Fall 2013

Let the Punishment Fit the Crime

Cabinet pays its debt to society

Courtroom sketch by Alexi Worth of the three justices.

As some of you know, one of the events surrounding the release last fall of our anniversary anthology Curiosity and Method: Ten Years of Cabinet Magazine involved our being put—or, more accurately, putting ourselves—on trial. Held before an overflowing crowd at the New York Public Library on 30 January 2013, the public hearing centered on three grave accusations lodged against the magazine: that it is politically irrelevant, that it is aesthetically corrupt, and that it lies. Impassioned arguments for and against our enterprise having been heard, the three distinguished magistrates—Claire Bishop, Hal Foster, and Ben Wizner—pronounced their verdicts: guilty on the first two counts, innocent on the third.

Taking advantage of this extrajudicial space, we would like to signal here our respectful disagreement with this judgment. We consider ourselves guilty, very guilty, of the third charge in ways that indeed occasionally trouble us. But we strongly believe ourselves innocent of the first two charges. A retrial might be in order, were it not for the fact that the justices expressly forbade all future mock trials in the cultural sphere, a decision we are bound to respect.

Fully aware that the justices might offer a perspective at odds with our own, we nevertheless committed to accept whatever judgment and draconian punishment the trio deemed appropriate. To our befuddlement, rather than issue soul-cleansing punitive sanctions, the jurists opted for a “rehabilitative” approach, ordering that the magazine address the error of its ways by publishing in a future issue an aesthetically principled artist’s project (to be selected by Justice Foster, who also moonlights as an editor at the august journal October) and a politically pertinent text drawn from the writings of the Occupy Wall Street movement. We are pleased to satisfy both requirements of our sentence in this issue with the publication of Karen Yama’s project Meat Hook and of “Communiqué #3,” an unsigned text originally published in the September 2012 issue of Tidal, one of the leading organs of the Occupy movement.

We confess that we now find ourselves eager for additional rehabilitation. More art! More politics!

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