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things 11
winter 1999-2000

Being and Nothingness
One of the most frequently asked questions at things is: what is a thing? We tend to prevaricate, saying that we don't believe in definitions, muttering that there are better, more interesting ways of enquiring about the world. But if pressed, the best answer we've come up with is that, for us, things have to be discrete ­ you have to be able to tell where one thing ends and the next one begins.

Of course, that doesn't mean they have to be there all the time. Like the dimples we have put on our cover. Or their originals, anyway. Now you see them, now you don't (but there are limits to printing technology). Or this brand-new website ­ at When no one's looking at it, it's just a bunch of microscopic pits on a hard drive. It needs you, to call it into existence.

If we did have a definition of things, it would be as broad as possible. We like pretty much every thing. At the moment, we're particularly fond of natural things, and very old things; and very small things, and very big things. Dachshunds and microchips; Marilyn Monroe's faux diamonds and the Berlin Reichstag. It gets more interesting when the categories get confused. Landscape marble, as Peter Davidson writes on page 102, is both natural and very old, but looks like something made by human hand. Information technology becomes biotechnology, as Erkki Kurenniemi argues in his essay on page 57; it's just a matter of scale. 

things is five years old. To celebrate, we have launched this website and redesigned our magazine. And broadened ­ not our self-definition, exactly, but the way we describe ourselves. We used to call ourselves 'a journal of writings about objects, their histories and meanings'. Our new strapline is 'a journal of writings about objects, their pasts, presents and future'.

That's what things is about. That, and everything in between.
Especially when the categories get mixed up.

The future becomes the present, becomes the past, after all.
It's just a question of time.

things 11, winter 1999-2000

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