archive - issue 9

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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 else.you 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
    Sun.star.kid: 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

    By TENDAI MWANAKA
    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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  • PATCH

    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

/

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 I can choose between them by pressing shift. / is the standard function, with ? being the shift-induced alternative. This could be represented as //? although that's slightly confusing. Perhaps if x represents / and y represents ? then we could illustrate the relationship on the key as x/y. This would indicate that the single key allows a choice of x or y (/ or ?) but that both could not be used simultaneously.

For in its truest form / is the mark of the binary. In or Out. On or Off. And or Or.

/ is the mark of bifurcation and mutual exclusivity. It is remarkable in its ability to delineate the state of liminal gulf, as / punctuates the non-space (or dual space) between male/female, up/down, or sun/moon.

/'s other literary function of course is to indicate the line breaks in a piece of poetry if reproduced sans original spacing. Here again it stands for division, marking the distinction of space within otherwise blind prose. The absolute nature of /'s position as punctuation's unequivocal divide is accentuated by its usual spoken name of "The Slash"1.

The true term for the diagonal line is virgule but, as well as providing a link with Guns N Roses, the designation of Slash suggests an aggression to /'s role of symbolic barrier. Virgule has no such alternate meanings and, indeed, seems to have been made up only to refer to /. "To slash" is a violent act of division that suggests the machete or broadsword. "To slash" is not just "to cut", but also "to wound".

I looked up "slash" in a standard dictionary. In addition to virgule (or as the dictionary affectionately terms it: "a character used to separate optional items in a list or to express fractions or division") I was provided with the following illumination:

slash vt
  1. to make long deep cuts in something
  2. to cut or attack somebody with the sharp sweeping strokes of a sword, knife, stick, or whip
  3. to greatly reduce or shorten something
  4. to make a slit in fabric or a garment to reveal the lining
  5. to cut bushes and undergrowth from a wooded area
slash n
  1. a sharp sweeping stroke of a sword, knife, stick, or whip
  2. a long deep cut or wound
  3. a slit in fabric or a garment, made to reveal the lining
  4. the debris left after trees have been cut down
Under "Meanings" are listed Cut, Gash, and Reduce.
Under "Synonyms" are listed Cut, Hack, Slice, Gash, Slit, Rip, and (my personal favourite) Lacerate.
"Related Terms" include Slash-and-Burn and Slasher Movie.

Significant to my mind is that each of these definitions and synonyms describes the splitting, often in violent terms, of a unified whole. The verb "to slash" seems to indicate the perforation and division of a previously un-perforated object or surface. The noun "a slash" indicates both the gesture that might perpetrate such a gash, and the resulting injury. It might seem peculiar then that / has become known as The Slash, when its usage is typically, as we have seen, to separate already distinctive binary opposites or mutually exclusive states. In this sense / is closer to being an anti-slash; a joining of two opposing whole units through a single clean stitch. The division marked by legions of textual /s is surely not one of a gored and brutalised One, but of a civilised distinction between Two.

The exception of course is that sometimes / does indicate something of a cleaving, albeit is slightly more complex circumstances. Imagine an academic text that describes the movie Frankenstein. In it, the author describes how The Monster/Karloff performs some action or other. Here / is used to both link the actor and the character he plays and to simultaneously distinguish them. The difference between this and the more binary kinds of definition suggested above is that in the Monster/Karloff example the two states (actor/character) are not mutually exclusive. The same text may refer to film/cinema and again the functional distinction would be the same: the position of / indicates to the reader that the two states are related though distinct phenomena that can be discussed together but should nevertheless not be conflated.

There is no spoken equivalent to /. The mark is purely a written one, which is interesting if we think of the relationship between thought and language. Can we conceive a thought that we have no way of conceptually articulating? It's a very old question, but one to which / allows us to posit an addendum. Does it matter if we can only articulate the thought through writing, rather than speaking? What happens if we don't have a pen?

Perhaps after all, /'s attribution is purely a visual one. The classic diagonal mark most closely resembles the central slit in the masked Zorro's iconic signature, which was indeed always produced using a slash of his swashbuckling sword.

1As well as a Slash, / is also called a Stroke, but that's another story.

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