to 5

    on the 5ives




I'm always struck by in-flight magazines as the example of culture's aesthetic anesthetic. Packaged in hermetic shrinkwrap and sandwiched between glossy photographs, the text here is bland but ideologically unmistakable—it takes the dream of the traveler and repackages it as the ultimate act of bourgeois desire: to possess distant realms, to transform all multifarious space into the flattened surface of the clear blue swimming pool or the green felt of a blackjack table. All destinations become "destination resorts," the experience of them so unmistakably transformed into their commodity form that we not only feel that we can purchase them, we know that be picking up this magazine, we already have.

Worse, it's boring. It barely holds a traveler's attention for a moment before they turn, defeated, to the Sudoku and the crossword, always leaving their half-hearted scrawls for the next traveler as a record of their presence in this seat, commemorating their resistance to the commodified message of the magazine itself. The promise, delivered politely over the address system that "this magazine is yours to keep" is the ghoulish promise of modernity itself—that the manuals of commodification are free, but access to the bourgeois pursuits those manuals describe is forever out of reach, forever locked into the equally hermetic realm of the dream.

So why an experimental art? Why now—or perhaps, why ever? What is the fungible achievement of a magazine like 5_trope, operated like hundreds of others on the most frayed of shoestrings by editors and writers who never hope to see anything come of this experiment—no phoenix reborn from the ashes of ideology, no impending defeat of the cruel golem that is the commodification of art?

Without experimental art, our assumption is that all culture will eventually become the seamless and aestheticized (anesthetized) product that we find in in-flight magazines—and it's already happening, both on the internet and elsewhere. For this reason, our job is not merely to write, but to edit—that is, to co-opt the voice of this dominant discourse and with Brechtian arrogance to proclaim its new identity as that of the art form itself. It is an act of selection, of translation—and if at times it is approached with what sounds like missionary zeal, it is only because having seen the problem we have also identified that important second step—what we can do about it.

It hardly bears mentioning, but I'll say it anyway: this magazine is yours to keep.