Everything On-line (Digital Publishing Feature)

By Josephine Berry, 10 January 1997

Writing a review of something like everything on-line magazine is a critic's worst nightmare. everything's raison d'être is, in the words of its editor Steve Rushton, an attempt to avoid 'the usual'. "As I enter the gallery, on my right I see..." (time out), or "The crisis in late capitalist culture has heightened the...&c." (Artbore Quarterly)' method of discussing art practice. I would like to both congratulate everything on this enterprise and at the same time attempt to write a review - replete with all the conventions of description, assesment and critique....

everything is a magazine within a network within a multitude of texts within a myriad of networks. Its 'Library of Babel' section, to really err from the rhizomic path of righteousness, forms the centre of this extended narrative network of play, of links and breaks. The postscript elucidates, '...did I ever tell you about the Library of Babel? A library so large that I could never find the book I was looking for. I seem to have spent an infinity in that place, imprisoned by thousands of fascinating digressions'. To elucidate further, everything's Library uses pages scanned from old Penguin paperbacks as the backdrop for 'stories' posing in an array of narrative styles ranging from 50s style thrillers ('The Great Art Conspiracy') to the Hollywood action movies of 1990s ('1001 Good Reasons') in order to fragment the semblance of textual or narrative wholeness and independence evinced by these genres. The players in these narratives discuss the intellectually heavy-weight subjects of cultural and aesthetic theory (the existence of an avant-garde, the cult of the young British artists, middle class attacks on bourgeois hegemony) whilst being held at gun-point by a revolver-toting Humphrey Bogart type, bleeding to death, watching telly or starring in movies along side Tommy Lee Jones and Jamie Lee (Curtis?). In one narrative necklace called 'Cynical Tackle' art talk is parodied and critiqued. One character poignantly remarks, "So much flirting with lumpenness...saying "cunt" is bollocks".

Clicking the 'e' the visitor is readmitted to the soberingly orienting home page. Selecting 'Cranley', the deterritorialised library gives way to the proudly territorial borough; whose logo boasts, "the world is a borough". This imagined community is conveyed through the eyes and words of the local council - the grandiose aspirations and agonising myopia of bureaucratic council schemes are parodied here to a 'T'. Most comically, the results of the spectacular portaloo design contest are presented under its preliminary call for contributions, summoning artists, "to join us in shaping a creative environment which will build the solid foundation for the vision of our children and give them the means to construct the conceptual cathedrals of the future". The child-like mapping and extreme territorial determinism of Cranley, with its footpath and Prometheus Theatre, mock the notion of locale on the net and within our networked present whilst triggering a nostalgia for it. The scattered and browned Penguin leaves of the 'Library of Babel' also inspire a wistfulness for the Dasein of the book - the Penguin paperback being somehow archetypical of reading as a leisure pursuit; the pleasure of reading books. Nostalgia for the past increases awareness of the present - in slipping into reveries of elsewhere we sharply re-encounter the net.

It need hardly be said that everything exercises a high degree of self-reflexivity about its shift from hard copy to on-line form. This self-reflexivity, in critiquing the territorialised/deterritorialised continuum and the tension between linear and lateral paradigms of thought, provide, perhaps paradoxically, a real sense of being on the net. In this respect our relationship to place is obliquely reinserted even if just to witness its own funeral.

Josephine Berry <josie AT>