HTV no. 66: The Holy Grail

I served as guest editor of issue no. 66 (November / December 2006) of the bimonthly free Dutch art newspaper HTV. The issue is dedicated to the Holy Grail. Textual and visual contributions by Sven Augustijnen, Bik Van der Pol, Karin Bos, Matti Braun, Jan Dietvorst, Mischa Rakier, Martha Rosler, Aurora Sierraponte, Berend Strik.

From the editorial: “Asking people to contribute to an issue on the Holy Grail may appear like editorial whimsicality at its worst. After all, why should serious writers and artists care about this piece of cultural junk, the property of mass-cultural hacks and marginal loons? The gambit of this edition of the HTV is that the Grail, in spite of its fall from cultural grace, is a privileged sign. Probably invented by Chrétien de Troyes in the late twelfth century, it remained a questionable and tantalizing signifier in search of a fixed meaning; was it a stone, Christ’s cup, or something else? Things only became more muddled when modern authors and Grail seekers attempted to find a material or immaterial referent that would finally provide the sign with a clear identity. In this issue of the HTV, by contrast, writers and artists aim to exploit the latent instability of the Grail sign. The Grail and its legends are excessively vague and formless, endlessly shape-shifting precisely because of incessant attempts to pin it down. […]

"Perhaps Martha Rosler’s appropriated text on “copyleft” might stand for this HTV as a whole. Earlier this year, two of the inventors of the theory that the Grail is really a bloodline sued Da Vinci Code-author Dan Brown for copyright infringement; although Brown won, the policing of “intellectual property” is quickly escalating into a reign of intellectual terror. As important as it is to oppose this regime by advocating and facilitating the free use of texts and images, “copylefting” a charged sign such as the Grail can only be successful when it is turned against its dominant usage and put to a new use. We encourage you to read between the lines.”

My essay for this publication, “Grail for Sale: The Holy Grail in Modern Cultyure, Time and Again” can be found on Go to “current”, then to issue 66 in the archive. The text is part of my research into modern artistic and theoretical approaches to myth and mythology (which will hopefully occupy more of my time in the future); the essay analyses the Grail in the context of Romantic dreams of a “new mythology’, as well as of critical analyses of commodified culture as constituting a relapse into myth.

Top image: Untitled by Matti Braun.