Excepted from an email from 2006 inviting collaborative help from someone who was not interested.
Here’s what it is:
Mortimer J. Adler created this thing he calls the Synopticon, it’s basically the 102 “Great Ideas”. He contends that every idea there is can be situated cleanly within one of these 102, without there being a compelling need to add a 103rd.
Which is kind of neat, but the real meat (for this project) is this list of 102 ideas, because they’re all abstract nouns, or abstract concepts, anyway, which makes them ripe for interpretation, which to poets means making metaphors.
I’m hooked up with a great bunch of visual poets now (through a range of activitities) so I was thinking it would be a wicked cool, long term, project to put out a call for submissions, maybe monthly or bi-monthly, for work that fits the concept of idea N (where N is one of these 102 Great Ideas).
And work through them all.
So it’d end up with these galleries (102 total/only) of visual poets’ take on each of these concepts. Or visual artists. Or poets, too, it’d be an open type call, but the key determining factor in inclusion would be that the submission be a) good and b) that it fit the exact format restriction (I’m thinking along the lines of a 400×400 px .jpg or something like that–but, it could also be anything that can be dropped into Flash, I suppose–a movie even). I want them all to be exactly the same “frame” so that the design and upkeep can be simple, simple. I want to be able to review the submissions and just drop them in a directory and push a button or two and have them be up. Which is to say, I want to have one look, a shell of a design, that is the same for every idea/issue/call, so that there’s continuity throughout the time it takes to work through them all.
There will probably also be limited bio information too, as in: title, author, author email, author website URL, that kind of thing.
It’s really basically like making a themed monthly magazine that isn’t designed to run forever, it’s designed to run for exactly 102 issues. Period. Ever.
And submissions for any given issue will never really close (until some point a while beyond the last one) on any given issue–if a year from now someone wants to submit to the first issue, they could. And would even be encouraged to do so. It really circumvents a lot of traditional notions of publishing, which I like.
So what I’m looking for is a design that will scale to allow maybe as few as 2 and as many as, oh, gosh, maybe 50(??) pieces per issue, and have navigation that grows as the number of issues grows. I want to release the “great ideas” one at a time, over the course of 102 months or 102 bi-months, rather than list them all as forthcoming. So that aspect of the navigation will need to scale a bit too.
I think I want to call it “Respond” but I’m not sold on that 100%. I don’t want to call it Synopticon, I don’t think, but I may want to reference the history of it somewhere. Ideally, though, I’d want that information to be known as a kind of spoiler–if people want to know, I guess I have to say the ideas aren’t my own, but I don’t want people looking ahead to see what’s coming if I can avoid it. I want it to be a regular and ongoing process of prompt and response–because the whole Big Point is artists responding to these abstract
concepts–which is a) what artists are really good at and b) what other humans turn to artists FOR.
I’d need the design in advance of the first call for submissions, because I need to decide on what the exact file specifications are going to be, and I don’t want to compromise the design decisions by making up some random set of specs that have to be designed around. I have the ability (and I want to exercise this ability for ease of administration) to dictate file type and size in absolute uncompromising terms, but have no particular prior preference for any given size or aspect ratio or anything like that. I’m guessing a thumbnails and pop-up full-sized images is a workable concept, but if there’s some other schema that makes more sense I’m totally open to anything that looks good and is easy to admin once it’s built.
Does this sound like something you’d be interested in? What I’m proposing is that if you can design it and host it, I’ll do all the editorial and promotion work and the upkeep. Once the design and interface are in place, it should be a really low-impact project for us both, relatively speaking–a lot of bang for the effort-buck.
I genuinely believe this can be a hugely successful project. Like, cover story international coverage successful. It is calling vispo to do what it does best, and calling on all kinds of artists to give
people what people want from them–help in understanding these great abstract ideas. And the web is the perfect place for it. And the publishing innovation of every issue remaining open keeps it from
getting stale, and will allow momentum to grow in really exciting ways.