We might call something ‘apocryphal’ to cast doubt over its authenticity, to set it outside of the remit of the ‘true’, what is solid or confirmed. (Similar, perhaps, to how we might use the word ‘myth’). As such the apocryphal inhabits a shadowed and liminal territory. Its original connotation, however, wasn’t doubtfulness but sacredness (one notion of ultimate truth). In the world of religions and their texts ‘apocryphal’ described writings on the extreme end of the profound, those too sacred for wide readership, secret and shrouded, only to be known by initiates, by the innermost circle. This foundational definition then blends a reverence for the mysterious (something in many ways alien to us now) and a sense of anxiety about a wider public’s capacity for full and nuanced understanding. Stories (information, ideas, imaginings) can be overwhelming, can be dangerous.
The word comes from the Greek for ‘hide away’, the Latin ‘apocrypha scripta’ meaning ‘hidden writings’. In any case, apocrypha(l) has hiddenness at its root (and hidability in its echo). Later in its etymological metamorphosis ‘apocryphal’ was applied by the Christian Church to texts of dubious authorship and questionable ‘value’, possibly damaging, possibly ‘false’, frictious at the edges of doctrine. (There are ways to hide things in plain view.) We are inclined to doubt (to fear) what is left in the dark for any length of time. We like our boundaries clearly marked. And how do we know who to trust to cope with the niggles of contradiction, with ambiguity? What solidities might crumble if lines are allowed to blur, the greys shades allowed to show?
The Christian Apocrypha – present, but put to the side, a separated excess – is a reminder that texts like the Bible aren’t singular and whole but curated anthologies, collections of fragments stitched together, full of silences and seams. The difference between the known and unknown, the visible and invisible, is often a decision that has been made behind a closed door. The motivations and fears (of chaos, confusion, panic, change, ambiguity, other ideas, of our own limitations and weaknesses; rational and irrational) that lie behind such decisions and behind our willingness to accept and walk the lines drawn in front of and about us. Protection of and protection from aren’t always distinct.
This is the age of the internet and its universe of accessible information, where we might feel like we’re beyond the canonical. Here everything could be apocryphal (or is it un-apocryphal?) as vast swarms of text with uncertain authorship aren’t hidden beyond reach but available to pull into the light. But this fragmented immensity is exhausting, and makes trust – or even just seeing clearly – so very difficult. The age of the internet is also the age of curation, algorithms, and cancel culture, where ‘post-truth’ is so familiar it’s started to lose all meaning, and where – faced with boundlessness – many of us are just trying to draw our own lines, to bracket some longed for territory of belief.
To ask about the Apocrypha is to ask about truth and its limits, the power of stories and information and their withholding, the dangers of knowledge and ignorance, about who we trust with decisions about what to reveal and what to conceal, and why they decide. With Abridged 0 – 70: Apocrypha we invite submissions reflecting on truth, knowledge, secrets, interpretation, curation, mystery, ambiguity, power, visibility, doctrine, belief, certainty, liminality, contradiction, influence, chaos, text, repression and (as ever) fear.
You can send up to three poems. Submissions should be sent to email@example.com with poetry being in MS Word. Put your name and info on the email otherwise we might think it’s spam (and because it’s polite!). Deadline is 28th April. There is no fee for submitting.
Image by Oskar Alvarado: web: https://oskaralvarado.com Instagram: @oskaralvarado.photography
Born in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. He holds a Bachelor´s Degree in Fine Arts of the Basque Country University and resides in Barcelona where he combines his work as a Photography teacher with the production of personal works. He has been one of the winners of the Helsinki Photo Festival (Finland) in 2018 and 2020, OpenWalls Arles (France) 2020 and the winner of Art Photo Bcn 2020 in Barcelona (Spain). His work has been selected and exhibited in different international festivals such as the Voies Off Awards in Arles (France), Solar Foto Festival in Fortaleza (Brazil) , Addis Foto Fest in Addis Abeba (Ethiopia), Verzasca Foto Festival (Switzerland), Restart (Lithuania) or PHOTO IS:RAEL International Photography Festival (Israel) among others.
This issue is in collaboration with the Belfast Photo Festival’s Open Submission Call.
This issue is supported by The Arts Council of Ireland.
Abridged is supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.