You are a Northern Water Snake.
Hero Snake 1

Like other adult Northern Water Snakes, you are just over four feet long. You are active both day and night, and are most often seen basking on rocks, stumps, or brush. Your skin is reddish-brown (though some of your relatives are brown, gray, or black), with dark bands around your neck and dark blotches on your long body.
You live with your family in the brambles beside a culvert on the Ohio banks of Lake Erie, near the Raisin River. You used to live on the banks of the river itself, until construction of a mixed-use development and a parkway on the waterfront drove away your primary source of food: the small fish, frogs, crayfish, and salamanders that live and feed in the shallows. Now you have moved your family to this culvert, built to allow irrigation runoff from soybean fields to drain into the lake. Your new home is comfortable enough, not to mention nearly free of the foxes, snapping turtles, and raccoons who are your natural predators, as they have all been driven out of the area by traffic deaths and the falling water table. Then there was that epidemic of parvoviral enteritis, after the raccoons found their way into the huge supply of desiccating pig meat at a local processing plant.
There is plenty of food here, but it's mostly immature round gobys, the parasite that came to the Great Lakes in the bilge water of Baltic freighters during the post-Soviet Eastern European trade boom. The round gobys' favorite food is zebra mussels, also a bilge-driven parasitic intervention into the local ecology. During their time in Lake Erie, these zebra mussels have become tainted with mercury, a byproduct of steel refineries that are themselves long defunct save for their heavy metal traces. Accordingly, every goby you eat brings into your system its own lifetime accretion of mussel-borne heavy metals, stored in the fish's plentiful body fat.
As you ponder this complex and precarious situation, it becomes clear that your habitat, your environment, your life-world has become dominated by parasites. What is more, you cannot escape the conclusion that the most successful parasite, that parasite of all parasites, is the human being. For years, the cycles of your being were conditioned by warm and cold, day and night, the water and the dry land. The humans seem to have no boundaries, no limits as to where they will go or how they will use what they find there. Under their influence, everything changes, and to respond to these changes you are forced to make a choice. Do you:

Adapt to these radical changes by entering the Human job marketAdapt to these radical changes by seeking an undergraduate degree at a local university. Reject the lure of the Human world, and attempt to adapt to the new environmental realities as a Snake.


Mum & Dad Show

Tom Morton

Dear Tirdad,

Some time ago (perhaps over a beer in London) we discussed the possibility of a project in which art writers would return to a piece of their published writing and correct the things about it that they now found unsatisfactory. This unrealized project has now emerged in somewhat different form in the new online journal you are editing, which, as I understand it, will include curators revisiting a prior exhibition. We’ve talked, I think, about my reluctance regarding the latter. Exhibitions to me are always, and perhaps inevitably, vaguely unsatisfactory on some level or another, but this is at least sometimes for reasons outside of my control: the vicissitudes of space, budget, shipping, the marketing strategy of a host institution, and all the other familiar factors. What interests me is the prospect of participants taking a look at something they are absolutely accountable for, and finding in it something they regret.

My response then, is this: to send you the textual material that accompanied a 2007 exhibition I curated at Cubitt Gallery, London, of work by my mother and father (they are, I should stress for readers new to this show, not at all well known). Of all the writing I’ve produced to accompany my shows, this is in some senses the most regrettable, both professionally and personally. I have had second thoughts about this material, and third and fourth thoughts, too, but then I was never quite sure of it in the first place, although I very much wanted to be so.

With my best wishes as always,



Tom Morton is a writer, contributing editor of frieze and curator at the Hayward Gallery, London. He is also co-curator (with Lisa Lefeuvre) of “British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet.”

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