“Open Space is based in the Bay Area and we’re interested in what it means, in this day and age, to speak from a place.”
This is a line on our About page. It’s something I wrote, something I often question. To speak from a place yet be in conversation with the world: to what extent is that possible? To what extent does place even exist in 2017, on the internet? The hope is that to talk of place is not to fall into the trap of defensive regionalism (it has been suggested to me that to suggest regionalism might be defensive might in itself be defensive), but to forge a layered, international network of collaborators (institutional and individual), positioning the Bay Area, California, and the West Coast as crucial points within this constellation.
That all sounds good (potential defensiveness aside). The kind of rhetoric you can use in a grant application (I did; we didn’t get it). But what does it actually mean in practice? Here was one OS attempt at an answer. And here. This season’s magazine, our seventh, will be another.
I’ve only lived in Oakland, in California, and on the West Coast for nineteen months. A very short and incredibly turbulent span, during which my new state hired former US Attorney General Eric Holder, seeking his counsel in “in responding to the Trump administration’s sustained attack on California’s polices and values.” Talk of secession as the only way forward, talk of partition as the only way forward. Rallies and counter-rallies and protests and counter-protests. Everyone claiming freedom, claiming turf, claiming turf and freedom as inseparable.
All of this is what California is right now (and maybe what it has always been, if we want to dive down that rabbit hole). But it is not all of what California is.
What is missing from that surreal and terrifying torrent of information and virtuality is any regard, any place, for the human animal, situated as she is in time and in a physical environment with other human and nonhuman entities. It turns out that groundedness requires actual groundedness, in the ground. “Direct sensuous reality,” writes [David] Abram, “in all its more-than-human mystery, remains the sole solid touchstone for an experiential world now inundated with electronically generated vistas and engineered pleasures; only in regular contact with the tangible ground and sky can we learn how to orient and to navigate in the multiple dimensions that now claim us.”
The above paragraph is from “how to do nothing,” a talk given by the artist Jenny Odell, who grew up in the Bay Area; after reading it, I invited her to make something for us. Regard and place for the human animal. What does that look like here, and now?
As of now, Issue 7 is unnamed. Here is something Gordon and I have been including in our invitations to writers and artists: “The issue as a whole will pull together various narratives, histories, political meditations, and speculative fictions about the West in general, and California in particular. This is a vague description, I know; we’re still in the early stages of inviting contributors, and would like the frame to come after the content.”
The magazine will begin to unfurl on the twenty-fifth of September, with a poem by Cedar Sigo. Welcome to our fall season.