Most people who work in magazines hold close to their hearts that one magazine that means near perfection to them personally. With every new proposal or project, one takes that magazine as a standard of measurement to evaluate how his next task is positioned, and how close it is to (or in most cases, how much it digresses from) his initial imagination for the future.
To me, Emergence Magazine is that kind of a magazine.
EM is not yet a classic. Quite the contrary, it is a new project that only began in 2018, and only just published the print edition of its vol. 2 early this year. The first time I picked up the magazine, which takes the imminence of the end of the world as its premise, it drew such intense feelings. It asks questions that I have always longed to ask, that until then I had not the vocabulary to express, and it offers extremely refreshing ways to see the world.
In the opening article “Stone Alphabet”, artist Katie Holden shares her experience in “reading stones” in Manhattan. If one is attentive enough, as he walks around the city he may observe that the face of it is covered in stones of different eras. She has found Triassic stones in the marble of an apartment lobby; and limestones encrusted with bryozoan fossils on the exterior walls of commercial buildings. In her notebook, she drew the stones’ textures, cracks, holes and traces of fossils, as she attempted to listen to the voices of stones. Language is an abbreviation for the world’s readability, she said.
Only by shifting his perspective away from the self does man draw closer to the essence of things.
Emergence Magazine Vol.2 is divided into the 4 themes of language, food, apocalypse and trees. These distinctly different angles connect the keywords of the magazine: Ecology, culture and spirituality.
In the chapter on food, “Dwelling on Earth” studies the source of all food – soil; “Tasting Sunlight” documents Cambodia’s food harvesting tradition; Hmong American writer Lisa Lee Herrick recalls the bizarre eating habits of her family while exploring the family’s mystical past; “Reseeding the Food System” interviews an advocate of Mohawk descent on how she keeps seeds to maintain an intimate relationship with the land.
I began to understand why EM combines a whole year’s articles for publication. Flipping through a magazine bound together in papers of different textures, one discovers that underlying everything is a string of traceable development, like how fungi as perceived by the human eye is but one small part, while their roots join together in a vast network, interacting vigorously in places where the eye cannot reach. What EM tries to do is to open up the way we view the world, to liberate us from structured perspectives.
What appealed to me the most in EM Vol. 2 is the “Apocalypse” chapter.
Apocalypse, the end of the world. This chapter begins with the Australian bushfire as captured by a photographer. So surprisingly sublime was the imagery of destruction. As my favourite article from the magazine quotes from Walter Benjamin, humans are the only species who can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure.
The title of that article is “Beginning with the End”.
In these few years, no doubt a sense of doom encloses us, as though the world really is approaching its end. This “world” that we talk about, however, really refers to a collective consciousness projected and constructed en masse through shared values. This abstract consciousness has never ceased to be destroyed and regenerated since times past. When the destruction of things is inevitable, the real question of significance is perhaps to ask what then is regenerated.
Most people who work in magazines hold close to their hearts that one magazine that means near perfection to them personally. The innovation that Emergence brings is not in form or aesthetics, but in positioning, that is, in the urgent and essential issue of understanding one’s own position in relation to the world.
Life should be a small, intimate and personal piece of work. I jotted down this line out of this whole thick and heavy magazine, but as I was writing this article and trying to locate the original passage for the quote, it was nowhere to be found. Perhaps it was only a projection of my thoughts. Or perhaps not.