Monthly Archives: January 2010


Dear Amanda,

From where I am writing I can see the atlantic under a silvery sky. It’s a gleaming coldhouse. Small glaciers float south like moving archipelagos. The white peaks of cintra can barely be made out to the north. Enclaves of iscrapers skirt the coast from cascais to the frozen river mouth of lisbona. . I am at a tower grouping in one of the seven enclaves of cap’ricoh. Ahead, a fractal coral line protects the semi-frozen surface where the enclaves plunge. Behind me, there are groupings directly set on the cliffs. Beyond those I can only guess at the empty density of the gelid steppes, here and there dotted with enclaves of industrial multiprocessing. Against this glittering coast I juxtapose the images of my accidental digital excavation. Even if risking blackgoogling, I must tell you about these images.

© Luís Palma

This has been a fertile season for artist books… and here comes another one.

Occupation,” by the photographer Luís Palma, was actually launched in the Art Algarve last summer, but will now have its launch in Lisbon this coming Friday, at 10 pm, on occasion of Palma’s exhibition opening at Caroline Pagès gallery.

“Eradication,” the story with which I contributed to the photo book, is a fiction on illegal heritage and its misinterpretations 80 years into the future. Now, a fresh version of this piece was also translated for a new architectural magazine coming out in none other than Macedonia.

DOMA, the new journal in which “Eradication” will appear, is headed by Antonio Petrov from New Geographies and Sofija Grandakovska, and it will feature pieces by the likes of Ben Nicholson, Marina Abramovic, and many others.

Meanwhile, one of my other first incursions into what one could call essayistic fiction, just came out in the February edition of ICON.

In my post today was FUEL’s special cover edition of a very special issue of icon In my post today was the special cover edition of a very special issue of ICON in which, as Justin McGuirk puts it, they’ve “taken a break from journalism.”

In the midst of catastrophe, the aftermath of crisis and the cold of winter, maybe this is precisely what everybody needs: not exactly an holiday in cambodia, but taking a break from the usual way in which one grows accustomed to do things…

A History of the Future

“The worst thing about bad habits is that they are habits.”

Debret, an excellent exhibition and another lavish artist book launched last week in Lisbon through Assírio & Alvim, made me go back to an extraordinary and often forgotten figure, a Portuguese thinker and priest that published his “História do Futuro” as early as 1718.

Long before science fictionurban studies or Jacques Attali, António Vieira understood that the writing of the future was not and could not be anything else but a projective fiction or actual reflection on the knowledge of past and present.

This is also what Vasco Araújo’s exhibition is about, if only projecting the past onto the present. Going back to the past’s highbrow culture, might be none but finding ways in which to re-present delicate aspects of today’s culture.

The conflation of Jean-Baptiste Debret and Vieira’s quotes in Araújo’s sculptures serves not, in such case, to reconsider slavery or sexual politics per se, but rather to re-propose a critical vision of today’s social inequalities and power games.

The artist’s work becomes political as, particularly in many sections of Portuguese contemporary society, the seemingly far past is subtly revealed as indistinguishable from the present.

As Vieira put it many centuries ago, writing both about present and future, “to deprive a few of respect is to seek, as death, the universal destruction of all.”

Wonder Spam

Going back to the wonderful and frightening world of the Internet, I post today on what you should do with that other thing with which the internet changed our lifes: an enduring, almost liquid flow of spam.

Did you ever get a letter like the following?

Warm Greetings,

I am Monica Maxwell from Libya. I am married to Late Jamil Maxwell of blessed memory who is an oil explorer in Libya and Kuwait for twelve years before he died in the year 2000. We were married for twelve years without a child. He died after a brief illness that lasted for only four days.  Since his death I too have been battling with both Cancer and fibroid problems. When my late Husband was alive he deposited a substantial amount of  money in millions of dollars with a Finance Firm oversea. Recently, my doctor told me that I have only six months to live due to cancer problem. Though what disturbs me most is my stroke sickness. Having known my condition I decided to donate this fund to either a charity/orphanage home or devoted God fearing individual that will  utilize this money the way I am going to instruct herein. I want this organization or individual to use this money in all sincerity to fund charity homes (motherless homes), orphanages, widows. I took this decision because I don’t have any child that will inherit this money and my husband relatives are into radical organisation and I  don’t want a situation where this money will be used in an Unholy manner.  Hence the reasons for this bold decision. Please, pray for me to recover as your prayers will go a long way in uplifting my spirit. I don’t need any telephone communication in this regard because of my health, because of the presence of my husband’s relatives around me  always. I don’t want them to know about this development. As soon as I receive your reply, I shall give you further directives on what to do and how to goabout actualising this project. I will also issue a letter of authority to the Finance Company authorizing them that the said fund Have being willed to you and a copy of such authorization will be forwarded to you. I want you to always pray for me. Any delay in your reply will give room in sourcing for an organization or a devoted Individual for this same purpose. Until I hear from you by email, my dreams will rest squarely on your shoulders.

Remain Blessed.

Mrs Monica Maxwell

As a bit of webarcheology will show, this letter was actually first sent on Tuesday Apr 5, 2005, at precisely 21:08:58. Most people would just trash it, irritated by such nuisance. But not the South African poet Allan Kolski Horowitz.

He picked the letter and transformed it into a witty and delicious short story and published it in the 12th issue of Chimurenga, a small and independent South African literary magazine.

Now, unexpectedly last November I could not attend the launch of an artist’s book that also deals with the beauty one can create out of one’s junk mail. Instead, I photocopied Horowitz story and send it in my place for a reading.

Now it is finally time to disclose a tiny bit of the intriguing images Vasco Barata produced for “Hard Coeur, Undisclosed Recipient,” the dashing book he recently produced as a limited artist edition.

There was already Andreas Gursky’s “Nudes,” a wicked book I once offered to a dear friend. Now Barata’s collages send the spam images he collected onto the sphere of the art historical sublime.

Unfortunately (or is it fortunately?), not all that glitters appears in the internet. If you want to see these images you will have to engage into the amazing collector’s quest of… finding the book’s hard couepy. Lol.

Stranger than Fiction

As today dozens of notorious minds are having their say on how is the internet changing the way you think” –including personal favorites like Douglas Coupland I may as well go back to the post I was wondering about…

Lately, I started to ask myself if I was suffering from information fatigue syndrome. After a first sign of worry about my attention span, I started to seriously consider why was it that I recurrently surfed across about 1376 posts in one go and wasn’t really captured by any of the information displayed on them…

As Esther Dyson suggests, “many of us are genetically disposed to lose our capability to digest sugar if we consume too much of it. It makes us sick long-term, as well as giving us indigestion and hypoglycemic fits.”

Unlike Dr. Strangelove, I started to worry a little bit more about the information Unlike Dr. Strangelove, I started to worry a little bit more about the information neural bomb when I recently picked up a book that was kindly sent to me by its author – Markus Miessen, another of Beyond #02’s great contributors…

Now, this book, East Coast Europe, has a sexy idea, a classy pocketbook format, and, of course, it is supposedly filled with all these pearls of wisdom about European identity dislocating East. It should be interesting by all standards.

And yet, as if numbed by constant theoretical porn, or simply irritated by the laziness of the fashionable interview format, I found out that only three pieces of information managed to cut across the thin, yet resilient layer of my ennui.

One of these pieces was a speculation about Europe in 2050 by Can Altay – incidentally a future contributor of Beyond! Another was a multi-authored dictionary that is captivating because of its shrapnelesque conception…

And, finally, there was this news report actually taken from Wikipedia on how a statue of Bruce Lee being was erected in Mostar, Bosnia, about four years ago.

This was certainly stranger than fiction…

Like Nicholas Carr implies, maybe my difficulty came only from the fact that our reading habits are changing and we are becoming more prone to read on a screen, and online, and in “a welter of contending stimuli”, rather than enjoying to just sit back on a lonely sofa and plunge into a paper book offline.

On the other hand, we may as well be starting to get seriously bored with the stuffiness that surround us. Then, only a resilient interest in the absurd seems to survive, as if the absurd would remain the only titillating category that has some critical drive to make us wonder about reality. Like: duh.

Surrealists have used this device – they called it the paranoiac-critical method. Humour uses it to sometimes create a sort of subversive self-awareness. Like memory and the collective brain and all that, maybe our sense of humor as critical tool is also to be sharpened by the web.

The downside of the net’s information overload, besides this perilous ennui, this annoying syndrome of lively abundance, may be that, as Stephan Kosslyn puts it, “when I used to have dead periods, I often would let my thoughts drift, and sometimes would have an unexpected insight or idea.”

Because of information overload, “those opportunities are now fewer and farther between,” he concludes.


© P.G.

“I keep a diary. I don’t write anything in there except the weather, and I don’t say a lot about that. “Warm, clear” is about the extent of what I put down. And with my little watercolor kit, I paint the sky. Not all the whole thing, only about as much as could go on a playing card. I used to put more words in the diary, but when I looked back on what I wrote, I noticed I’d become like a cheap newspaperman about my life, only telling unpleasant things – when I fought with my wife, or how much money I had given my daughter, or a time I was eating at a restaurant and a woman fell off her chair from a seizure. So I stopped writing words and decided to stick with just the paintings and the weather. It’s not much of a diary, but it’s accurate, at least.”

Wells Tower, from “Door in your Eye……………………………………… in Everything Burned, Everything Ravaged