Issue 21


SAND 21: “Archaeology of Water and Air”


This issue marks ten years of SAND and ushers in our “year of archaeology” with new discoveries and excavated favourites from the past decade.



Ivan Akhmetev • Megan Archer • Larry Brown • Casper Cammeraat • billy cancel • Natalie Crick • Carrie Crow • Uttaran Das Gupta • Allison A. deFreese • Tishani Doshi • Mikaël Falke • Ari Feld • David Felix • Steven Fowler • Bradley Garber • Courtney Garvey • Kyriaki Goni • Robin Gow • Jeff Gu • Ellen Joan Harris • Kiên Hoàng Lê • Lucy Jones • Rukmini Kalamangalam • Rachel Karyo • J. Kates • Sinejan Kılıç Buchina • Celestine Krier • Nic Lachance • Fabrice Le Nezet • Yujing Liang • Ba Ling • Laia Llobera i Serra • Javier Lozano Jaén • Inger Wold Lund • Douglas Macdonald • Waverly March • Karla Marrufo Huchim • Zophia McDougal • Ben McNutt • Mateja Meded • Momtaza Mehri • Cole Meyer • Thomas Mixon • Gboyega Odubanjo • Joshua Parker • Vikram Ramakrishnan • Jessica Robinson • Stephanie F. Scholz • Fakoyede Seun • Kyle Snyder • Marcus Speh • Saša Stanišić • Morgan Stokes • Scott Strom • Ambika Thompson • Hsien Min Toh • Dženana Vucic • Amie Robin Weiss • Andrew Wells • Siru Wen • Elvia Wilk • Charlotte Wührer • Lizzy Yarwood

Nude Woman I (detail), Morgan Stokes, 2020

Dimitris Gkikas




To mark a decade of publishing SAND, we are calling 2020 our “year of archaeology” and have filled this issue with a mix of new discoveries and excavated favorites. And in the midst of a pandemic, we’ve gotten to know the pieces even more intimately, seeing them in a surreal light we could not have imagined when we began this issue. 

Archaeology is the study of context. It’s not just about digging up and admiring an elegant sculpture, but about reimagining the vanished context it came from, a day-to-day landscape in which that sculpture made a different kind of sense.  In Jeff Gu’s “The Grieving Emperor,” an editor puts a red pen to a Roman love story. Zophia McDougal humanizes the same empire’s abstract units of measurement. J.M. Parker’s characters visit a Canaanite arch in the crossfire of the Israel-Palestine conflict, juxtaposing the old silenced stones against today’s cacophony. In Singapore, Hsien Min Toh describes a ledger of donations towards funeral expenses, a written record that swallows its wordless grief. However, sometimes in the issue, it seems as if the past also gazes forward from behind us, unapologetically at us, anticipating our present. The poem “Anxiety” foresees our agitation in a storm of thumbnails and nerves – a fragmented, flattened portrait like Morgan Stokes’s evocative cover.  Or, in Siru Wen’s video installation stills, a simultaneous reach back into an intimate, domestic history as well as a foreshadowing of an insular and physically-distanced  present. 

This moment’s solitudes are more collective than ever. We’ve learned overnight that our whole species is linked by a chain of touch and breath. We’ve grown aware of the thousands of extinct viruses whose bodies are still archived in our cells. That connectivity terrifies us, no matter how poetic. We’ve come to think of our personal and global excavation processes as being a bit like trying to understand the ocean by fishing, yanking the fish out of its watery habitat and inspecting it in the open air, as in Vikram Ramakrishnan’s “Eggs”: 

Fish spend their entire lives in water, he said. They live in a medium that we’ll never know. But we can learn from them.

He collected all the jars into his arms and waddled over to the well. He put the jars in the bucket, lowered them into the water and brought the empty jars back up.

You don’t need to be in the same medium your whole life, he said.

Both water and air are transparent, but they’re not neutral. They each filter the light. Who knows what medium – what water, what air – will filter this issue for you?


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