Comically oversized rolodex cards, a shelf full of books that have been charred beyond recognition, a file drawer too elongated to be confined to its cabinet, and other select errata combine to make Anna Gray and Ryan Wilson Paulson’s point: We can’t necessarily trust ourselves to properly preserve and interpret the written word.
Acknowledging these low stakes, why not make a publication?
Stacked against the walls of the funhouse library are copies of September, a broadside the pair are publishing daily for the duration of TBA. The debut issue, smattered with ironic “redactions” (actual text appeared to have been manually exacto-knifed out in little rectangles) features a “manifessay” by Mack McFarland (who also curated last year’s Sorted Books exhibit). McFarland riffs at length on a perpendicular point to Gray and Paulson’s: he contends that a “free speech” climate can only be proven as such, by inflammatory speech. In other words, you don’t know that you’re allowed to speak freely, until you say the most insane/obscene thing you can think of—and get away with it.
If you think about it, this is true. Nevertheless, if you try to demonstrate this principle, an angry mob generally heaps you with hot coals of retribution while legislators scramble to rein in your rants and PR people rush into “damage control” mode. McFarland offers recent examples of public figures whose candor incurred great cost, including Newt Gingrich and Tracy Morgan, but closes with a call to action: Go and do likewise. Not because you have terrible thoughts that need venting—but because the system has strictures that need stretching.
A provocative first thought from what will hopefully be a week’s worth of artfully besmirched light reading.