Letter from the Editors

Welcome to Tomorrow

Rachel Rossin. SKINSUITS (Excerpt). Commissioned by the Akron Art Museum. Courtesy of the artist.

Any speculation of the future first requires a bit of retrospection. And so:

We launched Affidavit on the first of November, 2016, at a party held on the set of Melrose Place, relocated to a cavernous Chelsea art space funded by the Austrian energy drink giant Red Bull. The election was a few days off. In many ways the thinking that went into the publication was encapsulated in that night. Conceived on the edge of the largest sociopolitical precipice in our lifetimes—though everyone was sure he would lose—we opted for irreverence. We reached out to writers, curators, and artists, and asked them to throw darts at whatever they wanted. It was a form of culture jamming, to borrow a phrase from an earlier moment, critique from within.

It was also slightly subversive, not only because of the writing we published, which was unbeholden to advertisers or news cycles, but simply because a PR company was behind it. And yet, it served a real purpose. Legacy publications were contracting, or folding entirely. As a one-time contributing editor of Modern Painters, our editor saw this first-hand. With Affidavit, we could give writers freedom, and a dollar a word. So we did.

Over the coming four years we published more than 100 medium to long-form essays from across culture. Sheila Heti, Gary Indiana, Chris Kraus. Andrea Long Chu, Bob Nickas, Brontez Purnell. To name a few. We published one essay at a time, every other week. No two were alike. No two were even similar. What emerged was an archive of the leading voices of our time, individualized, with cohesion only formed in the aggregate, in the aftermath.

It could be viewed as a collection, an idea explored in our penultimate piece, written by Sophie Haigney and published in December 2020. By then we had slowed down commissioning new work: forced, by the pandemic, to put as much as possible on pause.

We always planned to continue Affidavit. And now we are. Kind of.

Welcome to Discovery. A thematic quarterly, Discovery brings together perspectives from different fields to further meaningful discussions relevant to culture in general. Discovery builds upon the ethos of Affidavit—championing individual points of view—by putting those voices in conversation. The voices you’ll find in these issues include those we at Cultural Counsel conspire with, and those we are inspired by. Whereas Affidavit had a strict church-and-state policy when it came to our clients, here we’re bringing everyone to the table. We offer this as a primer for the curious reader, and a resource for cultural professionals.

The theme of our first issue, …of Tomorrow, is intentionally misleading. It plays on the techno-utopianism of future-focused thinking, the urge to move fast and break stuff in a culture that already moves too fast, and in which most things are already broken.

More than that, it emphasizes a temporal truth. The future demands both a past, and a present. Much as I used the first few paragraphs of this letter to explore what led us to this point, the contributors of this issue pivot on the vantage point of Spring 2023 to look back on the recent history of their respective fields, and envision a more just, equitable, and culturally advantageous path forward.

Reporting on the media, Julia Halperin of the Burns Halperin Report, and formerly of Artnet News, breaks down the current state of the art press through a series of fictitious headlines, and the editorial thinking behind them. If you’re wondering why you don’t see more exhibition reviews on a daily basis, you’ll find out why here.

From the dual perspective of artist and educator, Ajay Kurian looks at how the conditions of artistic development have changed over the pandemic, and how new technologies have affected one of the core exchanges of an artist’s life: the studio visit.

Sam Gill, President and CEO of the Doris Duke Foundation, lays out why philanthropies should support the entirety of an artist’s life, instead of just funding specific projects. Here’s the reasoning behind Doris Duke’s $80 million commitment to the performing arts.

Speaking of money, we round out this issue with a state of the union from one of the art world’s main economic drivers: the fair. We reached out to directors of fairs across the world to get their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities on the horizon.

Finally, we’re excited to premiere an artist commission program, done in collaboration with Digital Counsel. On our homepage you’ll find a special work by Rachel Rossin. SKINSUITS explores the Proteus Effect: a strange occurrence within virtual worlds, in which the chosen characteristics of an avatar begin to impact the behavior of the user. Obviously, something to be aware of as we continue to shift our lives toward online realities.

As we celebrated Affidavit on Tuesday, November 1, 2016, we had no idea what would happen seven days later. Let alone seven years. We hope that the writing in this first issue of Discovery will help bring a little clarity, both to how we got here, and to where we’re headed together.


Cultural Counsel