PROLOGUE: IN WHICH WE EMBARK ON A SUBTERRANEAN VESSEL TO THE SUPER-SARAGOSSA SEA
Up above it’s warm, I’m sure.
Down in the bottom, oh dear, oh lor!
It’s cold without your trousers.
When you look at the itinerary, it seems undeniable that we are obsessed with atmospheres. For the last four issues Mormyrid has been chasing storms through a variety of landscapes and backgrounds, like some para-human Major Ozone seeking that perfectly invigorating inhalation. From the sea to the masked streets, under the night sky and into the world of miniatures, there’s a real sense that we are purposely boarding surrealism as a cartoon vehicle for our touristic impulses, puttering around alien spaces in collective deliria. This latest parallel panoramic parade, a simultaneous trip up and down, exposed to the weather while sheltering with the troglodytes, came about entirely through the organic overlapping of dual requests.
Like all good adventurers, we try to hold open office hours. Anybody can drop by with a proposition. So one day in wanders our comrade Vittoria Lion with a fiery plea to probe the depths of the earth. At roughly the same time, Bruno Jacobs makes the suggestion that poetry thrives on that which is seemingly an external domain, and drops a note in the box suggesting we pursue the weather.
Hare-brained schemes, the both of them, and irresistibly enticing. We simply couldn’t decide between the two, and so, denying that disease of the mind which says that the airy atmosphere is not the same thing as the planetary mantle, haphazardly decided to pursue both at the same time. The hypothesis this time being that we do not need to make two separate trips, but that in pursuing the one, we will hit upon the other: by flying a kite underground we will re-discover electricity—the right way.
But this inquiry started with an esoteric fumble. Our call to play referenced this issue’s number and tried to explicitly link it with the equivalent Arcanum from the Tarot. Arcanum 8: strength, with its parallel tension twixt big hat above and fearsome lion below. Or so we thought. And yet it just so happened this is one of those cards ambiguously switched out from the Rider-Waite deck: in the original Tarot de Marseilles, the 8th position is held by Justice. Fuck-ups of this kind always point to something, and no doubt our double theme had something to do with it. Before you realize it, the inanimate doublets are marching on their own: above and below, below and above, weather and the underground, strength and justice…
So what kind of mess do you get, when you cock up strength and justice? The stable seat of the law is an anamorphic lion. A scale and a sword, dropped haphazardly into cavern, easily become a monster-machine. And as for her, clearly she feels the need to stand up. You can see that Justice, by itself, is a complicated inorganic contraption: women, chair, blade, scale. An abstract of the dynamic of Strength, which shows our protagonist stripped of her equipment, in a bare-handed brawl with a lion. Is this Beauty and the Beast, or Elizabeth Bathory and the Devil? Or why not a full-blown Rube Goldberg machine?
When you really think about it, these are not two cards in opposition, there is no simple Strength against Justice. We are not stopping with the deterministic fixed notions of law and power, but of a cartoon logic, where law abides as a set-up, a framework swaying under the influence of its own ridiculous, internal tensions…Until, to quote Popeye, that’s all it can stands, it can’t stands no more.
The results we received have been both a confirmation and a negation of aboves and belows of all stripes. Perhaps it would have been better to add a question-mark to the dictum “as above, so below”? It strikes us more as a proposition then as a done-deal. Contrariwise, we might have gone the route of reversing the signs, and starting with the below first. The tendency should be towards the rising. It was during this period that a discussion between JA and a new friend drew our attention to a very relevant and classic but perhaps sometimes skipped over introductory text by Breton, Signe ascendant, which makes exactly this claim: that the only worthwhile direction is upwards? The power of analogy, and the extremophile joy of connecting totally disparate entities…But this is not ever sufficient. We must continuously strive to get a rise… Though whether this entails a falling upwards or a jump down below is certainly up for debate. Yes, even when tunneling into the bowels of the earth, being sure that you are digging upwards.
(Not to mention that old bugbear the Economy seems to have one goal in mind: to pillage the underground of carbon and hurl it upwards into the great outside…)
Crazy directions. Speaking of which, we will take this opportunity to announce our reduction to one issue of Mormyrid per year. This leaves room for “another thing” each cycle, open-ended projects, games, books, exhibitions etc. Keep an eye out this spring, and we’ll cover the eyepatch.
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank our amorphous, extended editorial board, in which we include those reviewers, suggesters and commenters who have helped shape the direction of the Mormyrid either directly or indirectly through their energetic participation, and support in many different ways: Mattias Forshage, Vittoria Lion, Megan Leach, Bruno Jacobs, David Nadeau, Maria Brothers, Guy Girard, Joël Gayraud, Michael Vandelaar, Merl Fluin, Paul Cowdell, Ron Sakolsky, Janice Hathaway, Doug Campbell, Emma Lundenmark, Craig Wilson, Paul McRandle, and Miguel Corrales for the fidelity of his surrealist chronicles. Like Ferry’s secret society these individuals may or may not know they are part of the subterranean social, but their influence is felt as surely as the heat of the Undersun.
Umbrellas out then, we’re headed for the molten core!
-The Mormyrids, December 2018