archive - issue 4

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  • /

    By MJ Turpin
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  • Apartment / Containers

    By Vincent Bezuidenhout
    These diptychs are the start of a series of images I have been working on regarding the visual landscape we choose to surround ourselves
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  • Collage

    By Claudio Parentela
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  • Drag and Snap

    By Leigh-Anne Niehaus
    This series is inspired by the childhood game of "snapdragon", which allows for simplistic and delightful decision-making through random selections of colour and number.
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  • Human/Nature

    By Lydia Anne McCarthy
    This series explores moments between nature and human beings that are at once idealistic and unsettling. Each picture is an independent narrative, but placed
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  • p u n c t u a t i o n

    By Ula Einstein
    Einstein works with a diverse range of media, including drawings and installation with fire, thread, and blades. The series of drawings and installations with
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  • Pretty Babies

    By Peregrine Honig
    With the premise that "/ " presents what is IN and what is OUT, the "Pretty Babies" series explores the fashion industry's well-published and syndicated DOs
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  • River Bank

    By Mario Sughi
    The symbol / is intended initially as a symbol of division. A real or unreal line divides the girl from the water, the girl from
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  • Seasaw

    By Sol Kjøk
    Here, the motif is conceived of as a seesaw (the typo in the title is intended, as this drawing is part of a series
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  • Series Seven Up

    By Noel Fignier
    Text by João Branco Kyron, HipnóticaThe collision is imminent and in the fraction of time left, the eyes shut and the vision is superbly
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  • A battle over samoosas between the snobbish Cinderella and a homeless electrician is mediated by Cinderella's boyfriend JJ. The samoosa battle is conflated with
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  • Untitled

    By Wilhelm Saayman
    This series of images, made using pen and ink, photographs and Photoshop, explore alternate/dream realities.
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  • Let's go there

    By Leigh Le Roux
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  • The space between.

    By Mehita Iqani
    It's a handy little line, the one that we use to make our options known. Either/Or. Paper and ink or binary code? Its clichéd,
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  • /

    By Ruth Barker
    On the QWERTY layout of my computer keyboard, the symbol / appears beside the questioning symbol ?. They are represented together on the same key, and
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  • I returned home after my first year in college to discover my younger sister had turned gorgeous. This was a disappointment, but not an
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  • Forward! Slash!

    By Travis Lyle
    You think you're a forward-thinking kinda person, do you? Lemme be the one to break it to you, sunshine – you're as lame as the
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  • Letter to the Editor

    By Elan Gamaker
    Dear Sir/Madam I should like strenuously to object to the subject matter ("/") of your current issue. It must first be mentioned, however, that it
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  • Butterfly

    By Adriana de Barros
    The pupa, a silk wrap of emotionsIsolated, within breathing, wanting to bethe intense pronoun of selfIt is silly to be one's own pronounShe giggles
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  • Evidence of Life

    By Tamlyn Martin
    Below is an extract from a series of 11 poems created in parallel with visual artworks. 5. Memories laced with visceral realityFlooding herThe gentle
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  • Immigrants

    By Stanley Onjezani Kenani
    you want to livenothing leaveto liveyou swimor like fresh sardinesyou are packedin boatsyou leaveto live.  you leavegold in the belly of Africaoil in
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  • In Between

    By Tania van Schalkwyk
    Raised in an Arabian land of heat, fire and temper,sometimes the calm of England clamps downlike damp in a bathroom with no windowand a
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  • Or: a line drawing

    By Gabeba Baderoon
    Pencil and nothing. Her face turned almost entirely away. Forehead, cheekbone,jaw,the bun low in her neck,shoulderand down,the long linejust enoughthen left alone.
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  • Scissor

    By Charlotte Gait
    There was a time when you and I were connected by iron, acid, vitamin and blood. Where every mouthful I took was with the
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  • Un Hombre Fuerte

    By Tamo Vonarim Written these words are, at times of a subconscious flow – whether they are mine, I don't know. All I know is that I
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  • Unbroken Awareness

    My life is now a floating shellI am a vessel on that river.The storm, the ship, the sea,Whose shores we lost in crossing.  I
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  • Untitled

    By Aryan Kaganof
    /At R550 rand I thought I'd rather die/ My mother: can I trust this woman?/ I thought the Romans were coming, dinkum/ …and always
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    By Sean Hampton-Cole
    Keys. John speaking. 'Lo?Good morning. May I speak to Bob Mitchell please?Bob in Bonds?I'm not really sure. I'm trying to...You want extension 125. This
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  • Wayne Porter, freelance journalist, donned his anthropologist's birthday suit and hit the bowling alley. Bar the bowlers hat tipped gently off centre, the man
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  • The Incised Wound

    By Joanne Hichens
    "Please, for me, Dave," I placed my hand on his, and really, no begging, just asked him nicely, "Lay off the booze tonight." Whether
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  • He had been driving for hours through that unstable, somnambulist night when he fell asleep at the wheel. He awoke with a start and
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Sunday, 25 May 2008 02:00

Letter to the Editor

By  Elan Gamaker
Dear Sir/Madam

I should like strenuously to object to the subject matter ("/") of your current issue.

It must first be mentioned, however, that it has never been the stated policy of my organisation to attempt to block or even hope to demur against publications who from time to time employ the use of certain punctuation marks above others. At the recent joint sitting of our Chamber of Deputies, however, the decision to take action against your publication was carried at 43 votes to six.

A large part of the reason for this overwhelming majority was not just the belief that your particular emphasis on the forward slash was ill timed. We also feel that the encouragement to connote meaning from it represents a callous act whose insensitivity to the history of the backslash represents an ignorance that borders at best on contempt and at worst on incitement.

If I am to afford your editors the benefit of the doubt and assume your decision was a naive error in judgement, allow me at the very least to fill you in on the history of our punctuation mark and the background to our movement.

The first use of the slash was believed to be in 1440, during the printing of Luther's Ninety-Five Theses. Early drafts had printers placing pieces of lead between words (hence the modern use, in desktop publishing, of the term 'leading'). One such printer, the alcoholic philatelist Gunter Hyphen, mistakenly placed such pieces of lead at various angles. This lead to certain words and phrases being misunderstood, such as "amen" instead of "amen", and the more tragic misunderstanding of John 3:16, where readers were not sure whether or not they should perish.1

While the mark was thus considered offensive, the result was a haphazard printing of vertical lines at various angles whose popularity in fact grew. Whence the popularity for the forward slash – and the commensurate hatred for its cousin – developed, it is hard to say. Many ascribed it to a superstition that the backslash was backward leaning, and with the onset of the Reformation it came to symbolise (in common prejudice) regression, paganism and, worse, insurance salesmen.

Violence in this dispute had been simmering for decades, and the Printing Riots of 1512 resulted. While these riots, during which more than 3000 hashes lost their lines, were regrettable, they were thankfully short-lived. But they left a bitter taste in the mouths of even the least recalcitrant printers. These men, mostly of Nordic stock, became determined to worsen an already inflammatory situation. On the Night of the Total Ellipsis, in September 1529, the front door of the houses of rioters in almost every European village was marked with an "at" sign (the punctuation's circular design today is a direct descendant of the painting style employed at the time).

These acts led directly to the largely attritive Vertical Line War of 1555, during which the armies of Cedilla and Ampersand suffered debilitating losses, most notably at the maritime Battle of Exclamation Point in 1557. The Parenthesis Accord of 1564 settled the conflict temporarily, but the subsequent rise to power in 1607 of Loudewyckes the Bracket led to renewed hostilities.

When the Royal houses of Umlaut and Bracket were united through marriage in 1666, many believed this would lead to stability. The opposite proved to be true, as ethnic cleansing of backslashes began. Backslashes were shepherded to forced punctuation camps in which they suffered greatly. Those who were considered to have acute accents were usually spared the worst of the punishment, but those with grave accents were subjected to appalling living conditions and gruelling shifts (and also, on occasion, to control-shifts).

Backslash independence rhetoric was ruthlessly suppressed, and intermarriage with other punctuation marks made illegal. Backslashes were made to undergo humiliating identification tests in public (the existence of a circumflex was considered enough proof), and either forced to wear signs to make them stand out or ordered to walk at an unnatural angle; businesses were shut down.

It was only during the First World War, some 250 years later, that backslash freedom was placed on the table again. Many fled Europe for America, including the noted comedian Question Marx. But while those who could afford to flee enjoyed unprecedented rights in the New World, those who stayed behind found themselves being labelled as scapegoats for the continent's financial woes. They suffered privation, exclusion, abuse and discrimination. Indeed, many were blamed by the West for the Russian Revolution itself, and came to be known as "comma bastards".

While for the latter half of the 20th century backslashes enjoyed a relative respite in oppression, the "final dissolution" of the early 1970s banned the use of backslashes in mathematical equations, a disastrous decision given the new predominance of the information technology sector. Indeed, the decision all but eradicated the backslash altogether.

Numbers began to grow in the mid-1980s, largely thanks to left-handed people no longer being forced to write with their right hands, but it was the onset of the Internet that led to the first "tilde"2 in 1998. This was a direct result of the decision by the W3 Consortium to use forward slashes for computer directories and web addresses. The use of two in the HTML epithet http:// was seen as adding insult to industry.

My organisation rose from the ashes of the first suppressed tilde in 2001, during a summit held in the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Twelve others and I today make up the Committee of Founding Members, with our non-executive Chairman an apostrophe and our Freedom Charter named for Dot Jones, who died tragically in 2002 from semi-colon cancer.

I do hope this letter has helped to highlight to your editorial staff and (should you decide to publish it) your readers the ongoing struggle of the backslash, and thereto the ongoing significance of our movement.

And, naturally, I look forward to seeing a "backslash" issue in the future.

Kind regards
Elan Gamaker
Underscore Secretary

Serving the interest of backslashes for longer than you think.

1 John 3:16 was misprinted thus: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should/not perish, but have eternal life."
2 Tilde translates loosely as "armed uprising".

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