Faruk Ulay : Beneath the Shadow of Perpetual Defeat  

Is it human nature to perpetually strive to stave off entropy? If you're anything like me, your desk is piled with books and manuscripts, CDs, to-do lists, event reminders, random post-its, unfinished stories, unpaid invoices and notes you wrote to yourself that you no longer remember what they mean. Some of these things you do out of the necessity for survival. Some of these things you're not sure why you compulsively do when you have "better" things to do. Like write these bloggy reviews to help fill the exponentially bulging landfill of 0's and 1's in the world wide web (or for that matter read them). Or linger in the hot shower after you've already shampooed your hair. Or watch college basketball. Or take pictures of clouds or graffitied walls on the way to work. Sometimes it's the things that have the least rationale behind them, that are least helpful to survive, that are the things that keep you living. 

Maybe you live somewhere where you can subsist off nuts and berries and have plenty of time to do what you want (not need). But at least in Manhattan you feel a constant pressure to do things that will pay rent, your tax to occupy space in this city. You live in constant fear of having the rug pulled out from underneath you. All this amidst a collage of billboards, ads, media, etc. that all scream buy me, read me, eat me, fuck me, watch me, listen to me, etc. Everybody has something to say or sell. In this environment, the true appreciation of art is at times like standing on top of an 8000 meter peak after you have worked tirelessly to acclimatize and navigate through the pitfalls of commercialism, bad art, pop music, and fluffy mediocrity. And then when you "get it," there is the realization that you have to get off the mountain. Back through the slushpile to reality. Back to civilization. Back to oxygen. You have to get off the hectic flashy streets of Times Square and into your warm apartment with the data you have gathered to make sense of it.

You try to prioritize your tasks and must-dos and want-to-reads, maybe chronologically, maybe using the I Ching. Maybe you is me. Maybe I am alone in feeling this way. Maybe my need to make sense of entropy is a disorder. May be. But amidst all the proliferating chaos of art and information, every once in a while, something percolates to the top to ease the pain. A tank of fresh oxygen just when you are just about to suffocate from media overload. This something, right now, for me, is Faruk Ulay's Beneath the Shadow of Perpetual Defeat.


There is nothing to "review," really. It is a minimalist "graphic design manifesto" that speaks for itself in not speaking out loud. There are no words, just photos. Ok, not quite true as my better half points out. There are words, but they are easily overlooked as they are hidden with the pages. You'd literally need a knife or scissors to cut open the pages in order to make them legible. To "read" the book would be to vandalize or desecrate it. As it is, Perpetual Defeat is a quantum wave function that has not been collapsed, while simultaneously hinting at the possibility of quantum tunneling. It is a house where jewels have been stashed in the walls, stuccoed over and forgotten (to the conscious mind). The information is there, it just hasn't been "realized." 

The concrete weight of the subtextual words is conveyed through the images. There are no people in the photographs. But there are the telltale signs of human occupation tarnishing what would otherwise be the dull perfection of urban design. Perpetual Defeat defies categorization or analysis. It is so minimalist and quiet that I'm not even sure it is available to the general public. The apparent publisher is Akinnalca, a Turkish architectural design firm that provides minimalist and modularized spatial solutions. Though I'm not sure it is "for sale." And even if you could get a hold of a copy, you couldn't read it as the text is hidden within the pages! 

This Zen parable of Perpetual Defeat appeared in my mailbox a few weeks ago. It appeared amidst a famine low phase of the viscous feast-or-famine cycle of freelancing. When I was struggling to breath in the cold air of the onset of winter. (Not that I am feasting now, but I am somewhat steadily employed). It appeared when I was living in the cold shadows of perpetual defeat. Perhaps that's why these images and the concept of the book appeal to me. These are the overlooked and under-appreciated consequences of our day-to-day habitation. These are the flowering weeds sprouting from the cracks that some see as weeds and others as art. No, these are not even the weeds, but the seeds. Potential energy. These are dreamtime views into the hives we build with unconscious knowledge, that we consciously take for granted as we live within the framework of them. If this is "throwing in the towel," the towel is perpetually hovering, effervescently, gracefully, like the plastic bag in American Beauty, calling out, but never landing, forever in a state of beautiful indeterminancy. 

Some of you may know Faruk Ulay as the editor of Locus Novus. Or a multimedia graphic design wizard that synthesizes text, image, sound and motion. In the recent issue of Locus Novus, he took an old, perhaps otherwise-forgotten-to-the-ether, song of mine and created a Monument out of it. Some of you may know Faruk Ulay as a writer of brilliant minimalist texts, the author of Terra Infirma. Some of you may now know Faruk Ulay as a photographer or anti-matter writer. In concept at least. Not only are his talents endless, but the boundaries between these disciplines are blurred. 

Regardless of the medium, all of his efforts point to a common goal. Not that he is trying to sell you on something or prove anything, to the contrary. His art is quiet and minimalist and selfless. His art exemplifies the human condition within the framework of entropy we exist. His art sticks. His art is for you to discover. These images are canvases to project and liberate your own unconscious thoughts. To critically analyze Beneath the Shadow of Perpetual Defeat would defeat the purpose. 

Beneath the Shadow of Perpetual Defeat is possibly the best "book" I have never read. Now I can get out the razor blade, cut open the pages and actually "read" it. Or I can save it for a rainy day. Or I can just imagine what's inside the pages, beneath the surface.


(c) 2006 by Derek White