The word Island has always held deep emotional resonance for me. I-land. Is-land. A word that conjures summer family vacations in the ’70s, romantic escapes in the ’80s, and the fantasy to disappear and start over somewhere, far away. Always looking for the Island that could change my life. That was pre-pandemic, before an entire year of travel bans, global health control, and the mass destruction of social, sexual, and artistic life. We were stuck, feeling miserable, which suddenly reinforced the appeal of the Island as not simply a dream but as a real option. And, by the way, we are all Islands. Wherever we are, our home is an Island. We are increasingly isolated, yet ultra-connected. We are alone while in permanent contact with each other. Solitude is not a romantic condition anymore; it’s a technological state of mind, the existential form of our increasingly digitalized life. I also wanted to experience firsthand what it means to live and work on an Island, creating this issue mostly from Ibiza with a group of friends and artists. The idea was to experience the Island from the inside, not just as a tourist visiting for a week or two. Not only for my own inspiration, or to escape the stress of cities on permanent high alert, but to approach life from a different perspective. The Island represents a myth, an allegory, and a visual motif. It can be defined more by the fantasy it arouses than by its geography. It’s an “other space,” a margin, an exile, an elsewhere. Thomas More called his Island “Utopia” (“no-place” in Greek), a fictional micro world offering an ideal model. An Island is not only a possible place for isolation, refuge, pleasure, and escape; it’s also a restart pod, a launchpad to the unknown, a secret laboratory for new experiences and sensations. While land affirms identity, stability, conventions, control, and power games, the Island represents openness, movement, transition, transgression, anarchy, clandestinity, and new ideas. Urban spaces are no longer the center of attraction. Living in big cities is no longer even necessary, even for fashion designers and photographers. The pandemic has started to create an artistic diaspora, inciting people to leave crowded communities. Living apart is now not only acceptable but recommended and inspiring, even remotely, deep in nature, high in the mountains, or in the middle of an ocean. Creative encounters might occur in a more profound and perhaps truer and more intimate way. The feeling of exile can lead to forms of creativity beyond the restrictions of cultural conformity. The Island cliché is mostly associated with idyllic pleasure, hedonism, and artistic endeavors (crafts more than art). But Islands can also be regenerative places to develop a new form of underground — one that is unregulated and surprising, but also technological and rooted in deep science. Islands can also be places of resistance, in physical opposition to dominant mainland ideologies. They are places for free thinking, but also for smaller communities of people looking to escape big data, which is permanently taking over our lives and monitoring our decision-making. The appeal of Islands continues to grow as our uniform, disillusioned, and somewhat disoriented technology-dependent societies search for “other spaces,” ones that are disconnected from the ever-expanding Anthropocene. In this issue, it was important to explore all kinds of new possibilities: from transfeminism to sustainable housing, from wild swimming to archipelagic thought, from utopian topics to architecture, and from audacious fashion to the power of painting — with four fearless women artists (Amanda Wall, Elizabeth Glaessner, Miriam Cahn, and Lisa Yuskavage) whose works transport us.
It was also necessary to travel to real Islands, to shoot there, to meet people, and to capture something from this non-continental perspective: from Hong Kong and its nearby Lamma Island to New Zealand, Ibiza, a Swedish Island, and the Island of Naoshima in Japan. Each one is a powerful microcosm, a miniature world reflecting the planet and the human condition.
As many small Islands are threatened by global warming and rising water levels, it is urgent to protect them in order to save ourselves. And in the face of this changing world, what if we were to imagine the world as a vast, diverse archipelago, and to see what the Island can teach us?
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