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Editor’s Note to Issue No. 1

In a museum dedicated to the state of Paraná in the southern Brazilian city Curitiba, I was struck by one of the displays in the chronologically-organized exhibition about the history of the region. Wedged between the part on ancient history showing arrowheads and flora and fauna and the part of the museum that chronicles the arrival of the Europeans from the 17th century onwards, a modest corner was allocated to represent the local indigenous people. There, behind glass stood a display of baskets made by the Guaraní and Kaingang. What struck me was the combination of older baskets yellowed with age with those that are brand new and can be bought from the indigenous people making and selling them in the streets today. In fact, during my visit to Brazil it was hard not to notice the casual omnipresence of these artefacts in every household, used as planters, hampers, a place to keep your keys. Omnipresent and yet not there. What became so apparent through the display in the museum, had in fact been there all along: the way in which we have internalised the idea of the present, of what is modern, contemporary and now, is riddled with contradictions.

At the time, the idea of starting a new magazine had not yet come to mind. But the display in the museum and the contradictions it represented lingered. Specifically, the thought of what it would mean to exhibit such objects within the context of contemporary art in the Netherlands. Would this bring these objects to the present? Establish their right of being? Perhaps, but this gesture would then only reaffirm the way the Western exhibition machine acts as a gatekeeper of validity, as the one being able to establish the relevance for our present, elevating the objects out of oblivion.

Admittedly, this is not a new observation, and yet the issue remains. As cultural institutions and universities are trying to grapple with a present that is much more diverse than the myth they are based on, the problem with the underlying structure stays comfortably in place. The idea of the modern (and equally the contemporary) is a monster that is able to eat all nonconforming voices and spit them out into a seemingly homogeneous discourse that is based on patriarchal, colonial and capitalist ideology. It is a kind of violence that is at the very root of the modern/colonial order, and of what Édouard Glissant pointed at when he observed that ‘the dominant Western conception of universality as a mechanism of ideological conformity turns difference into sameness in order to dominate it.’[1] Without the illusion that this predicament can in any way be overcome within a single project, but rather in an attempt to at least expose or open up the ongoing discourse, the ambitious project that is Errant Journal represents an attempt to address topics from multiple vantage points that do not necessarily come together into a single narrative. In this way Errant aims to share knowledges that are ‘ruled by partial sight and limited voice […] for the sake of the connections and unexpected openings situated knowledges make possible.’ Or, as Donna Haraway also notes, ‘the only way to find a larger vision is to be somewhere in particular.’[2]

As the title of this publication might have hinted those familiar with his work, Errant is motivated by Glissant´s notion of ‘errantry’ that is at the base of his philosophy of the Poetics of Relation in which ‘every identity is extended through a relationship with the Other.’[3] For him, errantry – alluding to both deviance and wandering – is a way of breaking free from the idea of identity based on rootedness and claims of being able to either sum up or possess a totality of knowledge. It is never the goal to know everything, to see something in its totality, rather, a person who is errant ‘challenges and discards the universal – this generalizing edict that summarized the world as something obvious and transparent.’[4] In Errant’s attempt at taking apart the ways in which knowledge is produced, art and other visual forms play an important part in questioning the transparencies and hierarchies that are at the base of the Western epistemological paradigm. The interplay of text and image, of cultural theory and practice, that makes up Errant’s visual form aims to critically investigate the status of the official and standard, of what is knowledge and what is not, and the hierarchies and values by which this is judged. It is for this reason that I am happy to have found a partner in Framer Framed, an Amsterdam-based platform for contemporary art, visual culture, and critical theory & practice. Not only does this collaboration provide exceptionally valuable content through their extended international network and equal investment in emphasizing situated knowledge, but it keeps Errant grounded in a diverse field of cultural practices that informs and conveys theoretical frameworks.

If Errant aims to locate itself in place in order to realize the limitations of its situated knowledge, this first issue wants to start with acknowledging the importance of locating oneself in time, and subsequently question time´s claim to universality. As the example of the representation of the Guaraní and Kaingang clearly illustrates, our notion of what is contemporary is in fact based on a mechanism of exclusion. This mechanism has been analyzed in depth by Johannes Fabian in his now canonical book Time & The Other in which he aptly ascertains that ‘[t]ime, much like language or money, is a carrier of significance, a form through which we define the content of relations between the Self and the Other.’[5] By putting the Other in a different timeframe, the anthropologist, according to Fabian, places herself in a privileged position while diminishing the Other to an inferior status. In other words, to paraphrase George Orwell, we are all contemporary, but some are more contemporary than others.

With this in mind, we can appreciate Rolando Vázquez’s call for the end of the contemporary. Not in an attempt to define yet another ‘post’, another extension disguised as an alternative that does nothing to subvert the modern/colonial order, but as a way ‘to challenge the very constitution of the “contemporary” and its notion of the present as the field of legibility and recognition.’[6] In his article on the politics of time, republished and setting the tone for this issue of Errant, Vázquez establishes the importance of looking at modern notions of time and the role it plays in injustice and violence that keeps being repeated.

Claiming one’s own history and narrative is an important countermeasure, but as A.K. Kaiza found in his research of the manuscripts of the Ugandan historian Ham Mukasa, this narrative can still get lost through unethical translations and transformations by generations of interlocutors. How then can a history be defined apart from its relation to the hegemony of the West, ask Vera Mey and Shona Mei Findlay in their text on the ambiguity of terms such as ‘modern’ and ‘contemporary’ in the context of Southeast Asia. It is why Black Quantum Futurism aims to overcome ‘oppressive linear time constructs’ by combining indigenous African concepts of time with quantum physics, concepts that turn out to be very similar. Other contributors find resistance to modern politics of time by considering the temporality of the body, as Season Butler does in her short story related to women’s rights, or Sophie Hoyle by recounting their personal experiences of time as someone suffering from PTSD. The excerpt from the book Sensing the Past: Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Tasting, and Touching in History by Mark M. Smith about the introduction of the clock in South Africa also focuses our attention on how modernity’s obsession with efficiency and progress constitutes an oppressive measure of control. What does it mean then to literally turn the clock around, as local politicians have done with the clock on the main square of La Paz in Bolivia? For Narda Alvarado this action represents a form of historical and political vindication, as well as a way to question Western dominance.

Throughout this first issue of Errant there are artworks pointing to the contradictions inherent to the denial of coevalness, demonstrated by the work of Remy Jungerman and discussed with Rajkamal Kahlon in relation to her residency at the Weltmuseum in Vienna. Yazan Khalili’s work Landscape of Darkness reminds us what it means if one’s continuity of place and being are constantly disrupted. Perhaps then, as Lara Khaldi offers us in her text on the museum in resistance in relation to Palestine, if time is always controlled by the hegemonic power, the only way to resist this is to rid ourselves of any material construct or archive so we can be without time altogether.

I want to thank all the authors for putting their trust in a project that still needs to take shape, and consequently shaping it with me. Errant is not, nor meant to be, a one-size-fits-all format and with every contribution there is a necessary exchange regarding the different ways of writing and thinking. It is inherent to the challenge of Errant’s intention to contribute to the decolonisation of the ways knowledge is produced through language, art and other disciplines that there will be moments of miscommunication and misunderstanding. I deeply appreciate the patience that was sometimes required in this process, as in this respect there is still much to learn, but so much more to gain.

To conclude, I must state the obvious: starting a magazine is not an easy feat, not least because we live in a time that craves fast entertainment and spectacle, and sometimes only seems to have space for activities that are commercially viable. I am therefore even more thankful to all those who have been supportive of the idea, motivating me in moments when I lost confidence and offering valuable new insights and advice. In these last several months, during which the launch of this first issue had to be postponed, much has changed in the world as the coronavirus has exposed the extreme inequality at the foundation of our societies and has led us into a global outcry for social justice. And although we must resist the urge to frame our current reality as something entirely new, inadvertently denying the long history of resistance that precedes it, I do sincerely hope that the time has come for some long overdue structural changes. Perhaps then, as we have entered a time of reflection on how things are done and could be done differently, Errant can find its own little space to grow.

[1] Eloff, Aragorn. ‘Wandering the shoreline with Édouard Glissant’ New Frame. 7 May 2019. <>.

[2] Haraway, Donna. ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective’ Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, no 13 (Autumn, 1988): p. 590.

[3] Glissant, Édouard. Poetics of Relation. Transl. Betsy Wing. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2010: p. 11. 

[4] Ibid.: p. 20.

[5] Fabian, Johannes. Time & the Other. How Anthropology Makes Its Object. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006: p. xxxvii.

[6] See also: Contemporary&. ‘Decolonial Thinking with Rolando Vázquez. The End of the Contemporary?’ Contemporary&. <>.

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