After the bodies of metamorphosis and metaphor follows the body of metastasis.
—Jean Baudrillard, The Ecstasy of Communication
Human error is always a possibility, and in the context of contemporary art, it is by no means relegated to the abstract. Error can be a mistake or intentional. It can be communicative, hypothetical or moral—even linguistic. As a phrase, the title of this issue, False Positives, seems clinical despite its common usage in descriptions of software errors like spam filter dysfunction. The metaphorical portent of the false positive, however, can extend past misdiagnosis and malfunction and into the realm of outright malfeasance.
If artists are the new mystics, as some have long professed, does art have the potential to guide humanity (or at least the art world) through the “widening gyre” of false positives? It’s a pickle, to be sure, and one that may require a top-down reordering of the way we engage both theoretical observations and the art object. Must this be done a posteriori? To pretend that the aforementioned issues have not been discussed for ages, albeit under different circumstances, might itself be a “thought crime.” But admittedly, the meta musings of the original post-structuralist gurus do seem a tad outmoded now that the nanosecond is no longer the stuff of science fiction.
So, where to begin or, rather, how to reenter the battlefield? Do we confront the false positive or negate the true negative? My campaign, with Guest Editorial Contributor Barbara Perea, includes the blatant and the clandestine, the direct and indirect: put the target in our sites and take potshots at it from every angle imaginable. Let the topic create its own path of resistance—or path of least resistance. In this way, it might be possible to determine what is “spam” and what is “ham” without getting our metaphorical hands too dirty. While this sounds reductive (and it is, to an extent) it is also open-ended and optimistic, and has been executed as such.
Anjali Gupta, Editor