“X is for X”
Originally published in Ink, or "V is for Vermilion as Described by Vitruvius": An A to Z of Ink in Architecture
Michelle Fornabai, Ed., 2014
X marks the spot: a weary traveler has arrived. He or she has successfully navigated untold obstacles along the dotted lines of a purloined pirate map. Buried there are treasures too dear to name. By marking the spot on parchment, rock, or earth, X propels a journey across physical and narrative space.
X is anything to everyone. Moonshine, pornography, treasure, Christ, poison—by marking spots, it allows meaning to go unmarked.
X is precious. Its value is measured in the length and sweat it took to get there—the harder we try to reach it, the more valuable it must be. In Stanley Kramer’s 1963 film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Spencer Tracey, Jonathan Winters, Milton Berle, Ethel Merman, Don Knotts, The Three Stooges, and countless others crisscross California in search of a fortune buried beneath “The Big W,” an X so-outsized that it morphs into another letterform.
X is a variable. For Valerie Solanas, X found meaning next to Y. In the SCUM Manifesto, she writes that “[t]he male is a biological accident: the Y (male) gene is an incomplete X (female) gene, that is, it has an incomplete set of chromosomes.”
X is destination, discovery, denouement. It marks the spot, but not the end.