How can ecological and social forces be transformative? In her recent AICA-USA Distinguished Critics Lecture, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev explored this question through the lens of Lacan’s fascination with topology and the creation of chain relations or knots. The notions of alchemy and “thought form” were brought up repeatedly in her presentation, Thought-Forms being the well-known book of Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater that helped spread the ideas of the Theosophical Society—a central influence on modern art. Mahler, Sibelius, Mondrian, Hilma af Klint, and Kandinsky, were members along with many writers and poets, from James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Lewis Carroll, William Butler Yeats to Lyman Frank Baum (the author of the Wizard of Oz), even the inventor Thomas Edison.
Our latest Rail Curatorial Project, Spaced Out: Migration to the Interior at Red Bull Studios in Chelsea, offered a similar opportunity to submit ourselves to a realm of play and experiment, expanding our “thought forms” beyond conventional norms and expectations. In addition to two poetry readings and a panel discussion, at the closing reception Bladerunner Trio played a magnificently tripped-out set. It was then I realized how the musical performance echoed Raymond Foye’s guest editorship of this winter issue. The music was driven by improvisation, and embraced the maximal potential sounds of minor keys and the minimal equilibrium between downtempo and upbeat rhapsody, evoking endless repetition, both overt and subtle. Likewise, Raymond arranged the Critics Page in an unexpected and beautifully discreet way, reflecting the essential spirit of the Rail. By featuring the people and the work he loves with equal passion—as though one can’t exist without the other—Raymond has created a story within a story. We’re grateful to the generous spirits of Bladerunner Trio (the remarkable Will Epstein, Tlacael Esparza, and Dave Harrington), Nicolas Jaar, and Raymond.
In conclusion, we have an open end. Human syncretism is welcome, and with it what will we do? On behalf of the Rail, I’d like to thank the wonderful team at Red Bull Studios and the participant artists, as well as those who have worked on the exhibit. It’s been a productive and adventurous year for Rail Curatorial Projects: Bloodflames Revisited at Paul Kasmin Gallery this past summer; Spaced Out: Migration to the Interior at Red Bull Studios; and 24/7 curated by Alex Bacon and Harry Tenzer in Miami. At Mana Miami, we hosted the first-ever public conversation between the Brooklyn Rail, the Miami Rail, and the Third Rail, in addition to a discussion around alternative pedagogy lead by Jarrett Earnest with his fellow teachers from the BHQFU. Finally, thanks to the extraordinary teams at Paul Kasmin Gallery and the Dedalus Foundation, we produced two beautiful catalogues for Bloodflames Revisited and last year’s exhibition, Come Together: Surviving Sandy, Year 1.
Lastly, I’d like to thank you for your support in keeping everything we do and create free to the public. We have always relied on the generous tax-deductible contributions from our readers, and this year, we are excited to host a benefit auction in collaboration with Paddle8. I’d also like to thank all of our board members—Christopher Apgar, Meghan Carleton, Dan Desmond, Michèle Gerber Klein, Abby Leigh, Will Ryman, Michael Straus, John Thomson, and Merrill Wagner—for their total dedication, as well as our community of editors and writers. In 2015, we look forward to future Rail Curatorial Projects both in New York and abroad; potential Rails in several American cities; and the continued expansion and exploration here at home, blooming into the Brooklyn Rail’s 15th anniversary.
P.S. Our Paddle8 benefit auction runs until December 22. We are especially indebted to the exceptional artists who donated magnificent works: Marina Abramović, Peter Acheson, Shoja Azari, Paolo Canevari, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Maria Elena Gonzalez, Allan Graham, Josephine Halvorson, Alfredo Jaar, Bill Jensen, Margrit Lewczuk, Nicola Lopez, Chris Martin, Shirin Neshat, Bruce Pearson, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Ishmael Randall-Weeks, David Reed, Joyce Robins, Shahzia Sikander, Charles Traub, and Joe Zucker. All sale proceeds will directly fund production and printing costs of our journal. Please visit www.paddle8.com/auction/brooklynrail.
Phong H. Bui is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.