The door-woman, hip as all hell in hoop earrings, a red-lipped smile and a loose 'fro, aims her permanent marker at my wrist: first she draws a dainty x, then superimposes a perfectly intersecting +. I stop for a moment and contemplate the fresh asterisk marking my skin. How did she know?
Appropriately, I'm just about to enter The Star of Bethnal Green, a venue that, despite its biblical allusions, is about as secular as it gets in the east end of London. The crowd is self-assured and carefully styled. Several women sport half-shaved heads, which, rather than compromising it, accentuates their femininity. A tall, androgynous girl in sequinned briefs, skyscraper stilettos and masses of black eyeliner dominates the dance floor with a series of dramatic moves. A man in a plaid shirt takes a series of photos of a dreadlocked woman dancing with a glowstick. The scene is some kind of neo-punk seamlessly merged with a slightly chic-afrique neo-nineties-funk, underscored by a very addictive, very dirty bassline. A petite blonde with innocent curls is dropping said line, while a voluptuous vocalist with a voice like liquid crystal stands in the middle of the dancefloor with mike cocked, issuing insanely rhythmic expletives:
"Boys, grab your d*cks! Girls grab your t*ts! BOYS! Guuuuurrrrrrlsssss! Make some f*cken noise!"
Behind her, a mural features a military style star painted in neat lines. The lights flare as they spin; the bartenders faces are lit up with flashes of neon as the scene unfolds. Of all the nights that they work, splashing lager and measuring shots, they seem to like this one best of all. A skinny guy wearing a waistcoat and a subtle mohawk pushes past me; I see a star tattooed on his middle finger, between the first and second knuckles. Other punters are marked with felt-tip asterisks like mine, I keep noticing them on hands and wrists among the melee. I am suprised and pleased at the unexpected serendipity. The stars have aligned, so to speak: I've just walked into three-dimensional asterisk-land, days before submissions close for the * issue of ITCH Online. What fun.
The various meta-, sub-, pre- and non-texts arranged here explore every corner and nuance of the intersecting lines (or radiating ticks, as you prefer) of the rather pornographic little symbol that constitutes our theme. As many of the authors and artists point out, the * can represent both the base and the sublime; the footnote and the celestial symbol. It is urbane and flashy, symbolising the big city with its bright lights, but it is also mild and understated – an afterthought, an extra detail, a murmured retort conceived after the opportunity to say it has passed.
Also, poignantly, * seems to speak to a profound sense of personhood – many of the submissions (the visual in particular) focus on faces, personality and the presence (or absence) of loved ones. Perhaps it's something about the elusive twinkle in the eye, the spark of the heart, the dreamy contemplation of understanding the other, that compels this interpretation. I did not know that * spoke to humanness, above all – and for this lesson I am grateful to the many creative minds that have added something to the stellar mix that constitutes this issue. I'm beside myself about it, and I hope that you appreciate it as much as I have enjoyed editing it.
That inked asterisk on my wrist took a couple of days to fade; the flare (and flair) of the creative work of our * issue may have a similar effect.