Editorial: Playing Records
Daniel Mudie Cunningham
Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
– John 2:10 (King James Bible)
On many occasions while putting together issue two of Sturgeon I felt like I was experiencing a ‘sophomore slump’ or that music industry myth known as ‘difficult second album syndrome’. Issue one had successfully done the work of proving itself as a new publication in the fast dying stratosphere of print media. So it goes without saying that issue two would be a breeze.
In many ways it was harder. How do you keep the good wine flowing so issue two isn’t a clean skin? I can’t even answer my own question here. Ultimately the process was just as rewarding as the first. But what really kept bugging me were some of the conceptual knots I set about untangling with the bigger picture of Sturgeon. Issue one introduced a retro-futuristic idea of ‘looking to the future through the past’. Issue two aimed to open up a broad range of conversations around the ideas of signposts and language. Commissioned writers and artists were invited to navigate and derail systems of knowledge and meaning in relation to the conundrums of contemporary life, responding to the vital signs and signposts of our age as they materialise in art, language, design and popular culture.
"...the material culture of our everyday is nourished on the detritus of the past..."
Yet in many ways, issue two brought into play that aching nostalgia for the past I experienced with issue one. As threads between articles and artworks manifested, it became overwhelmingly evident how the material culture of our everyday is nourished on the detritus of the past, forever suspended in a perpetual present that loops between signposts of a yesterday that has already experienced tomorrow. As the late Walker Percy writes in the posthumously published collection of essays Signposts in a Strange Land (1991): “The present age is demented. It is possessed by a sense of dislocation, a loss of personal identity, an alternating sentimentality and rage which, in an individual patient, could be characterised as dementia.”
More than two decades later, Percy’s allusion to dementia can be likened to the willing and wilful cultural amnesia lurking behind every unrelenting Facebook or Instagram feed. Through online (sign)posting a cultural past is revisited as a way of embarking on a process of forgetting it all over again. Slide shows become image feeds. Image feeds become slide shows. Second album syndrome becomes a return of the repressed of vinyl for a new generation of album collectors (myself included).
“Why would you print a magazine anyway, have you lost your mind?” a marketing person bluntly asked our advertising coordinator when offered ad space. If I had been on the phone I would have answered her question with one of my own: “Why have I started playing records again?”
Dr Daniel Mudie Cunningham