Linda Castellani (castle) Sun 9 Apr 00 01:46
A question from Jasna via the Internet: From email@example.com Sun Apr 9 01:43:59 2000 Date: Fri, 7 Apr 2000 20:01:33 -0400 From: Jasna <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: a question for Nick Bantock [ Part 1, Text/PLAIN (charset: ISO-8859-1 "Latin 1") 23 lines. ] [ Unable to print this part. ] [ The following text is in the "iso-8859-1" character set. ] [ Your display is set for the "US-ASCII" character set. ] [ Some characters may be displayed incorrectly. ] Dear hosts, I've been reading the conversation between Nick Bantock and Linda and I was wondering if Linda would mind if I asked a question? Today I finished an essay for my postmodernism class on "The Deconstructive Reading of the Griffin and Sabine Trilogy" which sounds grand, but it means that I got to have fun with three of my favourite books. : ) What I'd like to ask Mr. Bantock is does he agree with the opinion of a reviewer from Globe and mail who thinks that Victor Frolatti is a fiction of Sabine's designed to spur Griffin along? I'm sorry that I can't contribute to the discussion on The Museum because I read it a long time ago, and I only remember little things about it. I hope to be able to jump in once you get to The Venetian's Wife because that book was one of the more interesting and inspiring pieces of writing that I've been fortunate enough to come across. Thank you! Jasna Maksimovic, Toronto
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Sun 9 Apr 00 20:22
Jasna I make a habit of avoiding any definative answers about G and S, but let me chuck out some possibilities. If Sabine is an invention of Griffin, then so must Frolatti. If Griffin is an invention of Sabine, then she quite probably contrived Frolatti. If they are both real then either could have invented F for their own purposes. If F is real, then he is clearly a threat. But what kind of threat? He wants to read their letters, but isn't that something we, the readers, are doing already. Why do we object to him? Is he a construct of our voyeristic guilt? OR Is it because he's the outside force--transplanting Griffin's fear and doubts, and thus becoming an external threat. Maybe the dark-angel (madness or love) that Griffin fears, transorms and becomes manifest in an individual who represents an erosion of intimacy. OR Maybe, F is all of these and more... Only a year and a half's wait to find out. Thanks N
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Mon 10 Apr 00 11:27
Nick, you mention that you have created all the artworks and artifacts that you attribute to the characters in your books, a concept I find fascinating. The concept also raises some questions for me, but the questions are extremely broad-based, so bear with me... You've gone to great lengths to create objects that, when put together, tell a story about a fictional character's life. You have put tremendous talent and energy into making the items appear entirely legitimate (as in "real"), down to the cancellation marks on post cards and so forth. I have a friend in Hawaii who does super-realist watercolors of Hawaiiana http://www.well.com/user/peoples/ckc1.jpg for an example... The watercolor you'll see if you look at that URL reminds me of those old childhood readers. On the cover was a picture of Dick and Jane reading a reader. On the reader they're reading, there's a picture of Dick and Jane, reading an even smaller reader on the cover of which is a picture of Dick and Jane reading a teeny tiny reader with a picture of Dick and Jane... ad nauseum. The way my friend creates her stuff: She finds an object (or objects) of Hawaiiana she wants to paint. She arranges the pieces into a still life, then takes a photo of them. Then she recreates the photo in watercolor, so precisely that it looks just like the photo. Then the watercolor is photographed so she can send me a .jpg of her latest work. This is very convoluted, the snake swallowing its own tail, sort of. I've got a .jpg of a photo of a painting of a photo of a still life. Whew! I know another artist who used to take old, raggedy-ass found objects and combine them into scultures for gallery shows. Later, he began creating objects that *looked* like raggedy-ass found objects and combining these into sculptures for gallery shows. The attention to detail is fascinating, the objects he creates are faded and distressed, chipped and mangled, they look like they came from a hay loft in a leaky Maine barn, and the way he combines the objects is wonderful. So what's my question? I'm still struggling with it. Nick, you spend large amounts of time crating artifacts for you books. These items look like they might have turned up in the collection of papers of some old dead person whose estate is up for auction. Instead of inventing these items for your book you could have scoured rummage sales and flea markets and found material you could have assembled for your stories. Is is the art in the *creation* of these invented artifacts? If instead of making your own artfacts you'd found onces that you compiled into a story, would it still be art? Is it art of it is more convoluted or less?
Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 10 Apr 00 16:44
Cynthia's question seems to dovetail nicely with my next question: The objects in the museum *must* exist - there are photographs of them in the book! How is this possible? How did you do that?
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Mon 10 Apr 00 17:05
Cynthia Your question is multi-headed and it would be only too easy to get sucked into a multi-tailed response, but instead I'm going to go for the straightest answer I can.(See Jasna, I don't tie everything into knots). First the photo realism. I think it's a very different issue related to perception within the bouneries of fine art.'For me' that's a dead end street, but I wouldn't presume to judge for others. The second artist, and his raggedy-ass stuff, sounds much more to my liking. I imagine he's attempting to build a bridge backwards, before travelling over it to the present--that's an interesting journey. Why don't I scour the flea markets? But I do. And the things I find, teach and inspire me and often become absorbed and integrated into the things I make. Sometimes I simply tweek and tamper to get them to go the way I need. Sometimes I turn them inside out and only their essence remains. Why don't I use them exactly as they are? Because then I would have to write the story around them and that's not the way to build a marriage of words and images (it would be no more of a union than just illustating text is). I work with words and images together, they re-act to each others creation, slowly forming the narative. I'm not trying to make 'art', nor am I trying to write literature. I'm attempting another path. Try to think of these books as a totality, one world not two. Then you'll see what I'm trying to achieve, and why I re-invent artifacts that never were.
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Mon 10 Apr 00 17:41
Linda Having found-made the objects, I spent a couple of months overseeing the photography. It was a painstaking process, because the lighting had to be perfect in order to give the whole book continuity. We shot didgitally because I wanted to be able to unify the backgrounds. However, as tempting as it was, I didn't want to use photoshop to alter the objects themselves because that would have tainted them with a different kind of atmosphere. The background cleaning also helped create other realities. For example: The angel essence was achieved by photographing old bottles in front of hard lit sections of my paintings. These pictures glowed through the glass, and when we digitally wiped out the surrounds, only the area of painting directly behind the bottle showed. Thus making it look like lights were actually inside the bottles. There was of course some motive behind this and all the other tamperings. And if you read the spinning-top chapter, you'll see that Levant and I were playing the same game. Believing that we were making mischief for a good reason.
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Tue 11 Apr 00 08:47
Cynthia I've been thinking. I sense you were really asking for some clarity about art in general. What is art? If the artist says its art, then is it? Big stuff! OK. Here's my take on the subject. Like the word 'love' confusion comes because we try and make 'art' mean too many things. As though it were an all or nothing definition. I'm inclined to think of art as a presence. In some paintings a lot of it exists, in others there's next to nothing (and every shade in between). Everyone views things differently--how centered you are and how long you've spent learning to see also become part of the equasion. And so does mood and timing. eg. I never really related to Mark Rothko's paintings until the day I stepped into the exhibit of giant maroon paintings in the Tate gallery--then I got it in spades. They drove straight passed my interlect and right into my guts. Do I think there's bad art? Absolutely.Tto my mind, if you can have a bum note in music, why shouldn't the be a bum mark in art? Mediocrity, predictability they make lousy music. The same things make bad art. What do I want from art? Monumentality-humanity, compasion-an edge, enchantment-clarity, timelessness-presence. The full oximoronic spectrum...nothing less. Why settle for third rate decoration or someones ego dressed in the Emperors new cloths.
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 11 Apr 00 12:06
Here's a question from novei on the Internet: From firstname.lastname@example.org Tue Apr 11 12:04:18 2000 Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 15:10:00 -0300 From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory" Hi there! I just found out about this event , and I feel a little like "freeform" to enter into this conversation, after seeing such inteligent questions (and answers), but I couldn't miss this chance. I read all the messages until now, and I have some comments on them: (pls forgive my English if there are too many mistakes....I'm at work, and I can make some confusion....) - Ceremony of Innocence - I think I was the first Brazilian to have this CDRom (and I have it for a long time) and I'm still amazed at the fact that most people, even in the US, doesn't know about it. My question is: Was there some kind of advertisement/publicity on the release of this CDR, or it was not a concern when it was made?! I don't understnad why it has not become a huge success as the books did... - G&S Movie? - I agree with Hey-Jannie that a conventional movie wouldn't be the best choice for a work as G&S. Maybe something like the CDR.....The movie should involve the viewers as the CDR does, and should be a feast of images and sounds, instead of a movie with characters playing their roles....
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 11 Apr 00 12:17
I agree with everything novei says!! My CD-ROM arrived. I spent the weekend playing with it. It is gorgeous, inventive, creative. Filled with amazing art, fabulous animation, wonderful visual details and lovely music and perfect sound effects. Yet...nobody knows about it. What a huge shame. Before we get too far afield, I want to post an image here. This is an example of what Nick was talking about when he described how he created the angel essences for _Museum at Purgatory_. Picospan readers, launch your browsers! <img src="http://www.well.com/user/castle/Angel.gif"> Remember, these bottles are NOT lit from within...
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 11 Apr 00 12:35
(thanks for the elaboration, Nick)
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Tue 11 Apr 00 13:50
Hi Novei Ceremony of Innocence: There was no advertising to speak of. Peter and Real World spent so much money on the construction, that by the time it was finished and the market place for CD ROM's in general had shrunk, they just couldn't bring themselves to spend another pile of cash on advertsing. Then all the big distributors said it wasn't their kind of thing--meaning they were more concered with feeding the audience they already had (electric mayhem), than trying to grow a new one. "If women and snags bought more CD ROM's it might be different". Their words not mine. It's just one of those things. If it had got past the crest of public awareness via word of mouth (like the books) it might well have snowballed, but it didn't. To my knowledge there's nothing else out there like it, so who can tell, maybe one day it will rise up like the phoenix.
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 11 Apr 00 18:09
We can only hope! Back to Museum for a bit... In "Museum" you have developed a very complex theory of the afterlife. In addition to Purgatory, you refer to the other states to which it is possible to move on, called Utopias and Dystopias, each with 12 levels. In fact, there is a diagram of them: Dystopias: Inferno, Satanic Mills, Terminus, Hell, Naraka, Styx, Orcus, Pandemonium, Mordor, Nastrond, Hades, Amenti. Utopias: Eden, Shangri-La, Fiddler's Green, Falak al Aflak, Heaven, Avalon, Elderado, Capolan, Nirvana, New Jerusalem, Valhallah. I recognize some of these, of course, but not others. Which levels are your constructs? Can you give us an idea of how each level differs from the others? For example, what's the difference between you view of Hell and Hades, or between Heaven and Valhallah? Is there any significance to the fact that the diagram shows these states side by side, not one on top of the other, like you might expect?
Richard Evans (rje) Wed 12 Apr 00 05:32
I'm just going to break in with a quick question relating to an earlier point and a quick compliment- we'll do the compliment thing first, if that's OK- you're books are not only delightful in the extreme but their various words and images exhibit that wonderfully annoying tendency to leap to the fore brain at all kinds of odd moments, such as while shopping or changing nappies, which for me is a sign that a particular artist has hit a home run in terms of engaging the imagination of another. My question, on the other hand, relates to reproduction. Earlier you mentioned that you had exhibited some early paintings in commercial galleries but had become disenchanted- when you started doing the mock up pages for the first Griffith and Sabine book were you tempted to do the limited edition artbook thing or did you conceive of them as a kind of variation on the book in the sense of mass market multiples? Also do you consider memory to be another form of reproduction?
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Wed 12 Apr 00 06:45
Richard No I didn't consider the limited edition thing back when I did the G and S dummy . I wasn't even thinking seriously about mass market. I liked the idea of it being seen in a non-elitist way but I couldn't quite get my head round the idea of my book-art-hybrid being something anyone else would care too much about. You know what it's like when you meet someone and your really attracted to them but you're too close or needy to see if they're interested in you. Then later your friends say, of course she was, she was putting out all the signs. But you were just too close to your own self doubts to read what was obvious to others. That's what it was like with G and S. I was passionate about the book, butI didn't know what 'it' thought about me. Do I consider memory a form of reproduction? No, I don't think so. For two reasons. Memory is far from constant, like truth it depends which direction you come at it from. And secondly, the statement resinates of conceptualism, an artform I lump together with 60's phrases like ,"Sorry man, I coundn't get it together." Any Conceptualists tuned in please forgive my rudeness, but I'm afraid I lost my cloak of innocence when I read Tom Wolfe's 'The Painted Word.' I thought a lot about memory (and the lack of it) when I was working on The Museum at P. and I came to the conclusion that it was so wrapped up in sense of self as to be at leat 50% unreliable.
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 12 Apr 00 13:48
From Christina on the Internet: From email@example.com Wed Apr 12 13:47:07 2000 Date: 11 Apr 00 23:30:45 EDT From: Christina Creech <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Hello Mr. Bantock I have read most of your adult fiction numerous times and I couldn't help but wonder if you had ever published anything with a private press? Your work is so textural, I can easily imagine it done on handmade paper, letterpress, in a great hand binding. Thanks for giving me hours of enjoyment!
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Wed 12 Apr 00 17:17
Linda Unlike Dante these are not levels, they're individual worlds. The map shows them floating freeform. Like any static astro map the conjunctions are in a constant state of change. Some of the Utopias and Dystopias are well recorded else where, the otheres are more difficult to locatate historically and geographically, but they are all very real--somewhere. Christine No, Ive never done anything private press though I think it might be fun at some point to work a little closer to the edges and on fine paper. One day I might do something erotic and then I'd have to decide if I wanted to make it limited edition or frighten off mye more delicate readers.
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 12 Apr 00 23:42
The more questions I ask, the more mysterious it seems to get. There is a tantalizing glimpse into one of the levels of Utopia, Falak al Aflak, in the Cavarn room, populated by Archelo Bora Cavarn's collection of miniature mummies. At the end of the section about her, you say that she went from Purgatory to Falak al Aflak, "where excavations into the future were already underway." Excavations into the future?!
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Thu 13 Apr 00 14:00
The future is different for everyone (obviously) for Cavarn the future had been troubling since her childhood (reason to follow*). When she got to Falak al Aflak she met with Howard Carter (of King Tut fame) who had also been so preoccupied with looking backwards that he was obliged to dig forward in order to readress the balance. *One day, overhearing her mother in the conservatory, tearfully lamentingthe death of the fuchsia, Cavarn thought she understood her parent to be saying, "The future is dead." And from that casual confusion she concluded that she had better stick to the past, which was no doubt still alive.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 13 Apr 00 14:06
Heh! Fuchsia shock!
Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 13 Apr 00 15:28
Gail! <applauding wildly> Well, Nick, I am sad to say that our time here is drawing to a close - tomorrow is our last day and I am still full of questions for you. I guess I shall have to figure out which are the most burning questions...okay. Here's two: First, after working through the Ceremony of Innocence CD-ROM, I was struck again by the thought that Griffin and Sabine should have just picked up the phone and called each other. Of course, I am happy they didn't, since there wouldn't have been a book, but still. Did you ever consider that? Second, in preparing for this interview by reading some - not all - of your books, there were a number of themes, but the primary one seemed to be that of correspondence and stamps. The _Griffin and Sabine_ books are primarily composed of that, of course, but I also find it mentioned on your Web site in the description of the book about Capolan: "When the Capolanian government wanted commemorative stamps and postcards created in honor of their 650th anniversary, they turned to Nick Bantock. The result is a sumptuous treasure box of history, legend, and fantasy. Inside you will find postcards and stamps Mr. Bantock created along with a book - not much larger than a passport - in which he introduces the history, philosophy, customs, and traditions of this mysterious nomadic tribe." And, in _Museum_ there is The Delancet Room, full of lost mail. At the end of the book, in a small glassine envelope just like you get at the post office, is a block of exquisite, perforated stamps labeled "The Museum of Purgatory Souvenir Sheet." So, postage, stamps, letters, postcards...I would love to know what prompts you to take these everyday items and turn them into works of art.
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Thu 13 Apr 00 21:01
STAMPS. Here's a little bit from the soon to be coming overthe hill, 'Artful Dodger'-- Like most kids, I collected stamps for a while, but my interest was only fleeting and I thought no more about philatelics till the day I was asked to do a cover for Rose Macaulay's Fabled Shawa book set in Spain in 1945. I wanted some way of defining both place and period and surmised that a Spanish stamp showing General Franco would do the trick. I'd remembered seeing a philatelic store in the local Corn Exchange Market and so I leaped on my trusty bike and rode over there to see if they had what I needed. The owner of the store was a ruddy-faced, cheerful man who loved talking about stamps, and we got into an ongoing conversation that lasted, on and off, for the remainder of my time in England. After breakfast most mornings, I'd trundle down to his shop to chat about stamps or to listen to his exchanges with the other customers. There I'd hear stories about people like the vicar who was so obsessed with the idea of not damaging the gum on the back of the stamp that he mounted his collection back to front. And the collector of rareaties that put a million dollar stamp in a book to press it, then died. His wife not realizing, sold the books to a second hand bookstore and it was only later that, while going through the old mans notes, someone found refference to the hiding place of the missing stamp. I love the idea that it's still out there lodged between the pages of a musty old tomb. There was even a story that a second version of a supposedly unique stamp had turned up, and the billionaire who owned the original had bought the second stamp and burnt it on the spot. Philately is a wierd combination of history and geography, and both intrigue me, but it's the treasure hunting that truely captures my imagination. I'm always hoping that one day I might stumble over something truly beautiful and valuable. However, until that happens, I endulge myself by inventing, countries, stamps and even the mail. Why didn't G and S talk on the phone. There are a number of metaphysical reasons why it was problamatic, but on a practical level the answer revolves around American nuclear testing in the Pacific during the late sixties. The Sicmon Islands brought a case against he US government, claiming that the ocean around the islands had been contaminated. Lawyers for the US had urged congress to bring preassure against the island by holding up the telecomunication networks to that part of the world. The islanders being stubborn and the US not wishing to set a president, the case had been stuck in limbo for over ten years and thus the lack of telephone lines meant that the couple couldn't speak by phone, even if they'd wanted to.
Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 13 Apr 00 23:27
Thank you, Nick. It's been a pleasure having you here on the WELL and in inkwell.vue. I hope you will come back and visit us again.
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Fri 14 Apr 00 09:08
Thanks for having me (why does that sound like my kids talking). If anyone has feedback now that I've finally put a sock in it, please go ahead. All the best Nick And Linda, that was a very fine bit of interviewing. Thanks again.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 14 Apr 00 09:38
What a delicious conversation. Thanks, both of you!
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 14 Apr 00 12:26
And I'd like to add my thanks to Gail's for this wonderful discussion. I can hardly believe you've been here two weeks, Nick. You and Linda have made this a fascinating exchange, and I appreciate that you took the time to answer my flailings with some cogent responses.
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