Letter From the Editor,
The eye followed Allison around all summer. It started on a subway platform as she fumbled with her phone to take a zoomed in picture of a man’s tattoo. On the front of doors, pendants and graffiti tags all around Brooklyn. Over pizza she explained to me the glare that was popping up everywhere she went and how it led her to discover The Eye of Ra.
We began thinking about symbolism in terms of what we see versus what we actually understand. Aesthetic trends swirl around us on a scrolling basis; I’ll see the same Instagram of a cone shoved into a cracked sidewalk on some Manhattan street twice in a row and laugh not at the irony of timing but more so how in a place so dense and full of cultural history, we still tend to see the same things. It led me to thinking about how meanings are formulated, what surfaces mean to the depthiness of our perception and how often we inquire about the iconographies around us. Also, these iconographies we gravitate toward and the images or vignettes we share from our surroundings, how they are navigational points in our online bubbles further shaping who we are and how we are viewed.
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Maps have traditionally been used to survey our physical surroundings but more recently they are used to trace us. The immediate polyvalent tendencies can feel like a house of mirrors in the middle of a dense forest; the self reflexive image making process is exclusionary of anything but the present. Mental scapes, patterns, memories, emotional states are an added layer. Technologically speaking, the proliferation of these very human yet intangible renderings of our experience are left dwindling in an expanse suspended by the geotags assigned to them. They are often only distinguished due to the visual biodiversity within a grid system. However, the digital map has the capacity to render our entire realities in a larger complex way. Location tagging can facilitate a sense of abstract ideologies, the feeling of a place, strange correlations, and aesthetic mysteries. Our cyborg status allows us to grab our phones and learn the whole history behind where we’re standing if we so choose. In the case of this issue, the map is used as a symbol for representation of reality in a digital sphere, and our situated understanding of the present self-reflexive behavior. We hope not to ask the question of what is “authentic” but instead to further investigate contextual authority, the paradoxical nature surrounding our privilege of information and the ability to absorb it. What does this means in terms of storytelling and our understanding of knowledge?
As we are all often surrounded by iconographies divorced from contextualization and histories, resulting in a seemingly collective forgetting, through this project we hope to reconfigure our understanding of ‘the map’—technologically speaking—and make sense of the temporal dimensions implied. This may be achieved by investigating the phenomenon of embedded knowledge found in the strata (modern translation, “metadata”) that is a combination of history, digital landscapes and our current reconfigurations of them. While information is readily available, ubiquity does not make for visibility or the inclination to access it. And yet, the embedded information itself is a cultural subconscious undercurrent. We hope to make sense of this constructed landscape both literally and ephemerally by adding personal narratives and connecting history with present day genealogies. “For what is the value of all culture if it is divorced from experience?”
With this project we hope to further contextualize our landscape in a complicated sense, making us more aware not only of our presence within a space, but the underlying implications of why we’re seeing what we’re seeing, habits of thought within particular spaces, and trends that occur on a location-basis. We hope to open up spaces for a historicizing process, as it relates to ‘place’ and ‘space’, in order to move away from informational compartmentalization. We hope through curious exploration to collectively bring context and feeling to places otherwise simply seen as a dot on a map, or a location to “get to” as opposed to a place to “be in”.
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Tonight I sat in a café around the corner from my house trying to wrap up this letter, struggling to cohesively give examples for the sometimes murky subject matter at hand. I looked over at two men standing up from a table and gave a friendly smile as they got up to leave. The older gentlemen, now I know him to be Heru, politely inquired on what I was so invested in and asked if he could have a seat. We proceeded to talk about the potential foreclosure of his house down the street when he looked at my notebook and asked if he could sketch something. I slid it across the table, and my mouth dropped as he proceeded to explain the meaning of his name and drew The Eye of Ra on the blank page.
Ashlyn, WUT Co-Founder & Editor
It should also be noted: we are excited to announce that Wut will now be published online quarterly and be used as an open archive for specialized areas of research. We hope this approach will open up possibilities for expansion around certain topics and allow research to build upon itself and evolve through time.