In Living Color

In Living Color

 

words by willow Defebaugh

Photograph by Jeremy Everett

Atmos Volume 07: Prism is finally here. This week’s edition of The Overview looks at the many hues it contains.

“Life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope—a slight change, and all patterns alter.”

Sharon Salzberg

Atmos Volume 07: Prism is finally here. When we started on the issue last spring, we intended to compile stories that felt vibrant and light, after a period of time that felt especially dark and heavy. Our earliest commissions were those related to light and color—a subtle nod to this being our seventh volume, there being seven colors in the spectrum of light. At least, that’s what we thought; in her feature “Over the Rainbow,” Nicola Jones illuminates just how much our categorical notions of color are culturally constructed. 

 

Our hope was for this edition to be an invitation into nuance and dimension. Our world and the problems that plague it are complex. With the rise of cancel culture, it feels increasingly urgent to remind everyone that black-and-white thinking won’t help us solve these issues. This is the subject of “Shades of Gray,” an interview between site editor Daphne Chouliaraki Milner and the legendary Professor Loretta J. Ross, whose lifelong transformative justice work led her to coin the term “call-in culture”: a form of accountability that prioritizes dialogue over cancellation.

 

Recently, I wrote about transcending dualistic thinking. That’s what queerness means to me: a sense of possibility, of imagining new ways of being beyond the norm. That’s why queer ecology has such a prominent place in this issue. In “Miracle Now,” ANOHNI reflects on her visionary art that drew parallels between AIDS and ecocide. Climate director Yessenia Funes’s “The Innocent and the Monstrous” speaks with a generation of queer climate activists about fighting for their rights both to be themselves and to have a livable future.

 

In “Reality Check,” ALOK and Munroe Bergdorf—two global icons in the queer and trans liberation movement—discuss how dangerous ideas of what is “natural” have been used to oppress us. Riley Black takes this notion even deeper in “Uprooting the Tree of Life,” as she delves into how her transition helped her understand that our notions of biological categories are in many cases as constructed as our perception of colors. As Vandana Shiva reminds us in “Biodiversity Is Life,” nature is a sprawling web of diverse, interconnected strands.

 

Of course, all our attempts at seeing this issue and year hued by optimism couldn’t look past the cracks. Who hasn’t felt shattered by the news this year? Extreme weather events, attacks on queer rights and bodily autonomy, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have left an indelible mark on 2022. The last of these is the subject of Ukrainian poet Anastasia Afanasieva’s “New Song of Silence,” scribed alongside Yelena Yemchuk’s visual love letter to her homeland.

 

Which brings us to a singular question that has been on my mind not only throughout the creation of this issue but for the past several years: how do we hold space for a world of so much beauty and so much ugliness, in which we are simultaneously more connected and more divergent than ever before? Danez Smith waxes poetic on this query in “My End of the World,” an exploration of sublimity and who is afforded access to it in apocalyptic times. 

 

I suppose that’s what it means to see the world through a prismatic lens. It requires us to embrace contradiction and multiplicity, to never be afraid of letting new perspectives repattern our own. It’s about accepting that life is a kaleidoscope of every hue imaginable, in shades both light and dark, at once disarmingly fragmented and breathtakingly whole. And in those dazzling shards, we find our humanity reflected back at us—jagged, brilliant, and gleaming with possibility.

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