Dear Readerby Martha Schwendener
Much lies before you, so I won’t keep you long except to tell you how this came about. When Phong asked me in mid-December to edit the February issue of ARTSEEN, I thought, that’s impossible. The holidays were coming and the deadline was too short. But the last few years have been driven by a revival of the old ’60s imperative impossible but necessary, so I accepted the assignment. My idea was to ditch the idea of “crisis,” which has been a running discourse in the arts for decades, and which became amplified during the Occupy movement into a “crisis in everything, everywhere,” and attempt the impossible: imagine alternatives. Phong was enthusiastic. We settled over lunch then I went home and panicked and sent this email to fifty people:
I’m editing the art section of the Brooklyn Rail for February and I proposed a kind of “ideas” issue with the theme of “Alternatives.”
I’m approaching artists, activists, writers, scholars, and other people, asking them to write 300 - 400 words, imagining how their discipline, field, or the world in general would look if they could reshape it. The idea is to move beyond “crisis” and create a free space to imagine alternatives. It is also a space to write in any “alternative” form you want, including poetry, epistolary, free-writing, etc. The (general) deadline for submissions is 1/12/13. (F.Y.I., I accepted this project last week.)
This extraordinary group of people responded. You can continue the project—“thinking your way into idealism,” as one artist put it—by suggesting your own alternatives to firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps by redirecting our well-honed critical thinking toward imagining solutions, we can find our way out of some of our current political, economic, and environmental crises. This project would not have been realized, however, without the tireless work of Corina Larkin, Rose D’Amora, Kara Rooney, Rachel Nackman, Sara Roffino, and the rest of the people at the Rail. So to them and everyone who contributed, thank you. I hope you are as grateful and inspired by their efforts as I am.
P.S., the views expressed in this issue are solely those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Brooklyn Rail. I agree with many of them, as you can read in the last issues of the Rail and October and my recent writings in the Village Voice and the New York Times. (I also may have discussed this project during my last food-processing shift at the Park Slope Food Coop.)