Proposition 2: Index
(a.k.a. Index of Maybes)

+ Fifteen National Geographic Magazines (published every May from 1986-2000), index cards (3”x5”), index label cards (3”x5”), glycerol, a stain glass table (39.37”x78.74”), chairs, playfoam, spark colour, borax, glue, wood butter, wood (diameter:  2.2”), copper, metal, a lamp (10.5”x8.6”x14.75”) & audience's participation. Variable dimensions. 2020-2021.

︎︎︎ Click images to read “reindexed” sentences from each National Geographic Magazine. 


I am hesitating to use the word, decolonial, in this short description of my new work, Proposition 2: Index (2020-2021). That being said, the word came and stayed with me throughout the production from December 2020 and November 2021. It may not be too much ambition to use the word in this sense, yet I’m hesitating, and I like myself to be hesitating.

This work brings fifteen sets of hand-stamped sentences reindexed from the every May issue published from 1986 to 2000 National Geographical Magazines. I looked at my action of extracting all mays, mights and might haves from the issues and reformatting them into question sentences that start with “May…” as a decolonial gesture.

However, I also acknowledge that all the sentences are still formulated in English—one of the colonial languages—and that I don’t know how and what this project will return to the spirits and lands that were, are and have been colonized.

So I am indeed hesitating.

The three English auxiliary verbs are used when indefinite ideas are introduced. Significantly, the sentences that contain these verbs are more likely found in articles where non-western countries such as Asia, Africa, and/or native regions are introduced in the magazine. At frequent times in the magazines published up to the new era of the 2000 millennium, these articles depict those cultures of non-western societies similar to how they explore unprecedented climate crises or newly discovered facts about Mars in the publication. This factor draws the underlying perception from the western that mystified and alienated such geo-cultural aspects in the 20 century: non-western regions and countries were treated as unknown geographies whose knowledge and culture were “believed” to be enriched by the knowledge that “provided” by the western.

On 13 March 2018, National Geographic Magazine publicly acknowledged their racist misrepresentation of BIPOC groups in their history. In this official apology, they expressed their apology for the prevailing hierarchy between white people and the “other” races, especially black people. While it is still doubtful whether the magazine has actively modified their “racist history” in their recent issues, these reformulated question sentences in this work stand as a collection of Western traces of colonial and superior eyes oppressing people of different ethnicities and races. They are a series of indexes that counter-question the information, research and knowledge passed down through not only this particular publication but also all prints, media and librarial platforms dominated by western society. The indexes of questions herein turn their authenticity and validation back to the “owner” of the language and the given knowledge, questioning globalization and cultural extractivism by western cultural reading.

- ivetta, 2021

+ Bibliography

Austin, J., and J. Urmson. How to Do Things with Words. Martino Fine Books, 2018.

Eve, Sedwick. Touching Feeling. Duke University Press, 2002.


                            + Installation view

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