1. Why Fuzzy?
Why did we decide to focus the first issue of feeeels on a word like “fuzzy?” For one, it sounds like the sort of provocatively unexpected topic an art publication might land on — seemingly innocuous, yet ripe with biting criticism and underlying surprises. And moving past this playful, deliberate misalignment of language and intention, many more fully-rendered and relevant concepts begin to brush against the surface. Just look at the definition of the word itself.
Fuzzy, a descriptor that simultaneously conjures both the adorable and a sort of unsettling disruption, is the type of linguistic contradiction that widens the more time you spend with it. To meditate on the word’s meaning presents some immediate conflicts of interest. On one hand, we might think of the endearing muppets of Jim Henson’s imagined universe, the itchy warmth of Santa Claus’ beard at the local mall, or the gentle touch of a childhood teddy bear you couldn’t fall asleep without. On the other end, equally as viscerally felt, might be the violent blast of an overdriven guitar amplifier, the sharp, harsh edges of a digital image that’s been copied too many times, the furry mold growing on food left in the refrigerator for too long, or the frustratingly low-resolution security footage of an anonymous assailant you’re desperately trying to identify. The very descriptor that can comfort with its pacifying feel-to-the-touch can also conjure something dangerously out of reach, imperceptible to the senses, difficult to discern, and therefore potentially hazardous or harmful: the unknown.
To describe fuzziness is to describe a fraying at the edges, a lack of definition, where details become either so small as to be individually imperceptible or so outsized as to become illegible. The dynamic borders that typify fuzziness might accurately describe our constantly shifting understanding of the world around us. Armed with this interpretation, can our particular political moment be designated as anything other than fuzzy?
Rough-edged fringes take center stage in a world where the easiest way to be noticed might be through provocation, be it physical violence or digital insidiousness. Just look at our commander-in-chief, a master manipulator of crafting his own narrative and inserting it directly into the conversation in short but chaotic bursts. His worldview is just warped enough to fend off reality-based rebuttal. His imagination is so limitless that we cannot fathom it, in turn forcing us to question everything we know. The fringes of reality, meaning the space between possibility and certainty, now encapsulate the entire human experience. Reality has become a moving target — always obscured and just out of reach. Our new narrative is being written by people who don’t know exactly where the line is drawn, and, frankly, aren’t interested in finding it.
We find ourselves at a distinct point in human history — an epoch where what we believe and what we refuse to believe are often trading places — where our reality can be as difficult to accept as anything our imaginations could dream up. feeeels attempts to explore this moment indirectly through the lens of this perceptual bait-and-switch. We explore ideas and experiences that our senses can’t accurately perceive or comprehend: the disparity between traumatic memories of a destructive hurricane and the impossible beauty of plant growth in a recovering Puerto Rico; imagined fur monuments, at once gentle, gargantuan, and heartwarming; the unfair ideal of borders and how their arbitrary definitions create illusory divisions and incite violence; modernist architecture reimagined floor-to-ceiling with the soft comforts of traditional textiles. Our senses can’t always be trusted, but it’s usually a good place to start.
01. Marx, Karl. Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy. Pengiun Classics 1993, quoted in Graeber, David. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. Wiley-Blackwell 1991.