Tunnel Vision And The Scars To Prove It
Hello again. We’re really pleased to present We Told You The World Was Sick, an Arts Council of Northern Ireland Commission. You might think it’s an unnecessarily provocative and dark title. The truth is that it had its origins long before anyone knew what Covid – 19 was (though weirdly there was an essay we called Compound 0 – 19, regarding a biological agent that escaped from a Russian biological weapons factory). We’d started Abridged with the intention of situating it aesthetically in the gothic and adolescent, two steps removed from reality so to speak, and in the midst of the emotional extreme. As the years passed, we realised that the ‘real world’ was becoming indistinguishable from our Abridged world. We thought (for two seconds) that it might be worth doing a We Told You So anthology of work that appeared in various issues. Though we thought a ‘greatest hits’ volume was a bit bland, we did like the mocking presumption of a We Told You title, done with perhaps a Jim Steinman/Rocky Horror over-the-topness. Of course when the world became sick, or at least the Western part of it became sick, we couldn’t resist, when the opportunity arose, to proclaim: We Told You The World Was Sick. Not with perhaps as expected, an exclamation mark at the end, more of a defiant ‘it figures’ with an attitude of don’t let the ******** (whoever they are) grind you down. ‘Power in the face of misery’ it could be said.
Thanks to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for this Commission and thanks to all participating artists, poets and musician. As ever, Abridged projects are of course very readable on mobile phones etc but for the full technicolour experience a bigger screen is better. We haven’t abandoned our ‘greatest hits’ thing completely. The Editorial is completely made up of text from past Abridged editorials and it all links to previous issues. We’ve also created An Abridged Index of the Zone, a kind of trail of breadcrumbs to the site. It’s not complete as of now. We’ll be adding and some current and all our previous issues to the Zone during the coming twelve months so you can experience them in a new way.
P.S. We’ve given this project a number in homage to a very famous drum machine that very probably changed music. For the better or worse we’ll let you decide.
Why Abridged? Because we all are in some form or another. Fear is what we’re exploring. This is our paradox, our city. We’re still on the edge taking notes. Our interest lies in the response… the hysteria, suspicion and paranoia. That which we leave behind says as much about ourselves as that we cherish. Circulating motes animate the ghosts. Well, it’s about abandonment. Hanging anxious between the pulses of cyclical flooding, between the ancient, the recurring, and the prophesied, we have built an entire economy on the enigmatic pull of nostalgia. Beyond those magnolia walls are our own metaphorical tulips, our spoonful of reality that we are never ready to swallow. Contradiction doesn’t sit well with the comfortable.
We walk in multitudes across the wilderness of the present and a landscape of human history – of monsters and monuments – erupts behind us, cracking the earth open, leaving us swarming in the gaps. We sit in the acid stomach of evening and define ourselves by what we are not as much as what we are. We stand in silence and we stand in a room of mirrors. There is an eerie resemblance. A premonition. Every portrait a self-portrait. Post-truth means that words have overwhelmed us. Threatened by the uncanny, we play dead. Here where every emotion is public and quickly perishable, where expectation has replaced hope and where love and fear are the same thing, something has left us splintered. For the faint lingering heat within ourselves we search for the primal. So what happens when we’re blinded by our sun? Light can obscure as much as darkness. We know so much, we know we cannot know. It is beyond us and so we yearn for it. We become the chaos of water in water.
We are still here. ‘The End’ might have crept into our blood quiet as contamination. Contagion is our network and our death-drive, our meaning and our loss. Pioneers foam at the mouth with mythologies, shaken in sleep by the echoed cough of old gods. But the island of the body has holes. We are always opening our mouths, letting out, letting in. Without the density of archive we are feeble. But memory is dubious as language. Under the pressure of deletion, humanity festers in the ruins, the impossible archives, folds around them, lonely and lost with every touch.
In this labyrinth of doubt we can hear dogs forming packs to guard their precarious perimetres, to hunt or scavenge, to make noise together against the fear. We still say ‘I’ like it has something to do with survival. Discord prevents the heart from hearing its echo, its correspondence. Friction is sensation, knowing we are there, knowing we are touched, touching. Friction leaves marks. We are definitively haunted, and this haunting is textured. We wanted to look away but we wanted to see, we wanted to give these words an audience before they evaporated into dust. How could we see without shadows?
Abridged is supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland. This project is an Arts Council of Northern Ireland Commission.