Why? Why now?
“The first stirrings of dissatisfaction and the first intimations of a better future are always found in works of art.”
—John Dewey, Art as Experience
This assertion, from the concluding chapter of Dewey’s treatise on aesthetics, has been a guiding ideal for the creation of this journal. Yet as we’ve labored to launch the publication, “intimations of a better future” have not been easy to come by. Our staff first came together two days before the inauguration of our new President. Since then, the outrages have come at a daily clip: new budgetary assaults on the poor, the dismantling of climate change policies, the deportation of law-abiding immigrants, proliferating reports of hate crimes. The American experiment appears threatened from within by ignorance, festering resentments, and the decades-long failure of political institutions to address collective anxieties.
As liberalism falters, what purpose can a new cultural journal serve? Might it contribute to a renewal of the liberal imagination, to borrow Lionel Trilling’s term? It does seem to us that such a renewal is needed, and that it will require the long, steady work of many minds and organizations, over the course of years. Consider the arrival of Full Bleed as one sign of our commitment to this larger cultural project, if such a project can be said to exist. We take this step believing that aesthetic experience—those intuitive stirrings, intimacies, and insights engendered by concentrated encounters with works of art and literature—is favorable to the cause of human dignity, within individual lives and within our politics. Among the convictions on which this little journal stands is the belief, articulated by Dewey, that openness to art strengthens the tenuous ties that stitch each human life into meaningful relation with its environment. We have thus sought to fashion a journal that presents and critiques the work of artists, designers, and writers, even as it speaks to the antagonisms shaping our world.
One of the more conspicuous antagonisms today, surely, is the ongoing displacement—by war, poverty, and political violence—of tens of millions of human beings from their homes, and the conflicts that have followed the arrival of refugees in foreign lands. We have chosen migration as our theme for the inaugural issue to recognize this unfolding calamity, and to attend to those voices that, in the midst of violence and hate, call us back to the primacy of dignity. When tribal resentments become as pronounced as they are now, in this country and others, can we have faith in “the universality of human-to-human solidarity,” to quote Saul Myers’ essay on Slavoj Žižek? Do we have any choice? “I am everything! Every exile and every homeland!” reads Ibrahim Nasrallah’s fierce poem “Fourth Name.” Perhaps our collective future will in part depend on our willingness to see that, east of Eden, we are all exiles.
Of course, solidarity in the midst of human strife is a tremendous challenge. Nasrallah’s poetry emerges from the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict and expresses age-old grievances. We publish it in our pages not in order to endorse a particular position on that tangled struggle, but to provide English readers access to a poetic imagination shaped by it, in a condition of exile.
In exile, each generation makes the world with language. “Words and their use are never innocent. They influence the life that societies live and mankind lives. In any language upon this earth,” writes Schirin Nowrousian in her introduction of the forgotten Holocaust poet Hermann Adler. “To use [words] with care in order not to hurt or set ablaze should be one of the basic teachings in any culture.” With this lesson in mind, we invite you to read well and read long. Thank you for joining us in our first foray, and please be in touch.