I’m writing today to let our fellow readers and writers of Beams and Struts know that we’ll be shutting down publication as of the end of February 2013. It’s a decision that the we came to this past November, but we decided we’d take a couple of months to officially close out the site, giving time to publish a few last remaining articles that were ready to go, and to finish with a few pieces of our own reflecting on the experiment we’ve undertaken together over the last four years (those will be posted at the end of February). We will, however, be paying to keep the site on the web, turning off the comments but leaving access to the huge amount of content that’s been produced by over fifty writers during that time. Our subtitle will be changing for a fourth time, to A Library For Hungry Brains and Thirsty Souls. We’ll also be working on building an archives page for the site, so the content is a little more accessible for future readers who want to peruse the stacks.
The main reason we’ve decided to stop production is that most of the core creators of the site are being pulled away toward the next creative projects of their lives. Beams has always been a substantial amount of work, and as our energy has shifted to other emerging projects it’s become obvious that continuing the site in its current form isn’t possible. I think one of the successes of our experiment together has been how we opened up to where the site itself wanted to go, shifting and changing on the fly on many occasions. TJ’s ongoing mantra at meetings was always, “We can try it out, and if we don’t like, we can change it”. Nothing permanent, everything in motion. What we ended up with spread and grew way beyond any beginning expectations. It also expanded beyond our own capability to contain it on an ongoing volunteer basis. Not a bad problem to have, but one we never came to solve.
I’m personally of two minds when it comes to the closing of the site. On the one hand I like ceasing the collaboration after only a relatively short period of time, as it resonates with a pair of concepts I’ve been inspired by courtesy of the philosophers Deleuze and Guattari. The first is their by now famous concept of the rhizome, modeled after a type of plant that "can shoot out roots, leaves and stems from any point...There is no particular shape it has to take and no particular territory to which it is bound. It can connect from any part of itself to a tree, to the ground, to a fence, to other plants, to itself." A rhizome is always a middle, and it strikes me that this is also true of life, the cosmos and everything in it- nothing is an end, but is rather only a middle point to further and further manifestations of becoming. I think this is an important and dynamic sensibility to operate from, one that opens up the floodgates of creativity and risk, and mitigates against calcification and clinging. Everything is always a middle, Beams included, and there's no point in riding the horse into the ground.
The second is their concept of an assemblage. An assemblage, as I’ve internalized it, is a combination of distinct parts that come together and combine for a period of time to create something together. As D&G put it in their characteristically unusual (yet provocative) language: “In assemblages you find states of things, bodies, various combinations of bodies, hodgepodges; but you also find utterances, modes of expression, and whole regimes of signs”. The power of assemblages is not only the creativity of heterogeneous parts combining together to produce something in common, but also those parts then dis-assembling and taking off down other rhizome shoots to create yet further assemblages. This to me is an important new mode of being-in-the-world in our networked era. Dominant forms of concentrated power- so central to our era- have a hard time dealing with and containing the swarm-like nature of assemblages. So from that perspective something feels right about creating something at a high intensity like Beams for a short period of time and then stopping, dismantling, and looking for new openings and possibilities ripe for creative lines of flight.
Having said that, there’s something about the project that feels incomplete too. According to almost every metric the site is doing better than it ever has; heck, we even just won a bronze metal in the Ninjamatics 2012 Canadian Weblog Awards in the category of General Interest! But it’s not just those kinds of measurables that make me hesitate, but a feeling that something still wants to come out of the site, that some further mutation wants to occur, and I personally feel called to take part in whatever that is. I’ve been in discernment around what this might be or look like for several weeks now, and have swung in a few different directions, but nothing is firm as of now. If anyone reading this has ideas or intuitions regarding what wants to emerge going forward, feel free to contact me via the site, it would be great to hear what the collective intelligence on this one has to say.
Although we’re not quite done yet, on behalf of the core eight of us who created and maintained the site, I want to extend a big thanks for all great writing, comments, input and energy that so many people have contributed over the past four years. The success of Beams has been a truly collective endeavor, and it’s been an honor to have been writing, collaborating and interacting with such a plethora of quality folks at such an interesting time in history. It’s also been a generative experiment in terms of collective practice, and we’ll be sharing some of the things we’ve learned in that area in an 8-Perspectives article to be published in late February.
For now I want to finish with a few different pieces. The first is via one of the many patron saints of Beams and Struts, Bill Hicks. As I wrote in a short piece early on at the site, Hicks came into a few of our lives when we were young and at a new beginning. Hicks had just met his bodily end, but his inspiration has carried on into a series of new middles for us and many others. Here’s one of the last clips he ever recorded.
The second closing piece is a photo montage. It's a series of images I've been collecting (mainly via social media) and putting into a little Beams folder, none of which I've used yet. I feel this sample of images captures a lot of what the core zeitgeist of Beams has been all about.
And lastly, partially in celebration of the Saturday Night Jukebox that we had fun writing for, and partially because it's just a kick ass song with a great message, here's George Harrison's 1970 track Awaiting On You All. Bye for now, and thanks again to all who helped make Beams what it was.
“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been”. - Rainer Maria Rilke