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An Introduction to Animism

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Where do we set the boundary between self and thing?

The ancient belief in the souls of things rubs uneasily against the rational perspectives that dominate the everyday of modern life. Despite our certainty that objects are just that – things – the idea that they can act upon us persists. Objects have the power to effect change or encourage affinity, sometimes so strongly that they appear to harbour a force within. Yet animism presents such a challenge to our concepts of self and social order that even our unconscious reacts defensively; the Freudian sensation of the uncanny occurs when we encounter something that appears more alive than it ‘should’. So, to consider animism we must question the authority we claim over our surroundings. Are we responsible for animating objects by ascribing human characteristics, or are these traits inherent? Can we separate being from living?  Does our insistence on a boundary help or hinder the way in which we navigate our realities?

Here in issue two our writers massage, bend, test and cross the malleable border around animism by addressing art that urges us towards a place where the strength and sway of imagination causes our certainty to crumble.

Matt Barlow (SA), Madison Bycroft (SA/NED) & Mikala Dwyer (NSW), Peter Ellis (SA), Caitlin Eyre (SA), Elle Freak (SA) & Lisa Slade (SA), Kim Littler (SA), Adelè Sliuzas (SA), Michael Stevenson (NZ/GER) & Jan Verwoert (NED) join the conversation.