Soapbox: Journal for Cultural Analysis 1.2 “Off the Grid”
Grids govern our landscapes and cityscapes, our paintings and grocery lists, our maps and our borders, both walled and imaginary. They get us our energy and water, they fuel our online social lives, and structure the ways we perceive and move through space. On the one hand, the grid is a representational mode, one of rendering the world under a Euclidean regime of points, lines, and areas. On the other, it is the material infrastructure of utilities, transit routes and architecture. In an increasingly networked control society, data, numbers, and figures are in a constant feedback loop with material reality. Across this material-physical and the cultural-technical – between instantiations of the grid as artistic practice and as the “stuff you can kick” (Lisa Parks 2015) – we find a mess of politics and ideology, corporate and common interest.
For this issue, we encourage thinking ‘Off the Grid’ – calling for papers that envision and/or enact within, outside, through or against systems of perception, matter, energy and space. Papers might explore perspectives against logics that distribute power across concepts and cables, design and tarmac, techniques and technologies. This might mean engaging with what Shannon Mattern calls the “ether and ore” of contemporary urban and rural societies (2017), or it could involve tracing (dis)order in less concrete structures of visuality, spatiality and discourse. Is there a connection between a landscape gridded with pipelines and by modern scientific cartography? Or perhaps a shared logic between a grid of fiber-optics and the data societies it facilitates? To what extent is the grid by its very operation an instrument of national or corporate power – or can it be appropriated for the commons?
Ultimately, going ‘Off the Grid’ might be considered a romantic, futile gesture; a slantwise shift across preordained perspectives; an impossible step outside ideology; or an urgent tactic of resistance. If Western modernity and the grid go hand in hand – as suggested by Rosalind Krauss’ account of modern art’s gravitation towards “flattened, geometricized, ordered” forms (1985) – then what would it mean to challenge, repurpose or reject it? Does the concept still help us to understand the world, or limit expression within it?
For the second issue of Soapbox, a graduate peer-reviewed journal for cultural analysis, we invite young researchers to submit abstracts that critically engage with notions of the ‘Grid’. We encourage submissions that are directed towards, but not limited to, the following themes:
- Modes of resistance or alternatives to the grid as mode of organisation
- The grid as (or as alternative to) network, assemblage, empire and/or entanglement
- Grids at the intersection of cultural geography and cultural analysis
- Infrastructure: infrastructural crises and failures, the edge of infrastructure
- (De)centralised power: the energy commons, democracy and climate crisis
- Cityscapes, urban ecologies and planning
- The rural as ‘off the grid’, against the grid, or as a grid
- Living off the grid: alternative lifestyles and escapism; survivalism and wilderness
- Grids in modern and contemporary art, architecture and design
- Visual (dis)order and film: quadrants, grids and golden ratios in mise-en-scène
- Grids in and as gaming; ‘NPCs’, ‘normies’ and meme culture
- Data, networks and digital traces
Please submit your abstract (max 300 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org by December 1. The full papers (3000-5000 words) are due February 15. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
Soapbox also welcomes texts on any topic, all year-round – send full drafts of 4,000-6,000 words to email@example.com.
Also consider contributing to our website (www.soapboxjournal.com), where a variety of styles and formats is encouraged, including short-form essays, reviews, experimental writing and multimedia. Please get in touch to pitch new ideas or existing projects for us to feature there.