he Thing is as the name suggests; it’s a thing, things, and secret things. A pair of black-framed glasses relating to Jonathan Lethem’s novel CHRONIC CITY, a Starlee Kine bamboo cutting board, a blank book by Allora & Calzadilla in which the lace of a single tennis shoe was sewn into the spine. And if you received the fourth thing made by Trisha Donnelly, you’re in on a little secret — what the thing is is known only to subscribers (however, feel free to reveal the secret to me at christy [at] colorcubic [dot] com as I’m excellent at mum’s the word). These are only a few examples of what you might receive with a two-hundred dollar subscription to the quarterly periodical that arrives in the form of an object designed by some known and lesser known artists. The four annual artists are invited exclusively by the editors Jonn Herschend and Will Rogan, and range from writers to artists to public radio producers — and now, actors, too.
The main idea of The Thing is to create a useful object that somehow incorporates text, but whether the object is actually useful is likely up for debate; for example, I’m not quite sure how I’d incorporate a bisected piece of Canadian white ash into my daily life, but I’m sure others might be more imaginative. On the other hand, as a piece of sculpture, I’d enjoy it very much, especially since the angles of the wood were worked out by an astro-particle physicist. (The mention of science and physics always pricks up my ears; dilates my pupils.)
So far, there’ve been ten issues, and the next four prove to be quite interesting. While printed matter is slowly being transfused into digital ink, periodicals like The Thing will probably survive the mass digitization culture (I hope) because it’s a defining tactile experience that, like architecture, requires space, time, context, and some form of utility to understand and appreciate.