One of my favourite tropes of poetic realism is when the author utilises a scientific phenomenon they don’t really understand as a literary metaphor. Like this:
An event horizon, as it is understood in the theory of general relativity, is the region of spacetime beyond which the ongoing events cannot affect an outside observer. It is also more colloquially called ‘the point of no return’, whereby any molecule past that point vanishes to our eye. The event horizon is most commonly associated with black holes, which themselves are massive, gravitational event horizons on steroids. And since we have no way of venturing out to these jaws of Anish Kapoor’s now copyrighted Ultra Black (seriously though, Anish Kapoor) that the universe is peppered with, we harbour an insistent curiosity about their threshold.
I started thinking about the event horizon during my many trips Dover this summer to make some site-specific work. At the Cliffs, I noticed people engaging in the commonplace activity of sitting on one of the benches overlooking the port only to watch the endless recycling of ships coming in and out - and more often than not, the same spectators would still be there hours later as I left the site. The ships approaching the Cap Blanc Nez Cliffs would slowly disappear into nothingness, and the ones nearing Dover would gradually offer themselves up to the dissemination of the viewer as they got closer. At some point, vessels of both directions faded out of the event horizon entirely, speculatively still too far from their destination to be seen from the other side, either, so what, exactly, occurs in those brief moments? I like to think of an usher on a boat situated spot-on in the middle of the 20 mile strait, holding up a mirror and reflecting the point of departure back onto itself.
I went to the cliffs to make a film work about the impossible vastness of geological bodies and the absurdity of the human endeavour - and imminent failure - of their stratification and blah blah blah. Halfway through a glance at the footage, I realised I’m here filming myself surrounded with these props - a tent, a clothes line and a whimsical fake wall made out of squishy foam - but just a couple of years ago there was an agglomeration of people on the opposite cliff with real tents and real clothes lines (although there were no squishy foam walls involved). The day before I went, someone brought up how the cliffs were notorious for being visited at night by people who came there with the intention of jumping off. ‘So don’t linger after dark,’ they said, ‘or you might see things you don’t want to see.’ A sick feeling in my stomach lingered throughout the duration of the project, and then, a realisation that much of this kind of hopelessness doesn't exist in a void, but is closely tied to the economic and cultural disenfranchisement of the area. The intentionally simple trip to make some frivolous art ended up nothing like how I expected it to be.
A couple of weeks after the last trip of the summer, I took on the role as the new Pluralist editor. I spoke with Rachel Yalisove who edited the paper last year, about what the Pluralist achieved over the last year. One of the points raised during this conversation was our agreement that the paper was not as political as it could have been. But although this word - political - frequents my vocabulary, I actually disagree with the vast majority of occasions when someone’s work - or practice, or writing - is described as political to imply a thematic preference where there is no preference, only the necessity of self preservation. In other words, most people don’t choose to be political unless it’s forced upon them, just how most EU citizens likely did not engage much with politics until Brexit left them with no choice but to engage. Consequently, I don’t believe anyone or anything is really apolitical. In truth, even passive content with the status quo is a form political declaration on how you prefer the world around you to manifest itself.
I guess what I try to describe by the term ‘political’ in the context of writing is writing that is self-aware and critical of the reality which hosts it. Or that it manifests in narratives told from perspectives which rarely intersect with the dominant dialogue because those who think them up struggle to find a permeable opening within it. And at the same time this kind of writing or published work is the most revealing and generous, both in and of itself, and for its capability to broaden the event horizon.
I hoped that the theme of Visibility for the first Pluralist of the year would encourage an influx of varied and urgent work, and I believe the writers and contributors of this issue have not only but delivered but really exceeded all of those expectations. Having said that, it’s entirely feasible the you pick the issue up and find nothing of interest inside, in which case I urge you to put pen to paper and help us fix this discrepancy. Your paper needs you!
On behalf of the Pluralist team, enjoy the issue, and Merry Christmas.