Contact, translation, transfiguration, breakdown. The interface takes many forms. Consider the movement between print and digital media, the architecture of buildings and public space, the frame of a painting or the format of an academic paper: our possibilities for experience and knowledge are shaped by interfaces of myriad kinds. Front desks, government websites, border checkpoints. As we move through the world we likewise encounter a range of interfaces that structure access, infrastructures that place us within matrices of history and power. But is the interface simply an object or threshold that offers a seamless transition from one state to another? Attending to its materiality quickly points towards the interface as a type of activity; mediation as an event. For this issue of Soapbox, a graduate journal for cultural analysis, we invited researchers to critically engage with the concept of the interface, and specifically the ways interfaces are entangled with local, national, global, and planetary formations today. Responding to this theme, the texts gathered here become a diverse set of theoretical, poetic and visual interfaces for thinking about mediation at large.
What would it mean to do cultural analysis at the interface? This editorial forward explains how we arrived at interface as the concept to anchor the latest issue of Soapbox. It considers conceptual definitions and their theoretical implications before engaging in a short discussion of the housing crisis and squatting movement in Amsterdam. Finally, it introduces the issue’s content and the various takes on the interface found therein.
What can interface tell us about the world we face today, its crises, histories, futures? My contribution to this collection sketches a relational, process-based history of the interface in order to weigh its more radical historiographic possibilities.Drawing on the media studies of Marshall McLuhan andJoanna Drucker, the semiotic accounts of Ferdinand deSaussure, and the environmental writings of Karen Barad and Andreas Malm, I suggest that interface opens a more dynamic engagement with the past and its ongoing impact on the present and future. Interface situates our response-ability to the past, our ability to respond to the past, to open up amore active dialogue with the histories that have produced our individual situations as scholars, and so, to change. In this way, I suggest that interfaces open radical new potentialities for action in the present.
For a Materialist Mythology of the Mermaid: Emilija Škarnulytė’s Sirenomelia
In the video work Sirenomelia from 2018, artist-filmmaker Emilija Škarnulytė transforms into a mermaid by wearing a prosthetic fishtail and goes swimming in the tunnels of Olavsvern, a decommissioned Royal Norwegian Navy nuclear submarine base located in the Arctic region.
The video’s narrative is set in a future after civilisation al collapse due to human-induced ecological disaster, with the mermaid featuring as an evolved human who adapted to new environmental conditions. In this essay I focus on the artist’s embodied practice of becoming-mermaid, proposing the term materialist mythology as a way to think about how embodied practices of engaging with the world can lead to meaningful, alternative encounters between humans, non-humans, and the more-than-human world. Zooming out from the human-tail configuration, I consider the militarised landscape, aquatic organisms, and the sea in which the mermaid swims as agentic components with transformative potential for her existence.
The Computer Store
When I started learning coding, it felt like I had moved a manhole cover and discovered an unexpected autonomous society that had been running for years in secret from the people who were unconcerned. I could finally get a grasp
on the backstage of the internet and start to understand the constitutive complexity of the websites and how they happen to exist online.
The Computer Store is a dialogue between a customer and a salesperson in a computer store that, through browsing together on the internet, follows my own exciting and unexpected discoveries about webpages and, in particular, to how they are technically and aesthetically constructed.
Diasporic Feelings:Embodiment and Protest Images
This essay approaches protest images as an interface that mediates a diaspora’s relationship to home. It asks how embodiment pertains to the diasporic viewer watching protests unfold back home and what is politically at stake when we focus on the diasporic viewer’s body. I argue that viewing protest images produces a sense of in-betweenness for the diasporic subject, who is caught between the hereness of their body and the thereness of home. Protest images bring the protest close while maintaining a distance, simultaneously connecting and disconnecting the diaspora to home. Diasporic identity is torn between worlds, spanning two cultures but
not fully belonging to either, and coheres around lost homes.Moreover, I assert that through my painful, embodied response to protest images, I enter a political relation with the protester back home. Drawing on the work of Judith Butlerand Ariella Azoulay, I theorise this political relation as a space of appearance that emerges in and through the space between us, a relation founded on plurality and produced by the binding force of the image.
JAVIER BERTOSSI, DANAE TAPIA AND ANDRÉS TAPIA
22 MIRRORS is a multimedia artistic research project that presents a set of 22 arcana, each representing one archetypal figure playing a role in the current climate emergency. The project uses creative writing as a tool to examine the selected arcana, producing a manuscript with chapters dedicated to each figure.The figures are represented visually in the form of cards that can be paired with their respective text and utilised in collective rituals. Both products, the manuscript and the22 images, also form the corpus of a grammar-generative
bot which automatically responds to questions. This device attempts to propose open answers to crucial issues of the climate crisis.
ANTi-Bodies: Reconfiguring theBody in Marvel’s Ant-Man
JASON J. WALLIN
From its inception, modern cinema has functioned as an interface between the body and its world. Today, new modes
of visualisation have intensified cinema’s power to rethink the body and its powers. Drawing upon the experimental powers of cinema, this essay aims to articulate how the speculative imagination of Marvel’s Ant-Man is influenced in part by an interface between cinema and the emerging realisms of quantum thinking. This essay investigates the untimely encounter between the cinema and the visionary quantum worlds posited by researchers at the Large Hadron Collider(LHC) operated by the European Organisation for NuclearResearch (CERN). Cinematically, the visionary work ofCERN and queer realisms of quantum theory produce within Ant-Man a strange speculation on the body and its increasingly strange materiality, surveying an unseen world that defies standardised perception and identity.This form of visualisation posits a particular challenge for cinema, for where cinematic thought assumes aspects of material regularity born from classical physics and its cinematic extension via narrative continuity, the standardisation of identity, and macro-phenomenology, quantum thought postulates a visionary plane whereupon the body and its potentials might be productively disidentified and harnessed as a fulcrum for searching out new modes of existence.
How to Remove Ivy and its Traces
These are common ideas, platitudes, ready to repeat themselves. Your words are adventitious, but your touch sticks to my soul like spectral chemical adhesive. Even when you withdraw your hand. Please touch me again—it burns nicely this time. Maybe we should let it burn a little or a lot longer. I think that only by burning everything, and I do mean everything, we might learn that we could’ve just removed the ivy with our bare hands too.
(Queer) Canonisation andPatron-Saint Affect:
In examining the phenomena of queer canonisation, through which individuals are elevated to saintly iconicity by anLGBTQ+ audience, I argue that Queer Saints are interfaces of empowerment, kinship, and identification, harnessing social energy and transmitting history. Following a NewHistoricist methodology of a poetics of culture, I introduce a genealogy of queer canonisation and recurring motifs within saintly performance and reception, followed by an analysis of abjection and disidentification as key to the performance and reception of Queer Saints, and the queer affinity for saints and their stories. Using Divine and the artist Jerome Caja as examples of Queer Saints, I argue that the act of canonisation should not be allowed to sever these icons from their historical context, but rather allow for their devotees to see and feel themselves in a history that has often erased queer folk.
Afterword: A Common Wall
This issue of Soapbox is indisputably an interface itself, the event between your fingers and this precise paper, developing a variety of topics and offering challenging ideas in eight critically stimulating analyses.The following text is the interface between myself and the reader: a semi-detached series of sentences, a place where my thoughts collide with chosen authors’ observations.
Melissa van den Schoor
WITH MANY THANKS TO
Emma van den Boomgaard
PRINTING AND BINDING
Printed by de Stencilzolder and Drukkerij Kaboem, bound by boekbinderij Hennink in Amsterdam.Edition of 180. Special edition edge print – printed with a tool developed by Pablo Bardinet.
Studio Kevin ten Thij