and per se and

“&”: a knotty glyph originally derived from the Latin ligature for “et,” meaning “and,” was once considered the 27th letter of the English alphabet. In reading the alphabet, one referred to this curious, pretzel-like emblem in its own right: “x, y, z, and per se and.” Over the years, the concluding phrase mutated just slightly, as if in a slow-motion game of telephone; it got slurred, squeezed into the word “ampersand.” Linguists call this a mondagreen—itself a mondagreen of the phrase “laid him on the green,” from the ballad “The Bonny Earl o’ Moray,” misinterpreted as “Lady Mondagreen.”

The ampersand and the phrase “and per se and,” to which it refers, connect these three distinct projects. It binds them, if only momentarily, in this context. (Yes, all three entities are invested in language—its aesthetic and semantic possibilities, as well as the play between these categorical imperatives.) Yet the “&” also separates, holds them apart. The three, previously unknown to one another, came to my attention in different ways at different times. In turn, I brought them to the attention of Commonwealth & Council in different ways at different times. And, in another turn, I was invited to become “involved” and introduce the artists gathered here: “and per se and” is an umbrella we share.

Among its stated goals “in pursuit of a collective commonwealth,” Commonwealth & Council—an artist-run, not-exactly-not-for-profit-but-not-exactly-profitable space cohabitating in a building with a church, an Alcoholics Anonymous, and the Bob Mizer archive—lists generosity and hospitality. (These are ends, but surely also means.) In addressing its ever-growing, but remarkably tight-knit community, and in the name of inclusion, it unfailingly employs the majestic plural, the royal “we.” In its very name, it also displays a knotty glyph of its own. In this spirit, and with respect to the stated goals of our host, we present Galería Perdida & Fiona Jack & Aram Saroyan. —MNH