Monday, September 27, 2010

Emma Kay

from Kenneth Goldsmith's "Gallery of Conceptual Writing" on Poetry Foundation

Emma Kay
Worldview (Book Works, 1999)

Emma Kay is a British conceptual artist whose process requires that monumental works of art, geography and histories be reconstructed from unaided memory. Her books include The Bible from Memory (1997), Shakespeare from Memory (1998), andWorldview (1999).
“Without any recourse to reference material, relying solely on memory, Worldviewdraws on a variety of sources—newspapers, books, films, television, computer games, memories of school lessons, music, advertising and travels.
The neutral and authoritative style of Worldview admits no doubts, yet is fallible; the gaps, inaccuracies and the missing parts of history are as important to the work as the recollections themselves. It challenges you not just to correct and question, but to doubt your own account of history. How would you balance pre-history against the Black Death, the Bayeux Taperstry or Reagan’s Strategic Defence Initiative?” (Book Works)
From page 12:
After all the Ice Ages, and as the Sun continued to get hotter, the Earth became a nicer place to live again. Some of the mammals had begun to try to walk on two of their legs, to reach food that was growing on trees. They were the apes. Dinosaurs gathered food this way too, but their upper limbs were quite weak in comparison to the lower ones. Apes’ upper limbs were long and strong, and were known as arms. Their brains were much larger in relation to their upper body weight than the dinosaurs’ brains. About a million years ago apes were multiplying rapidly, they appeared all over the Earth in pockets. They lived in social groups, which were hierarchical. They were herbivores. Most lived in trees but some had begun to live on the ground. The apes had the biggest brain in relation to their body of all the creatures so far. Their brain continually evolved, and their social interaction grew more complex. They made very rudimentary tools to assist with food-gathering. They protected each other, not just their offspring. They spent a proportion of their time in play, since they were so good at gathering food that they did not need to do it all the time. Their predators were larger mammals such as lions and tigers, wolves and bears. As they became more intelligent, they learned how to avoid being eaten. They were a very successful species, and this fact enabled them to multiply and evolve at a quick rate.
From page 53:
China was a vast empire and people often lived in extreme and remote places. The majority were peasants. The climate was very severe in places. Unwanted babies were exposed and left to die and women were sometimes sold into slavery as concubines for the warlords. The concubines and wealthier women would have their feet bound as this was deemed sexually attractive. This practice made them into cripples as it broke all the bones in their feet, although it was very desirable to have the smallest feet possible in order to achieve the best marriage. The main garment was the kimono, a long-sleeved coat tied with a very wide sash worn by men and women. Wooden clogs were worn to elevate the person above the often muddy ground. The Chinese had a great knowledge of the medical properties of herbs and were extremely advanced in their treatment of the sick. They believed that the human body contained meridians and pressure points which corresponded to internal organs and moods. If pressure or needles were applied to these then a cure could be effected. This was called acupuncture. Chi, the life force, flowed around the body along the meridians and if it were disrupted then the person would feel unwell. Qi gong and Tai Chi were meditative exercises that were an aid to healing and wellbeing.
The second to last entry in the book, p. 211:
Many people planned their New Year’s Eve celebrations years in advance and booked up hotel and function rooms all over the world. Some opted for the point on the dateline, in the Far East, where the Sun would rise for the first time in the 21st century. But the vast majority did not and were content to stay at home and plan street parties. Fireworks factories increased their production. Governments laid plans for controlling law and order in the event of mayhem caused by computer system failure. Many bars had to offer to pay their staff four or five times the usual wages to get them to work on New Year’s Eve. But for a large part of the world’s population the millennium had no relevance, although it was difficult to ignore. Many religions followed a different calendar. The year 2000 AD simply marked 2000 years after the birth of Christ, which made it a Christian celebration.
See a description of Emma Kay's show at The Hammer, 2001
On Kay's Worldview in Cabinet

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