A collaborative artwork paying writers to remove 30 Words in an age of no remedy.
You are invited to participate in an artwork that intervenes in the language of others—and possibly yours.
Some words create the conditions they describe.
Some words obscure more than they reveal.
Some words circulate as both objective fact and subjective belief.
Can we tell the difference? Together?
For many of the most pressing issues of our time, we already know. We know the risks of climate change and continued wealth inequity. We know the benefits of masks in a pandemic.
But is knowledge persuasive?
In a time of exponential wealth creation, content production, and information access, how do we account for the failure of knowledge, and its myriad methods of declaration and circulation, to deliver remedy or alternatives—even when that knowledge is accurate?
What is the political life of language if knowing confirms emotions but does not produce effect?
What are our terms doing when we claim to know? To what extent do our terms, though appearing objective, create the conditions they describe?
A Structural Crisis in an Emotional Landscape is an artwork that treats language as a site of collective experiment. The work asks writers, in exchange for payment, to remove thirty words, chosen by the artist from up to three of their soon-to-be published texts.
Writers who choose to participate, you will be allowed three words from the list to keep. To receive payment, the remaining twenty-seven words must be removed from qualifying texts that reach publication within one year of the agreement and include a caption citing the project.
Payment is $250 per text with a 500 word count minimum.
What is the social production of what can be said and thought?
What is the social production of what can’t be said and thought?
What does it mean to influence what is said?
So much of what we know is communicated with a relatively small handful of words—words that are asked to perform a great deal of argumentative and rhetorical labor. Though we present our terms as neutral and objective, at what point do our terms shift from describing conditions to creating and maintaining conditions?
What political work are they doing?
Terms belong to and signal communities. Terms bind us to entire terrains, making us less adaptable and less precise. They function as code, creating and maintaining subjects, types of people and groups. We identify allies and enemies by the terms they use and avoid. Certain terms require total adherence with no space for modulation. They seek political dominance as opposed to material outcomes. Often they function to end debate rather than enhance it. Their invocation can offer political escape and defer accountability. Some terms reproduce the conditions they describe, even when trying to transcend them. Terms oversimplify, creating and maintaining binaries. They drive our attention to singular causality rather than overlapping, multiple and contradictory interplays between things. They present theories as universal truths. They obscure changing conditions and leave us with outdated tools and analysis. They maintain a belief that accurate analysis is equal to the political work of constructing remedy. They offer accuracy but no alternative. Certain terms keep us emotionally confirmed but leave us incapable of affecting conditions.
Has the over-production and hyper-circulation of knowledge and our terms to communicate it become a tool to limit remedy and alternatives? Does knowledge and our assumption that it alone can be persuasive lock us in endless feedback loops, closed circuits, and self-fulfilling binaries? If language is reality-shaping, are there terms that entrench us in conditions we seek to transcend? Who benefits from this entrenchment and our age of accumulated inabilities?
As crises mount and remedies appear ever delayed, can our persuasive tools be reoriented to produce effect? Beyond asking if our terms are accurate, can we ask if they do what we think they do? Do we need new terms or to better actualize the political work we expect of them?
The list of thirty words chosen for this artwork were selected between 2020 and 2021 by artist Kenneth Pietrobono who became interested in the ways words function with subjective interest, even when accurate and presented as objective.
In an age of no remedy, do our words help us or hinder us?
The answer is often blurry. The invitation to consider and refrain from use of selected words is proposed as an earnest engagement with the political and affective life of language and an attempt to engage this blurry space collaboratively and in good faith. It is one strategy among many and is not designed as a one-size-fits-all solution, but as a prompt to consider:
- maintain binaries
- end dialogue
- flatten complexity
- lay blame
- allege singular causality
- instigate their own debate
- obscure more than they reveal
- seek political dominance
- require total adherence
- entrench allegiances
- signal more than their definition
- absolve their speaker
- offer political escape
- limit accountability
- present as universal
- assume objectivity
- equate theories as facts
- provide a false sense of accuracy
- produce the opposite of their intent
- reinforce the conditions they name
- generate social capital
- obstruct alternatives
- confirm emotions
- stop us from saying more
- invoke the appearance of remedy
- are accurate but have no effect
- we claim to know
Choose 3 Words To Keep:
- Capital / Capitalist / Capitalism
- Fascist / Fascism
- Nation / National / Nationalist / Nationalism
- Global / Globalizing / Globalization
- Politics / Political / Politician / Politicize
- Social / Socialist / Socialism
- Democracy / Democrat / Democratic
- Republic / Republican
- Conservative / Conservatism
- Progress / Progressive / Progressivism
- Liberal / Liberalism / Neoliberal / Neoliberalism
- Information / Disinformation / Misinformation
- Left / Leftist
- Polar / Polarize / Polarization
- America / American
- Equal / Unequal / Equality / Inequality
- Party / Partisan / Partisanship
- Popular / Populist / Populism
- Race / Racist / Racism
- Elite / Elitist / Elitism
- Class / Classist / Classism
- Vote / Voter
- Elect / Election
A collective experiment for remedy beyond entrenchment:
A Structural Crisis In An Emotional Landscape asks writers, in exchange for payment, to remove thirty words, chosen by the artist, from up to three of their soon-to-be published texts.
Should you choose to participate, you will be allowed three words from the list to keep. To receive payment, the remaining twenty-seven words must be removed from qualifying texts that reach publication within one year of the agreement and include a caption citing the project.
Payment is $250 per text (3 texts maximum each with a 500 word count minimum).
For more information please contact Kenneth Pietrobono at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(AGE OF NO REMEDY)
A STRUCTURAL CRISIS IN AN EMOTIONAL LANDSCAPE
a state in which the needs of a time or group are out of sync with its beliefs;
a discourse which sustains belief but does not meet need;
a time of illegibility in which maintained misalignment between belief and need obstructs collective knowledge and remedy;
a constraint in which the lifespan of an individual is the temporal limit by which remedy can be perceived and measured;
a logic which equates emotional response with the production of remedy;
a strategy in which the beliefs of a time or group are manipulated in order to maintain advantage and limit change;
a displacement in which an inability to affect power informs the emotional need to express power;
a debate which entrenches the terms it seeks to transcend, producing a kind of knowledge which is irrelevant to remedy;
a system in which individual and societal inabilities to endure positions of not-knowing insulate the circulation of power beyond accurate rendering and remedy through the combined misalignment of knowledge, time, need and belief;
a crisis in which reality is indiscernible from belief of reality;
a phrase and artwork for Uncertainty Labs by Kenneth Pietrobono.
A Structural Crisis in an Emotional Landscape is a project by Kenneth Pietrobono for Uncertainty Labs.
Board Members: Imani Jacqueline Brown, Noah Fischer, Ted Kerr, and Leah Pires.
The project is funded with support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and fiscal sponsorship from Fractured Atlas.
For more information please contact Kenneth Pietrobono at email@example.com.
To make a contribution to the artwork please contact Kenneth Pietrobono at firstname.lastname@example.org.