Since ancient times, myths have spoken of the how’s and why’s located at the limits of human understanding, designating that place where intellect fails. There, where knowers stop knowing, we story. For this issue, Simulacrum delves into the world of mythological storytelling, resurrecting mythical figures while portraying how these have gone through metamorphoses, their meanings and interpretations transforming through time, shifting shapes.
By tracing the flow of rivers, stories, and rhythms, Anne-Laure Ruffin and Tania Theodorou explore the mythical presence of Mame Coumba Bang, a Senegalese river spirit. Keeping up with the spirits, Beatriz C. Loureiro guides the reader through the Venezuelan barrio and introduces them to the performance rites surrounding the Santos Malandros, or ‘saintly thugs,’ who possess their worshippers. As Isabel Heijne closely reads Two Followers of Cadmus Devoured by a Dragon (1588) by Cornelis van Haarlem, we discover a story not only told by a sequence of events but rather by material, tellings by smears of oil on a piece of canvas.
‘Persephone, Daphne, Antiope, Medusa, Cassandra, Demeter, Leda…’ Désiree Kroep examines the shifting meanings and interpretations of the abundant abduction motif in classical mythology, and stumbles upon the dangerous myth of victim-blaming and the perpetuation of rape culture. Marie Ilse Bourlanges contributes by knitting words together as if they were made from yarn, ‘Stranded’ lets itself be read like a blue and grey knitted sweater during the coldest time of year. Graphic artist Yuri Sato brings us ‘Glossing Tongues,’ in which she explores the different myths and metaphors surrounding disease and the removal of one’s tongue.
Sarah Agerbaek and Daniel Koers follow the vampire from origins to contemporary form while paying close attention to its reflections on contemporary cultural perceptions of female sexuality. Marit Holtrust then shows how, like the vampire, the wxtch has shape-shifted over time: from a symbol of female evil, to an activist, and ultimately to a queer symbol of kinship and resilience. ‘The Witch and the Siren,’ derives from Naomi Collier Broms and Amalia Calderón’s efforts to queer the archive, creating deviant cosmologies. Gender-bending witches are called forth by Nathalie Golde, who resurrects the long forgotten Völva in attempts to break the generational old curse of the patriarchy. We then end this issue with Bodil Schinkel, who explores monstrous minglings and stories of sympoiesis in her reading of Jenny Hval’s Paradise Rot (2018).
Myths, as fictional explorations, stubborn beliefs or unbelievable realities, are entangled with our histories and societies. They are not merely fairy tales, but affect and touch upon the real lives of humans and non-humans alike. With this issue we hope to reconsider the role of myth, not only as stories with historical value but as tools capable of constructing and deconstructing realities. Enjoy.