Where do our fingertips end and the cursor on our screens begin? In a world where we try to bridge the gaping void between the physical and digital, how do we define our individual identities, how do they differ from the varied avatars we present to the world? From social media filters and profile pictures to imposter syndrome, what makes a modern-day avatar, and how do we present them in the ‘everyday’, having traversed and inhabited the void?
ARC: Proxyerotics was born from a need to acknowledge the fragmented. A desire to destabilise the ‘norm’ and conventional practices, such as what a publication must look like and how we define identity through the multi-platform to question linear ways of thinking. Proxyerotics is ever-shifting- a force of division and unification, a primordial desire to verbalise the unpronounceable -the space between- in a sense. It is open to interpretation, as ‘Proxyerotics’ is newly coined, and what we sought from our contributors reflected that. We started with asking them to rethink the proverb ‘I think, therefore I am’, for them to envelop us in their pixelated lives and to meet us at the digital-physical intersection that is Proxyerotics, to tell us about the many ways their bodies are fusing with, or perhaps rejecting technology. Boy, did they deliver. From interrogating lawmakers looking like cats on video calls to space probes drenched in viscous fluids, from sculptures that consider bodily dispersal to the mundane every-day, the works in this year’s issue of ARC spread to every corner of the void and pack it with content that challenges your e v e r y t h o u g h t.
(Are you ready, yet?)
In the journey of conceiving Proxyerotics, we experienced growth spurred by questions that emerged from the publication and our collaborative work on it. Why do people seem to inherently value print over digital, or vice versa? How do we challenge the sense that something has more material worth than something else? We were confronted with the question: why should ARC be mono-platform? Something that has not yet been fully explored within the legacies of this publication (perhaps it was not the right time, till now...). We wanted to push the limits of what a publication can look like. To use an incorruptible link hailing back to The Proxy- the idea of standing in, a fragment of the real, something that has asked us to redefine completion and wholeness, what is it that we can accept as a fragment or stand-in, and how do we accumulate these fragments? We embarked on producing a publication that brought together echoes of the first ARC (then ARK) magazines: monocolour, lithograph prints with metallic inks, a new spin on a revived concept; and echoes of future ARCs to come: digital and rebellious of conventional ‘normalities’, an oil-and-water blend of old and new. This is not even the beginning of cross-platform considerations. We are publishing videos in print media, never to be able to attain their potential (until they breach the boundary of the World Wide Web and converge days later online, as mesmerising pieces of the existential’; why is it that we automatically assume that video cannot be printed? What assumptions do we reserve unconsciously,thereby restraining our innate potential? ). We humbly present to you ARC: Proxyerotics in ten parts: Notice, Stretch, Flow, Trace, Occupy, Morph, Shift, Linger, Stimulate and Dream. A combination of online and in-print supplements, these names reference the generative thematic words associated with Proxyerotics that emerged when the Editorial Team first presented their Call For Proposals, and the content that has been amassed thereafter. These words present a compendium of work that highlights all media from the Royal College of Art- prose, fiction, non-fiction, video, sculpture, design, print, to name a few.
Our sprawling mass of hexadecimal-tendrils was not content at simply producing a publication that encounters both the ephemeral and the concrete. No. We were driven to create an all-encompassing experience, playing on the senses, seeking to sense our world differently. With The Tongue, The Eye, The Ear, The Nose and The Skin, workshops devised by our Events Team, participants were challenged to lick, smell, chew and swallow food on camera, to consider the ultimate sensualities of a life online (something we are all growing accustomed to, the results of a government failing a nation in their cruel ignorance, as a pandemic continues to ripple throughout not only the United Kingdom, but the world). These events pushed the material and sensual boundaries further, widening the void in which Proxyerotics lingers, embracing the screen between your faces and ours.
The tantalizing Launch and the titliating Symposium brought together not only a cohort united by a blue Zoom logo, but guests who, too, are driven towards this sense of wanting to explore the space between digital and physical, such as our peers from the School of Visual Arts in New York, The Glasgow School of Art, and the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam, who have embraced this multi-platform, international, institutional collaboration to explore Proxyerotics.
Our journey, like the journeys embarked upon before and long after us, has not been without diversions. Due to the tumultuous timing of much of our work on the publication coinciding with the relaxation of lockdown restrictions in the UK, we found ourselves distinctly lacking in external contributors. Instead of being able to follow the recent ARC tradition of highlighting RCA talent with the addition of special-guest contributors, we found ourselves presented with a unique opportunity to showcase a large volume of exclusively RCA talent, with our solo guest-contributor, the venerable Johnny Golding, having roots within our institution.
We, the Editorial Team, took this in stride, developing intimate relationships between Editor and Contributor, entrenching ourselves in spreadsheets and double-blind reading when considering the proposals that so happily flooded our email inboxes — something we didn’t imagine possible in a context in which coffee-shop meetings and casual gatherings in the park were impossible. We forged vital connections amongst ourselves team and with the individual contributors. These pieces we present to you are not only the birth of the ingenuity and hard work of the aforementioned RCA talent: many contain pieces of ourselves that we gave to the contributors as we emailed, zoomed, messaged and scribbled in conversation. We sit here now, as they leave our bubble of intimate edits, fully-grown and ready to breathe on their own. It cannot be omitted, when thinking of building relationships and communicating with contributors, the glue that has held each individual team together throughout this process: the ARC Project Manager, Lars Stannard, worked tirelessly to ensure threads that teams created did not unravel and let himself become a proxy for this publication as he tracked-down potential contributors, guest speakers and cohort-community meetings, amongst unending tasks that could never be detailed enough here. Through the Publicity and Distribution Team, we managed to generate and showcase work from those not part of the RCA, or those who are not included in this historic publication: Through social media, such as the ARC instagram handle (@arcmagazine_), they have shared Proxyerotics-inspired works produced by followers of the publication, as well as snippets of workshop productions that have been open to the general public.
If you are one of the lucky ones, reading this Editorial foray into the void via our print supplements, folding and unfolding (and likely folding again) this huge masterpiece, let the paper and ink rub between your fingertips. Let the smell of the press flow up into your senses and breathe in the manifestation of hundreds of hours of collective conception, of the sweat of the our innovative designers William Jacobson and Costas Kalogeropoulos and Art Direction Team, who traversed video-call upon video-call, attempting to balance the impossible rejection of the tautological principle of the excluded-middle (that for any proposition, there is no middle ground- there is only true or false), of Proxyerotics. Lay the paper out flat, place all four side-by-side, dive into the flow of words that battle with your personal assumptions about the space between digital and physical and embrace the many now-invisible layers of Editing Mode and Suggested Comments that we, your Editorial Team, gave to contributors as they waded towards the final version of what you hold in your hands, on your screens, ARC: Proxyerotics.
And so, as we leave you, we encourage you to breathe (in)(out), and to consider how your fingers brush the screen, touch the keyboard or smudge the ink as you explore, embrace and breathe with ARC: Proxyerotics and what we have to offer. We hope you enjoy the journey.
-The Editorial Team