4.0 At The Interface

Summer 2023

Themes in this issue






Visual Culture

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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.

Introduction: Interfaciality


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.



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


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:

Abjection, Identification,Interface


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.



Sirius Benckhuijsen

Amalia Calderón

Anna Dijkstra
Sam Ellis

Annabella Fraser

Kirsty McIntosh


Rebecca Nevins
Petra Pačetić
Pepe Petropoulos

Catrinel Rădoi
Melissa van den Schoor

Seb Wigdel-Bowcott


Emma van den Boomgaard

Jakob Henselmans
Niall Martin
Dominique Ubbels


Luca Putz

Quirine Kennedy


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

Other Printed Matter

Call for Papers: 5.0: SWAMPED! Muddied Environments and the Ecology of Being Bogged Down

January 17, 2023

Call for Papers: 5.0: SWAMPED! Muddied Environments and the Ecology of Being Bogged Down

For the upcoming issue of Soapbox, a graduate peer-reviewed journal for cultural analysis, we invite young researchers and established scholars alike to submit academic essays or creative works that critically engage with the theme of swamped. We are inviting extended proposals (500-1000 words) that follow consistent and complete formatting and referencing style to be submitted to submissions@soapboxjournal.net by February 21st, 2023.

While it may first be thought of as a space of stagnation, the swamp is also a transition zone. A space in which water and land merge, swamps have long represented an area in which the earth resists being controlled, and have functioned as areas of resistance in many Indigenous epistemes and folklores. Swamps, then, are areas that resist human control, and epitomise agency of the natural world, doing so too on a conceptual level (Wilson 1). At the same time, it has been co-opted semantically, as the term “swamped” has become associated with systems, both of society and signification, that are overwhelmed - whether in terms of a job market being swamped, or in the politically loaded draining of “the swamp” as a network of corruption. Where the former strand of signification uses the swamp to highlight agency, the latter points out a lack of it. As a result, swamps have become spaces of contestation and transition both as physical environments, and as linguistic ones. How do these strands of meaning diverge, and where do they come together?

Swamps as they exist in cultural imagination(s).

Swamps speak to the imagination. They feature prominently in folklore and provide fertile soil for myriad mythical creatures: from the nine-headed hydra in ancient Greek mythology, to the South-African grootslang, to the numerous global configurations of the will-o’-wisp. These narratives largely hinge on the swamp’s liminal positioning that makes it hard to traverse, inhabit, or otherwise tame. To this day, when swamps are featured in pop-culture, they are often mythologized to house the monstrous or, at the very least, the off-beat (e.g. Shrek, or the Man-Thing in Marvel comics, or the entire cast of characters in Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!). 

In addition to housing imagined creatures, the swamp is also a famously rich archeological site where we can find many well-preserved traces of past human life. Most notable are the so-called bog bodies, eerily intact corpses that date back as far as the holocene. These findings add to the swamp’s mythical appeal, but are also hypothesised to, in some cases, originate from it. A particularly large amount of bog bodies dating back to the iron age were found in Northern Europe, and the bulk of these corpses bear traces of ritualistic human sacrifice. This has led historians to believe that, at the time, the swamp was seen as a transition space, not just between land and water, but also as a gateway between different worlds (Randsborg). 

So, the swamp is charged with a rich cultural history and subject to wide-ranging meaning-making practices. We invite you to delve further into this and open it up. What stories do we tell about swamps? Which narratives are remembered? And, what does that ultimately say about us? 

The swamp as it appears in political rhetoric.

Since its first use in 1881 by Helen Hunt Jackson in her polemical text, A Century of Dishonor, the concept of the swamp as an area to be overcome has resurfaced repeatedly as a powerful metaphor in the arena of political discussion and rhetoric (most often in the context of US federal politics). Arguing against the so-called ‘Indian Appropriations Act’ of 1871, which rendered Indigenous peoples as wards of the state and, therefore, eligible for forcible relocation, Jackson argued that such panacean responses were immoral and did not address the needs and concerns, of Native peoples, nor did it strive towards the reparations that Indigenous nations deserved. Rather than debate the specifics of individual policy decisions, Jackson argued that ceasing to cheat, rob, break promises, and extending ‘the protection of the law to the Indian's rights of property’ (342) would be the most appropriate first course of action. To illustrate this, Jackson presented the following scenario:

When pioneers in a new country find a tract of poisonous and swampy wilderness to be reclaimed, they do not withhold their hands from fire and axe till they see clearly which way roads should run, where good water will spring, and what crops will best grow on the redeemed land. They first clear the swamp. So with this poisonous and baffling part of the domain of our national affairs — let us first "clear the swamp”. (341).

This metaphorical call to clear, or to drain, the swamp was then exercised by socialist and left-leaning politicians and political commentators such as Winfield R. Gaylord and Victor L. Berger who petitioned for draining the swamp of capitalism (Gaylord 8, Berger 107). In 1966, civil rights activists A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin employed the phrase in A Freedom Budget for All Americans, a policy proposal that, among other things, sought to eradicate poverty (14-15). Ronald Reagan’s use of the phrase in 1982 when authorising the Grace Commision (which investigated inefficiency within the Federal Government), dragged the phrase across the political aisle. Where it had once illustrated a progressive politics, it henceforth became tethered to conceptions of government waste, cronyism and distrust in Capitol Hill, a claim bolstered by the fact of Washington, D.C.,’s construction on supposed marshlands between the Potomac and the Anacostia rivers. From Reagan’s usage  onwards, calls to drain the swamp were almost exclusively directed towards Washington, D.C., as a locus of political venality. The phrase’s most recent, and perhaps most memorable, usage was by former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly uttered the phrase at rallies, during interviews, and in countless tweets. 

The invocation and the power of this phrase can be seen across various areas of cultural and political discourse and analysis; its intent and meaning wavering from progressive to reactionary throughout its history. So begs the question, what does it mean to drain a swamp? Metaphorically speaking, what is the impact of identifying spaces as swamps to be drained? Who does the draining, or the promise of draining, serve? In reality, what are the implications of identifying and draining a swamp? Who does the draining itself? Think of the thousands of people displaced by Benito Mussolini’s draining of the Pontine Marshes, and the many more thousands of workers who were subject to backbreaking manual labour and exposure to malaria and disease (Snowden 155-6). What bubbles to the surface when we delve into the history, use, and the real-world implications of this charged phrase?

The affective experience of being swamped.

But to be swamped is also to feel swamped; to be overwhelmed with work, a sensory overload, stress and clutter. Infrastructures can be swamped; systems too; and spaces can swamp you with stimuli. How does one endure a state of swampedness, feel one’s way through it, resist it or find rest in it? Can objects or texts be swamped? To disconnect, go offline, turn to self-help books, and take time off work – all these are responses to feeling swamped. But then: who can afford to respond like this, and who is unable to withdraw? Or can information overload – to stay with the swamp – be creatively productive or critical? This is the muddy matrix that feeling swamped opens in theory; a space of excessive encounter between ecologies and affects, where swamps become metaphors, and metaphors swamp. 

Thought on the feeling of being swamped and its social-political relationalities are everywhere: from Jonathan Crary’s 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep to Byung-Chul Han’s The Burnout Society to Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism. So too the desire to escape overwhelm has recently been re-conceptualized in edited volumes like Politics of Withdrawal. But “swamp” as a metaphor has not yet passed the floodgates. We invite you to think with this swamp, feel through its conceptual implication. 

We encourage submissions relating to the themes above, as well as, but not limited to, the following: 

  • Critical engagements with/investigations into environments that could be described as marshlands, wetlands, fens, bogs, moors, etc. 
  • Practices of re-wilding and re-swamping.
  • Cultural ethnographies of muddied environments.
  • Environmental humanities and ecocritical approaches to swamps.
  • Investigations into swamps as liminal, transitional, or mutable sites.
  • Swamps as sites of decay (e.g. die-off and algal bloom) and repair (e.g. as fertile sites of regeneration).
  • Socio-cultural explorations of what it means to feel swamped, its implications, and who this affect can belong to.
  • Socio-economic approaches investigating issues such as: 
  • Who is relegated to the swamp?
  • Who has access to the swamp?
  • What are the social impacts of swamped environments on individuals and groups?
  • Investigations of the function of swamps in political rhetoric.
  • Pieces that investigate swamps as veiled, uncharted, or otherred locales or those that approach swamps as spaces to be traversed.

We invite extended proposals (500-1000 words) to be submitted to submissions@soapboxjournal.net by February 21st 2023. Following conditional acceptance, an initial draft version (3000 words) will be due two weeks after receiving the acceptance email. The editing process will take place throughout Spring/Summer 2023. If you have any questions regarding your submission, do not hesitate to contact us at info@soapboxjournal.net. Editing and peer review guidelines will be sent to authors individually upon acceptance of their submission. For full submission guidelines, see our website.

Guidelines for creative submissions are more flexible and can be finished works, but please keep in mind spatial limitations: there is usually room for one longer or two shorter pieces in the print version. A sense of the formatting possibilities can be garnered from previous issues (open-access pdf versions are available on our website).

We also accept submissions for our website all year round. We encourage a variety of styles and formats, including short-form essays (around 2000 words), reviews, experimental writing and multimedia. These can engage with the theme of the upcoming issue but are not limited to it. Please get in touch to pitch new ideas or existing projects that you would like to have published by reading our submission guidelines and filling in the form.

Works cited.

Berger, Victor L. Berger’s Broadsides, Social-Democratic Publishing Company, 1912.

Berlant, Lauren. Cruel Optimism. Duke University Press 2011.

Crary, Jonathan. 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. Verso, 2014. 

Gaylord, Winfield R. “Gaylord Makes a Statement.” Daily Northwestern [Oshkosh: WI], 10 Oct. 1903, p. 8.

Han, Byung-Chul. The Burnout Society. Stanford University Press, 2015.

Hesselberth, Pepita., and Joost de Bloois, editors. Politics of Withdrawal: Media, Arts, Theory. Rowman and Littlefield, 2020.

Jackson, Helen Hunt. A Century of Dishonor: A Sketch of the United State’s Government’s Dealings with Some of the Indian Tribes. New York, Harper & Brothers, 1881.

Randolph, A. Philip, and Bayard Rustin. A Freedom Budget for All Americans: A Summary. A Philip Randolph Institute, 1967.

Randsborg, Klavs. Roman Reflections: Iron Age to Viking Age in Northern Europe. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015.

Snowden, Frank M. The Conquest of Malaria: Italy, 1900-1962. Yale University Press, 2006.

Wilson, Anthony. Swamp: Nature and Culture. Reaktion Books Ltd, 2018.

Call for Creative Work - 5.0: SWAMPED!

October 2, 2023

For the upcoming issue of Soapbox, a graduate peer-reviewed journal for cultural analysis, we invite young artists to submit creative works that critically engage with the theme of swamped. We are inviting proposals or finished works to be submitted to submissions@soapboxjournal.net by October 10th, 2023.

Swamps speak to the imagination. While it may first be thought of as a space of stagnation, the swamp is also a transition zone: an area in which water and land merge, a space where the earth resists being controlled. In addition to its geographical referent, the swamp also covers less tangible—though equally murky—semantic ground. It has become associated with systems, both of society and signification, that are overwhelmed—whether in terms of a job market being swamped, or in the politically loaded draining of “the swamp” as a network of corruption. Where the former strand of signification uses the swamp to highlight agency, the latter points out a lack of it. How do these strands of meaning diverge, and where do they come together?

Guidelines for creative submissions are flexible: poems, short-stories (up to 5000 words), visual art pieces, collages, drawings, comics, anything as long as it's printable! Feel free to take a look at our previous issues for inspiration.

Open Board Positions 2023

We are currently looking to expand our team. Soapbox is a student-run journal focused on promoting voices that creatively engage with concepts and cultural objects in the broadest sense, through publishing academic, artistic, and interdisciplinary works. Soapbox is a collaborative effort in gaining experience and experimenting with running a small publishing platform. All members take part in actively shaping what Soapbox is by weighing in on editorial decisions and take part in any aspects of publishing (both online and in print). 

In general, the time commitment expected is between four and six hrs/week, including a weekly two-hour meeting. The journal is run on a voluntary basis. For all roles, applicants should be based in the Amsterdam area and available for weekly meetings for at least the remaining academic year (until June 2024).

If you're interested, please email info@soapboxjournal.net with the particular role(s) you are interested in and a few words of motivation.

Deadline: Sunday, October 15th


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