‘X, Y, etc.!’ was a video programme commissioned by Artissima Art Fair
motivated by the methodological project of Charles Fort
(1874–1932), a relentless researcher of paranormal and anomalous phenomena avant la lettre. He made no attempt to present a coherent theory or to endorse the material which he compiled through years of work in the British Museum and New York Public Libraries. Instead, his accounts of uncanny artifacts, unexplained disappearances, objects falling from the sky, etc. comprise a satire of acceptability and belief.
Fort’s skeptical philosophy and his magnitudinous capacity for conjecture and information retrieval could be seen as a prescient analogy for the arch relativity and seeming arbitrariness of search engines and the internet. He trusted in what he termed a hyphenated existence: e.g. “positive-negative”, “hero-villain”, “genuine-bunk”. Hence in ‘X, Y, etc.!’ everything was considered plausible: the banal and the unique, artistic with non-artistic, fact with fake, sincere with insincere, correct with incorrect, and so on. Art was encountered, and artists encountered the world, as a fundamentally unexplained phenomenon.
‘X, Y, etc.!’ participated in Fort
’s universe by presenting a contrary borderland of knowns and unknowns, cynicism and speculation, science and fiction, where everything was anomalous and underdetermined. “It does not matter where we begin”, Fort wrote, “whether with stars, or laws of supply and demand, or frogs, or Bonaparte. One measures a circle beginning anywhere.”
The programme was screened on loop within a specially-built environment. Two video-on-demand consoles were available for visitors to watch films individually.