Tree Abraham’s reflects on her trash collecting from the physical to the digital, which is really just collecting “funny little remnants of the places people have been, those everyday items that we come into contact with and modify, leaving our mark on them”. In the physical form of print, preserving segments that have now become digital, Abraham’s leaves us dyadic fragments in Cyclettes. Read more below.
I’ve always been somewhat of a trash collector. As a child, I would pocket strewn notes from sidewalks, junk mail from the ravine, packaging leftover from torn gifts. I went global in adulthood. My suitcase back from travels was bulky with papers littering foreign streets, exercise books of smudgy school lessons piled in recycling bins, posters peeled off walls, patterned napkins from cafes, sticky labels, ticket stubs, free pamphlets, ephemera left between the pages of library books—funny little remnants of the places people have been, those everyday items that we come into contact with and modify, leaving our mark on them, a collaboration of sorts between a person and a thing. At first glance, print matter might seem flat and dead, but to me it appears like skin cells scraped off a human and smeared on a microscope film.
Print trash is quickly being replaced with digital waste. Collecting detritus has become more difficult. I slide left on an e-mail and my phone archives it (I have never managed to find that archive). I read a post on social media, “bookmark it”, and later discover the post’s been deleted. There is link rot, fuzzy images that refuse to sharpen because their source has ghosted them, old technologies and file types that get made redundant by software and hardware updates—CDs are for cutting up to make disco balls now. Often I can’t remember where I saw something or stored something that impacted me. I might screenshot something in a microsecond, but the pocket it gets filed in is bottomless, a scrapyard of infinite surplus pixels as small as skin cells but without a bed of paper to lay upon.
It is here as both a designer and harvester of the past’s print matter and the future’s digital matter that I find myself wanting the physical book to become a safekeeper of discarded moods and ideas. I want to tell my stories in words alongside iterations of two-dimensional graphic languages that humanity has attempted to use to better connect. I want to stare down at hard evidence revealing the ways we were when we weren’t speaking aloud. It is like the opposite of oral history.
Cyclettes is about the doodle of life. I am attempting to trace where I have been, where I could be going, and whether when I step way way back that path might appear to be a recognizable shape. I write of cycling, both physically and metaphorically. There were many instances where alongside or in lieu of these writings, it felt more intuitive to depict the content through some diagrammatic or visual representation. As I did this, I found vignettes about the physical act of cycling would end up morphing into metaphor and vice versa when sitting near each other. Consciously or unconsciously this creative process allowed patterns to emerge that subtly infer relationships and thematic recurrence that I hope have as much of a propulsive effect on the reader as they had on my thought-ways during the making. So instead of delineating this experience in words, I leave you with dyadic fragments.
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Tree Abraham is a queer Ottawa-born, Brooklyn-based writer, book designer, and maker of things whose design articles have been published in The Author Journal, Literary Hub, Electric Literature, Spine Magazine, and All Lit Up. She has a Bachelor of Social Sciences in International Development and Environmental Sustainability and a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and Illustration. She is a cover designer for publishers across North America, serves as publisher and art director for Canthius, a feminist literary journal, and is an associate art director in-house at Grand Central Publishing. Her authorship experiments with fragmented essays and mixed media visuals. When not working, she can be found travelling to unmarked places, collecting people, and cycling to swimming spots.