one can move through and that can be moved/shared/copied easily. Only after finishing sS&T, I read a text by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction29, about (if I remember correctly) patriarchal narratives as arrows – linear, (carried by violence?), and with a clear resolution at the end/point – and bag-shaped narratives as a proposed alternative – a collection of ideas and stories, no dictated reading order, no resolution. But what I wanted to make was a vessel like that. How people deal with it is up to them – I’ll be waiting to hear what people pull out. And I really appreciate you telling me so in depth how you experienced it.
The things we do for love... Is there a thing you've done for love you wanna share?
18th September 2023 at 12:11
PC Oh wow, that was so nice to read, this last email has such a nice round shape to it, the shape of a carrier bag maybe. I think it wrapped a number of things up. Now I feel torn between wanting to agree in a thousand different directions and letting your email stand in for some sort of qualified pause to the conversation. We spoke about starting in the middle so maybe that is also the best place to end it? I do not envy the job of editing our conversation ha! It has taken on the feeling of its own ruin, each time I reply I’m forgetting where we have been, and each reply I get back is brimming with ideas to be misinterpreted, misused, and disrespected. Out of the mess of sS&T, we’ve created another one. Landscapes on landscapes of detritus and clutter. I think we’ve peppered the substance of our conversation throughout. But like you say, it is good not to throw things away, whether it is your mother doing it or us.
"Maybe we could even go so far as to say that the disembodied rationalist viewpoint we’ve touched upon, the white-man-in-your-head, who states that things can only be understood in one true way, maybe they simply don’t believe in real things. Instead, they only believe in type and category, in the possibility of intellectual neatness."
One of the important things that I think we have been getting at, I think, is that while openness might be a dangerous state to be in, it is also the necessary condition for all of the things that are important in the world. And, importantly, this openness is an openness to things that actually exist; an openness to stuff and the myriad of different ways in which one can relate to and interact with these things that actually exist. Being capable of identifying other worlds that map onto the ones we already had access to, maybe even to fall in love, is an openness to something that is present, to a presence (it is no coincidence that this echoes Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s assertion that prison abolition is about presence.) 30.
When you lose something it is gone. And when something is gone, so are all of the potentialities that would have accrued to it. Things don’t happen in a vacuum, not just because it is empty but because for things to happen things need to interact. This is one of the really important observations of decolonial thought and the violence of homogenisation; when a language or a forest or a city is destroyed, so are whole trains of potentiality. Whole worlds of potential life are wiped out and whole worlds of actual life are destroyed through the destruction of a materially embedded perspective. Maybe we could even go so far as to say that the disembodied rationalist viewpoint we’ve touched upon, the white-man-in-your-head, who states that things can only be understood in one true way, maybe they simply don’t believe in real things. Instead, they only believe in type and category, in the possibility of intellectual neatness.
So maybe the clutter of sS&T and the clutter that we have committed was all for posterity. Maybe the cluttering of the clutter not only provides new landscapes full of new ways to orient oneself, new ways to be and to fall in love, but it retains a greater capacity for different new landscapes. As we’ve said, we can create thought castles by making things, artworks, music, games etc, but perhaps we can also do this by not cleaning up after ourselves as we go. Allowing others to do with the rumble what they will.
Throughout this conversation, I’ve had Spinoza 31 in my head helping me make sense of things. His work is very important to me but I try to resist the urge to bring him up, as I know how quickly I can become boring on the topic. But I thought maybe I could lead us out with a passage from Samuel Delany’s Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders 32 where a character named Shit offers a far more succinct analysis of Spinoza’s contribution than I could and maybe one that is relevant here. In the passage, he is talking to his partner Eric, who in the book reads and rereads Spinoza’s Ethics, about how he understands the public sex he engages in with other men and he says:
“I mean, you’re all I ever wanted—and when I’m messin’ around with someone else, it’s like you’re always telling me, from that book of yours, that I’m fuckin’ with another part of you or the world or the universe and—I guess—God. ’Cause everything’s a part of everything else, and that’s why I always get home extra horny.”