Welcome to Participation Mystique

The first time we came across the term “participation mystique” was in reading a friend’s copy of Chloe Caldwell’s I’ll Tell You In Person. In the introduction she talks about realizing there was a term for the feeling of losing yourself and becoming completely absorbed in a book, film, etc. to the point where you don’t know where it ends and where you begin. That term is participation mystique. It’s a feeling that goes beyond connection, beyond recognition, and towards the idea of something affixing itself to your soul.


Immediately drawn to the intensity and the universality of that theme, we dissected it and broadened our interpretation: participation mystique as meaning the feeling of the boundary dissolving between you and something else. This affixation onto the soul applies then, not only to cultural objects but to experiences, relationships, friendships, moments, and identity of the self.


During the early months of this issue’s conception, we’d talk for hours about the specifics of Participation Mystique, trying to crack a code and chisel down our vision as if out of marble.  The visual cues that would build Participation Mystique started with rotting peaches, stained precious cloth, lushness of  wet green plants, swollen lips, cuts and scrapes, bodily fluids, elegance and violence, the hot stickiness of nighttime. These images reflected off of and enhanced our conceptual tone for the publication, rooted in ideas about identity boundaries, feeling disassociated or completely absorbed, being a voyeur versus an active participant, the fluidity between borders. It feels very fitting that our first print issue has such a physical theme.


To put together a publication with such a viscerally personal theme required heavy reflection and a mining of the self from our contributors, but we couldn’t have foreseen how deeply they bared themselves to make the work you’ll see in this publication. Our first print issue is truly a tome of personal revelation, a documentation of our contributor’s lovely, harsh, tender, difficult grapplings and diggings into what participation mystique means in relation to themselves. We’re so thankful to every one of them.


All the things we’ve loved most in the world (albums, books, movies) have felt like they were specifically meant for us as individuals. We want you, the owner of this publication, to feel like it is yours. To rub your fingers all over it and gobble it up, put it in pockets and watch your friends flip through it as they walk into your room. To put it on a table with your candles and old gum wrappers, your cut flowers and your cell phone. To cut out pages and stick them on your wall, dog-ear the pages on your favourite parts. Get your blood + guts all over it, your spit, your snacks. The same way that Participation Mystique is about becoming absorbed, we want you to live with it and for it to exist physically with you, tangibly, in that same way.  To use it as a reference guide, to come back to it when you need something to wrap yourself in, something to feel jarred by, infatuated with. At the same time that this publication is filled with contents dealing with the concept of Participation Mystique, we hope you get to experience that phenomena of absorption through reading it.





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If you’d like to be part of the Plasma Dolphin team (for example, if you’d like to contribute something for the next issue), we’d love to hear from you! E-mail us!


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Have a dope day and keep rockin'.