Justin Pickard

Yielding to the glitches and lag, noise modifying signal as participants slide in and out of sync.

A speculative hyperstition recycling and binding elements of FoAM’s scenarios and prehearsals to explore possible futures and adjacent worlds. See also: The Circle and The Naming

A poet is yelling.

At the start, they joined the regular apero From the Italian, aperitivo, denoting post-work, pre-dinner drinks (and snacks), and the conversation they occasion. from their ageing station wagon, returning from the scrapyard, where they’d sought to divest themselves of plastic sheeting and rotting mattresses, a stratum of waste excavated, from beneath the topsoil, while carving terraces from a rented hillside, to plant more vines. The light-bearing ghosts of future frost candles, a phalanx of flame protecting the plants’ spreading tendrils from the frosted claws of an encroaching cold.

Here and now, a foam of faces, a grid of boxes; call participants gathered and scattered See Dougald Hine, “Gathered and Scattered”. in virtual monastic cells. Wormholes linking split-geode interiors, grottos of nooks and niches, with an invitation to enter; backdrops unpixelated, webcams penetrating the boundary walls of the home. The other participants seem eager, enthused, craning and tilting their laptop screens to weave a common context from this tangle of hallways and kitchen tables. Experiments under way: raw materials, strange costumes, stones and feathers, instruments and equipment in-use. A row of honey jars arranged on a shelf, slight shifts in colour and opacity marking it as a time series. Amber light, glowing from within.

The pandemic is still in full swing. Seasick-queasy amid a proliferation of graphs and dashboards, perhaps this is our common context: new named variants, a visceral sense of the gathering wave, sticky aggregates of human bodies as its medium of propagation. On the role and use of wave-based metaphors during the COVID-19 pandemic, see David S. Jones and Stefan Helmreich, “The Shape of Epidemics”.

Perhaps as a consequence, those gathered have a greater grip on the frailties of the flesh; the fog-wet exhalations of vulnerable, ageing bodies; the challenges of caring for kin and loved ones from afar. Prompts to consider the logic of the techno-fix; home assistants and conversational interfaces, puppeteered tools of remote presence and soft surveillance; all watched over by machines—

Translocal kinship under pandemic conditions; a doing, a practice, social network as fact-finding mission and bulwark against the unknown. We yield to the glitches and lag, a texture of noise modifying the signal, as participants slide in and out of sync. The stylised webcam kabuki of being seen to be listening; exaggerated eyebrows and a theatrical grimace, pulsings of exchange and counter-exchange.

Then: a holler of triumph, cutting across the boxes, spillover from some other situation, interrupting the draft. A metronome bringing us individuals back into alignment. Exultation. Why is was the poet yelling? A successful bid, funding secured for a project taking poetry as pharmacology, stanzas as salve for ailments of body and spirit. A contact high from someone else’s success, ripping between these Zoom-flat squares. Not even part of our apero, but some other lashing-together, a loose coupling running in the background, on tracks parallel to our own.