The Underground

During a Sunday afternoon on a trip to the Whitney Museum in New York, we stopped in front of a painting called “Pittsburgh”. The picture wasn’t colourful nor alluring, but the feelings it unearthed were novel and felt important. The steel mill depicted was dark, smokey, and reminiscent of the industrial boom of the early 20th century. Industrialization, at its essence, was a response to wealth, growth, and prosperity. A need grew to manufacture goods at scale to service the desires of a thriving economy. As new information revealed itself, we saw the dark cloud of environmental destruction, consumerism, and a burdened (often silenced) labor force come with an industrialized society, which felt captured within the painting. Its somber hues carried a human story. We realized that what we cherish in our contemporary worlds has a direct relationship with the darkness that lies beneath them. “Pittsburgh” left us the inspiration for The Underground Magazine, the light to see the tragic beauty that exists in the dark.

Defining what “the underground’ meant to us brought us on a literal journey under the ground. The concepts offered themselves in ideas as much as they did in physical space. In space, we experienced soil, the subway system, and a network of tunnels, for example, and the damp textures, the musty smells, and the hanging darkness that accompanied them. The ideas presented themselves as dualities of mainstream and underground cultures, the living and the dead, safety and danger, ignorance and knowledge–dichotomies real and imagined. Combing through the contradictions, though, showed us that not only are these realities we hold at different points in our lives, but they become real because of their opposites. The voyage through The Underground realizes an essential quality of our humanity, the experience of contradiction and ambivalence.

What’s more, these tensions are the very ones that hold the fabric of society together. During the Covid-19 Pandemic, we arrived face-to-face with our shared depravity. We saw the quick unraveling of our social systems built through and rooted in disparity. A world that draws lines between the haves and have-nots at its best leaves everyone vulnerable and, at its worst, destroys itself. There is a profound cost for everyone when the same honour and dignity we find the mainstream commands are not present in the experiences of those who live underground, those that live within the margins of society.

Social stratification has well-defined categories. We found these within both the elaborate macro structures and the micro everyday encounters of ordinary people like you and me. For example, we relegate queer-identifying, indigenous, or non-conventional communities to “sub-culture” labels. As if they must answer to or exist underneath a “mainstream”. More concretely, our lives are beholden to mining fossil fuels and agricultural practices that are not sustainable and cause lasting environmental damage, and whose spoils are not distributed equitably.

It appears we have a penchant for both exploiting and ignoring The Underground. We come to understand here, as always, that protecting the status quo maintains these dichotomies, and when we dare to zoom out of the differences, the core qualities of the human condition are all that remain.

We hope then The Underground, our third magazine, takes you on a similar journey. In this piece, we navigate through the tunnels of a metaphorical subways system. Through this ride, you’ll look at The Underground through movement and motion, what it means to transverse life below the surface and to rise. You’ll then see The Underground through the lens of surface appearance, hidden thoughts, and emotions. Finally, we find ourselves in underground culture in its many contours and vectors. We hope that the intentional arrangement of moments in this piece empowers you to see that your Darkside is the very foundation of the light in your life.

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by etre | Featured Image by Shauna Curran

etre

We are a creative hub urging you to fall in love with the fullness of who you are, a platform for introspection through all types of artistry. In essence, then, we press towards capturing the shared experience of the human condition with the appropriate blend of charm and raw honesty, offering ourselves and our subscribers a new way to conceive of and appreciate the richness of life, including even its tragedies.