Artist & Author

Clearinghouse Publishers: “Making Things Worse”

“Making Things Worse” (2010), issue #3 of “Clearinghouse Publishers” with accompanying letter:

“Dear Subscriber:

If this issue had been named in the style of a song title, it might have been called “Worse (You’re Making Things).” And if Clearinghouse had a motto, it might be: “Ideas are a virus–so let’s spread the word!” Within this installment’s rustic pages are grapplings with the matter of the assumption that culture does and ought to improve the human condition. Whether you are a do-gooder liberal lawyer type trying to use the System or Academia to put in practice your theories of intellectual trickle-down economics; or whether you’re an ignorant, prejudiced Nascar fan wearing the bluest of collars howling for an end to white collars trying to legislate behavior, you indeed have a certain measure of respect for the rational, and for that nocturnal emission of Reason: Progress.

You will doubtless notice the capitalized words. This is one of the subtle tricks used for centuries by magazine editors, German philosophers, and stem cell research scientists as the rhetorical equivalent of standing six inches above you with their clean-shaven mugs and politely, sarcastically declining your invitation to see Kyle Busch race in the Emery Healthcare 500 tonight.

Well, as you’ll see in perusing ‘Making Things Worse: a Journal of the Arts,” we hypocritically and in direct defiance of Reason continue to not only refuse to plug the stream of garbage emitting from the editorial pen as it were, but with this number to aim our cultural septic hose directly at you and your family, as well as at your elderly and incontinent pet, whose shedding and vomiting upon your best furniture and clothing only increase as the years of its miserable longevity wear on.

For we feel it incumbent upon ourselves to attack your high opinion of yourself: we know it’s in there, as much as it is within us. And whether this self-regard be the cause or effect of your hyperactive mentalisms is of no consequence. Just as it is hard to glom, in strolling about the museum, or nodding off in the third act of “Parsifal,” whether the to-ings and fro-ings of humanity’s higher faculties are the symptoms of, or the cure for, a society in decline; so we may remain ever ignorant whether the glazed look on our faces has been cast over the face of the world, mirror-like, resulting in the donut-like land we witness daily; or whether the merciless Design (more Helvetica than Jehovah) of this Age has beaten the fresh, beautiful, childlike faces our mothers gave us into the slack, overleavened dough destined to be ceaselessly underbaked in the 150 degree oven of human endeavor.

May this pamphlet be as bracing as a plunge into the Bay of Fundy in June, and may it stun you for an instant, plucking you from the daily busy-ness, and wash from you the ink of Words and the bluish, saturnine pall of Images. And may you then set it by you, perchance that the Flood should reach your door, that you may wedge it twixt door and jam to keep the Waters out; or mayhaps that, some winter’s eve, you or your offspring are in the path of a chill draft, so you might add it to the fire and thereby warm your flesh to health. But by no means let this rag rot upon a shelf, for you would be better served, should its only employment be to bludgeon your neighbor.

Dan Nelson, editor”

“Making Things Worse” (2010) was issue #3 of Clearinghouse Publishers with accompanying letter. It focused on one aspect of that year’s Open Engagement conference of socially engaged art, whose theme was “Making Things, Making Things Better, Making Things Worse.”