Thursday, October 1, 2009
TORONTO, ON.- The Art Gallery of Ontario has acquired a major new installation by Winnipeg based artist Sarah Anne Johnson, supported by a generous donation from art collector Michael F. B. Nesbitt. House on Fire explores the story of Johnson’s maternal grandmother’s unwitting participation in CIA-funded brainwashing experiments at the Allan Memorial Institute at McGill University in the mid-1950s.
As in her previous work, The Galapagos Project (2007) and Tree Planting (2005), Johnson works in series, switching between media to comprehensively explore her subject matter. House on Fire consists of 13 works on paper (paintings and drawings on photographs and newsprint); 9 bronze sculptures; and a major sculpture in the form of a surreal dollhouse, from which the series takes its title. The AGO is acquiring all of the works listed above.
“House on Fire is a tremendous achievement, significant both in its broad artistic scope and intimate personal vision that grapples with unsettling subject matter,” says David Moos, the AGO’s curator of contemporary art. “The installation joins David Altmejd’s monumental work The Index as a symbol of the AGO’s ongoing commitment to featuring works of defining importance by Canadian contemporary artists.”
Says Johnson, “It is such a thrill to know that the works will remain together and in context as part of the collection of one of Canada’s most important art institutions. I couldn’t be more excited.”
~ more... ~
That’s Vladimir Nabokov on my computer screen, looking both dapper and disheveled. He’s wearing a suit and a multibuttoned vest that scrunches the top of his tie, making it poke out of his shirt like an old-fashioned cravat. Large, lumpish, delicate and black-spectacled, he’s perched on a couch alongside the sleeker, sad-faced Lionel Trilling. Both men are fielding questions from a suave interlocutor with a B-movie mustache. The interview was taped sometime in the late 1950s in what appears to be a faculty club or perhaps a television studio decked out to resemble one. The men are discussing “Lolita.” “I do not . . . I don’t wish to touch hearts,” Nabokov says in his unidentifiable accent. “I don’t even want to affect minds very much. What I really want to produce is that little sob in the spine of the artist-reader.”
Not bad, I think, as I sit staring at the dark granular box on my YouTube screen. In fact, a damned good line to come up with off the cuff. But wait! What’s that Nabokov’s doing with his hands? He’s turning over index cards. He’s glancing at notes. He’s reading. Fluent in three languages, he relies on prefabricated responses to talk about his work. Am I disappointed? I am at first, but then I think: writers don’t have to be brilliant conversationalists; it’s not their job to be smart except, of course, when they write. Hazlitt, that most self-conscious of writers, remarked that he did not see why an author “is bound to talk, any more than he is bound to dance, or ride, or fence better than other people. Reading, study, silence, thought are a bad introduction to loquacity.”
Sounds right to me. Like most writers, I seem to be smarter in print than in person. In fact, I am smarter when I’m writing. I don’t claim this merely because there is usually no one around to observe the false starts and groan-inducing sentences that make a mockery of my presumed intelligence, but because when the work is going well, I’m expressing opinions that I’ve never uttered in conversation and that otherwise might never occur to me. Nor am I the first to have this thought, which, naturally, occurred to me while composing. According to Edgar Allan Poe, writing in Graham’s Magazine, “Some Frenchman — possibly Montaigne — says: ‘People talk about thinking, but for my part I never think except when I sit down to write.” I can’t find these words in my copy of Montaigne, but I agree with the thought, whoever might have formed it. And it’s not because writing helps me to organize my ideas or reveals how I feel about something, but because it actually creates thought or, at least supplies a Petri dish for its genesis.
~ more... ~
Does absurdist literature make you smarter? Giraffe carpet cleaner, it does!
The befuddled tramps in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot are a poetic personification of paralysis. But new research suggests the act of watching them actually does get us somewhere.
Absurdist literature, it appears, stimulates our brains.
That's the conclusion of a study recently published in the journal Psychological Science. Psychologists Travis Proulx of the University of California, Santa Barbara and Steven Heine of the University of British Columbia report our ability to find patterns is stimulated when we are faced with the task of making sense of an absurd tale. What's more, this heightened capability carries over to unrelated tasks.
~ more... ~