“This is how my mother... when she wanted the little outboard to come and pick us up… and she would shine this. This was a signal for the boatman to come...and then we used to get on the boat and go.”
Mohini Chandra, Kikau Street, 2016, courtesy of the artist
In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.
Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Del rigor en la ciencia’ (1958)
Jorge Luis Borges’s one-paragraph tale, credited as a quotation from the fictional ‘Suárez Miranda, Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV, Cap. XLV, Lérida, 1658’, is tinged with a certain magic realist/creole-baroque irony. The scattered, tattered precision of this fabulated map is a cognisant of the ‘decolonial abyss’. As a geopolitical device, the map as palimpsest, as fata morgana, as ruination or as scrap, has been addressed variously in the contemporary – in Shilpa Gupta’s hairline drawings, Somnath Hore’s wound scoured paper, Rashid Rana’s mirrored crowds, Nalini Malani and Iftikhar Dadi’s zari cartography, Amar Kanwar’s sentient film-making and Gulammohammed Sheikh’s video/inkjet series Mappa Mundi. Regarding instability and contestation, these practitioners speak across generations for trauma, for peace. The decolonial abyss pertains to a kind of ethico-political potentiality which can help explain, or at least identify, experiences of suffering, socio-political trauma and colonial violence. It also addresses creolisation and its afterlives. Inspired by the mystical figure of the abyss (explored variously in negative theology, German idealism and African Caribbean philosophy), An Yountae raises the question of the decolonial condition. Like Yountae, Walter Mignolo and Juan Díaz, we seek to address here the agency of the imagination now.
This forum was originally launched in relation to the special issue of Third Text on the commemoration of the 1947 Partition of India ['To Draw the Line': Partitions, Dissonance, Art - A Case for South Asia, guest edited by Alice Correia and Natasha Eaton, Third Text 145–146, vol 31, issue 2/3, March/May 2017] and its vexed legacies, but we also invite contributions to do with the de/post-colonial imagination more broadly defined. This might include artworks engaged with the strife of mining communities (eg Bolivian tin, South African diamonds), post-documentary/retro-documentary; ‘ruptured psychogeographies’ (T J Demos); decolonial shamanism; heterotopic worlding and what might be decolonial worlding/world making.
Edouard Glissant and Arjun Appadurai alert us to the agency of the imagination. Modernity At Large might be also thought about in the plural in terms of the potentialities at stake for artistic practice and criticism. Unwieldy and perhaps ‘free’, feral or a’lar, the imagination offers a resource for reassessing the global – cf. Gayatri Spivak and Bhaskar Mukhopadhyay on the subaltern and fabulation. We seek out contributions to do with the notion of the vernacular, the migrant image, eco-failure, ‘being in exodus’ (Giorgio Agamben), cosmopolitics and occupancy.
We are also placing particular emphasis on the poetics and the politics of translation and how this might pertain to the imagination within a postcolonial/decolonial context. Although we encourage submissions in any language, the author must provide an English translation to be published alongside their original language piece.