N-O-NS…E;NSI/C::::A_L, reviewed by Jonathon Hornedo


I’m still figuring it out, how my glasses broke. Last night I put them down on the bedside table before crawling into bed. In the morning they were broken. The frame was all twisted and missing an arm. There was no sign of a brake-in, and I have no history of sleepwalking.

I’m near sighted, which means I can see up close no problem. Up close I can see my hands and their hard edges. I can see what I eat, who I’m hugging, and who’s about to stab me. Within a fifteen foot diameter my world is in focus and knowable and I give it meaning by assigning a way that I behave with it. I can do normal things that people do, things like working-out, cooking, reading, or even online shopping. Occasionally I’ll bump into something or someone, like a glass of wine or someone on the street. But the point is I don’t need my glasses all the time.

I had no problem, por ejemplo, finding the mustard yellow paperback on the coffee table. It was semi-buried under a stack of fitness magazines. I grabbed it and sat down on the recliner, tilted back, kicked off my boots, the old leather ones with the smooth worn soles, and read through it in one thick swallow. It felt good to stay indoors, keeping warm on a wet gray day. I had a meeting scheduled at the office, but that was somewhat later. The book was a new publication called “Nonsensical” and in print it’s written out like this: N-O-NS…E;NSI/C::::A_L, which is kind of weird, I don’t know.

In its layout, design, and bookbinding style, N-O-NS…E;NSI/C::::A_L feels like a crisscross between a zine, a quarterly poetry publication, and an artist-made book with content dipped in a rum that a philosophy professor might sip on. The cream colored pages, the elegant design and layout. The staples that bind the hearty mustard paper cover and about a hundred pages of print together. The narrow silvery band that’s flush against the spine and the ultra loose ink drawing on the cover that looks like it was made by dipping a pinky or a small dick into diluted India Ink and swung over the paper like a pendulum, touching down for one awkward mark totally last minute just in time for publication. And there is a green dot applied by hand on the cover that denotes a hidden organizational schema, or the lack of one. It all boils into a spicy array of attentive inquires on this issue’s premise: ethics.

The contributors and editors are artists, and they offer a cluster of forms and positions on ethics from the point of view of politics, poetry, climate change, technology, psychology, philosophy, and current issues in patriarchal critique. Leslie Dick’s entry “Miracle Blur” looks at the influence of image technology on the make-up industry and what it means for women to appear “high-definition ready” in any given public situation. In another entry, the editors approached Ragnar Kjartansson to answer this question: Is beauty a thing in the world? Kjartansson, in an aphoristic style provides both certain and skeptical statements, positioning a priori and a posteriori propositions alongside each other. Three stand out:

(a) No, it does not really exist.
(b) Then it must be of the world, like atoms.
(c) No, beauty is not of the real world.

Vivian Sming’s “Symptoms of the Prey” is a visceral analysis on the underlying value systems that shape the relationship of a predator to its prey. Drawing from behavioral patterns shared within the hunting culture, and idealizations of that culture in the form of Classical and Neo-Classical sculpture, she articulates this conflict into a sharp, steely point. Fiona Connor and Amy Howden-Chapman’s “Outline for a Syllabus: Art Ethics and Climate Change” came out of a conversation while painting the interior of an apartment. It is an exchange of associations and loose philosophical inquiry on the term “ethics”, which then flows into more specific ideas about how ethical art making can exist within the global crisis of climate change. Harry Dodge’s entry is an excerpt of a longer work called “The River of the Mother of God: Notes on Indeterminacy” that spills thoughts on art, science, Gertrude Stein, being adopted, and a myriad of other topics with engaging and insightful writing that meanders and turns, starts and stops.

With additional entries by Tara Lisa Foley, Evan Burrows, Pall Haukur, and Chandler McWilliams, this first issue of N-O-NS…E;NSI/C::::A_L explores and probes assorted topics that are more offbeat than familiar, keeping fresh entry after entry with clean pivots in style and voice.

I put the book down. Given the weather, traffic would be ugly on the way to the office, especially through downtown. I laced up my boots. And then, holding my glasses, I twisted the frame back into place as much as I could, optimisticly considering a path towards recovery. With the glasses in one hand, I grabbed my leather briefcase with the other and stepped out the door. It was raining. Water gushed at the gutters over heaps of sludge and then the smooth boot soles failed me and I slipped. The briefcase spun away while I held out the other arm to catch the fall and while clutching the glasses I felt a snap when I hit the concrete, breaking the frame for good. I rolled over on my back, the echo of pain and shock ascending. Rain sweeping over me and all I could see was a panorama of gray.

Jonathon Hornedo