Our field of view—delimited by the circumference of an eye or lens or unbounded in the continuity of a panorama—conditions, to an extent, our perspective. In the Borgesian tale of the Aleph, the namesake for The Mistake Room’s digital editorial platform, a single locus in space radically expands the possibility of a new field of optics. The Aleph, as described by Borges, is “the place where, without admixture or confusion, all the places of the world, seen from every angle, coexist.” An alternative spatialization of the world is imagined here—one predicated on inclusion and conscious of its inevitable failure to capture a scene of the infinite in a point that contains all points.
The voices that gather here will encompass those of The Mistake Room’s team of scholars, curators, and research fellows as well as those of various other collaborators—philosophers, theorists, historians, scientists, humanists, and practitioners of the imagination—hailing from a wide-range of disciplines, living and working in a myriad of places around the globe. The threads that run between our immediate location and the peoples, places, and histories that exist well beyond it will be exposed through multimodal contributions, as complex nodes of an ecology of thought forms, sustained by the exchange of ideas. At a moment when political, economic, environmental, and cultural crises have led to the irresponsible and deeply concerning equating of “radical pluralism,” “creative/new economies,” and “pixilated, crowd-sourced activism” with democratic inclusion, economic equality and social consciousness-raising, the Aleph remains cautious about truisms that dismiss the relevancy of sustained observation, thoughtful and informed argumentation, and critical meaning-making. In a world of urgencies, the Aleph endeavors to understand the insatiable quest for the new; to unveil its motives, the intentions of its stakeholders, and the hegemonic specters it refutes despite being staunchly possessed by them. The contributions sited here are committed to expanding the responsibilities of artists and scholars in public life and to generating critical insights into the nature of human creativity in order to broaden its meaningful and purposeful role and function in society.
Through commissioned interviews and conversations, dispatches from abroad, field notes and experimental writing, fiction, and poetry, we hope the contributions to this ecology will exist beyond the page as indexical traces of real actions in the world. This platform champions writing’s expanded field—where language is not only inscribed as text but also visualized, made melodic, embodied, spatialized, and performed. Our interviews will be faithful to the immediacy, rhythms, and pauses of speech; our dispatches will be products of truthful, direct, and sustained engagements with the local; our field notes and writings of fiction and poetry, will attempt to voice moments that give shape to thoughts, pulses and revelations in various states of ‘becoming’; and our commissions will be conscious that epistemology is situational and that the text is but one form of writing.
The constructed nature of language will be revealed here through new vocabularies that unmask a set of textured and deeply embedded affinities that are both difficult and promising. Here, writing is no longer used to reinstate stasis but to revel in states of entropy, alerting us to moments of rupture that signal a discontinuity with a previous narrative or paradigm of thought, catalyzed by longing, oppression or, more simply, a need. This notion of competing worldviews conjures, at once, the possibility for several shared futures and the memory of the ones that were extinguished.
The Aleph emerges and expands alongside the flow of time, as repeated exercises that mark our passage and a tempo for multiple evolving scores to unfold. Our hope is that each entry to the Aleph will reveal a shifting composition within our field of view—within the fraught landscapes of the contemporary, both perceived and conceived, that shape our ways of being and knowing.
CESAR GARCIA Director and Chief Curator
JAMIE Y. SHI Editor-in-Chief, Aleph | Editor-at-Large, MISPRINT