ah (interjection)The Fall 2017 cover of Art Papers magazine.
1.“Ah” is an expression of “delight, relief, regret, or contempt,” according to Merriam Webster.

ah (verb) (noun)
If one is very impressed, one might ah, particularly if one is also ooh-ing; bystanders to this activity could be said to have witnessed some “ahs.”

AH (abbreviation)
AH denotes Anno Hejirae, the era used in the Islamic lunar calendar, which begins in Anno Domini 622. On that note, if you add “umm” to ah, you have “Ummah,” an Arabic word for community; prefix it instead with “umr” and you have “Umrah,” an Islamic pilgrimage. Now, add “All.” Ah is a spirituality, too.

As we saw in the last edition of ART PAPERS, AH can stand for “alternate history,” a subgenre of science fiction that has a way of shedding light on contemporary reality (if you want to read more about this topic, you may purchase the issue by emailing Liz via circulation@artpapers.org). In the academic realm, AH may designate “Arts and Humanities” or “Art History,” our natural fields of interest.

Ah (proper noun)
Ah is the title of a work by Young Hae Chang Heavy Industries (YHCHI), an artist duo featured in this Fall 2017 issue of ART PAPERS, which was conceived around the theme of sound—as artists’ field recordings, as graphic renderings, as aural memory or evidence, as spoken language, and of course, as music. Ah (2008/2017) is one of the seven text-based Flash-animated YHCHI videos, characterized by their jazz-infused soundtracks and signature “web 1.0” typeface, that were exhibited at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco as we worked on this edition of the magazine. For YHCHI, Ah is the sound of the tightening of a knot that occurs in the stomach, at the intersection of chagrin, surrender, woe, irony, humanity and misadventure; it is also the syllable of the self saying, I am here and I am sovereign, even though I have been pulled out of line by a man with a badge, again. It is all of the Ah’s above (and below), in one.

ah (interjection)
2. I am told I say “ah” when I realize or begin to understand something; often this comprehension is accompanied by a gesture, of my head or my hand/s.

A cliché endures about the doctor’s office: when you say “ah,” it is because someone is going to put an implement into your mouth and look inside you, so it is a syllable of vulnerability, too. At the same appointment, the doctor may listen to your insides, too—specifically, to your heartbeat. Doing so is called auscultation, a technique that is explored in this issue through poetry and is used as a metaphor for a mode of artistic investigation, in Rayya Badran’s profile of artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan.

“Ah” is something a nurse might say when she finally gets to sit down at the end of the day. It is what Disney’s Little Mermaid sings when she is giving away her ability to speak—the essential sound of the voice, devoid of any content beyond the voice’s register, timbre, color, volume, or appeal. It replaces the space of language with the space of aesthetics. Another cliché is that if you add an “h” or two to “ah,” it becomes something you say after taking a first sip from a cold beverage on a very hot day. Add 60 Hs and you have all 61 of the variants of ah.com owned by the Coca Cola corporation.

If you interrupt “ah” with a “g,” you have “agh”: a frustration, the first half of the word “aghast,” an indication of pain, and perhaps the dominant sound of 2017, a year of collective outcry, derailment, struggle for self-determination, and coercion, but certainly also of revelation.

What have you learned?

Victoria Camblin