30.1: Disaster!

Publish Date: 2004
Managing Editor: Jill Hartman
Assistant Editor: André Rodrigues
Contributing Editors: Brea Burton, Lauren Caines, Jason Christie, James Dangerous, Emily Elder, Chris Ewart, Aaron Giovannone, Cara Hedley, Paul Kennett, Jeremy Leipert, Jordan Scott, Marti Webster, Carolyn van Ginhoven.
Cover Design/Layout: Alden Alfon

Welcome to dANDelion 30.1–Disaster! TRUCK Gallery (The Grain Exchange, lower level, 815 1st Street SW, Calgary) and dANDelion’s collaborative effort to bring a little disaster straight to you. In these pages you’ll find work from 19 of the nearly 100 writers who responded to our call, while TRUCK’s Gallery space will be a disaster one for the length of the exhibition–April 23 to May 22, 2004, disastrously spilling out into the +15 Window Project Space (located in the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts) to accommodate all six of their artists. With so many submissions, our workspaces have (inevitably and predictably) resembled disaster zones for the past 5 months. But, as Robert Kroetsch writes, “[o]ne of the considerable and neglected art forms is the stack of papers [which] can be at once a literary form and a version of performance art.” Taking heart in the performance of disaster while editing Disaster! allowed us to find that strange place where terror yields to fascination–a fascination likely to be played out by you on opening this particular can of worms (dANDelion) or jumping out of that frying pan into the fire (TRUCK Gallery space). You’ll find performance and fascination, but also mediation, interaction, accretion, acceptance, rejection and documentation of disaster in dANDelion’s pages and at TRUCK.

Portia Priegert writes “…when disaster hits you, it is utterly transfixing, in part because it seems impossible that everyday reality can be altered so radically” and writes about the choice many people made to have their disaster (a forest fire in their community) mediated by television or the internet. Fern Helfland’s cover photo is part of a longer collaborative piece she completed with Priegert’s “Interface” and serves as a distillation of many of the issues that our authors and artists tackle. In pieces such as José Teodoro and Andrés Acosta’s short story “Merida,” Susan Holbrook’s “Twister,” and, from the TRUCK exhibit, Adriana Kuiper’s installation, There’s no place…, natural disasters are the agents, while “dumpsites” from my name is scot, Paul Vermeersch’s “Urban Violence” series, and concrete poems from Gustave Morin present urban space/technology as disaster. Nathalie Stephens, leannej, elen gebreab and Sandy Florian write about human relational/societal disaster, while Natalie Simpson, Cyrill Duneau, Aaron Vidaver, and David Fujino’s writing is itself agent of its own disaster as it interrupts sense and undermines rhetorical device.

Psychoanalysis argues that the age-old fascination humans have with images of bodily dismemberment has to do with the pleasure of contemplating the dissolution of the self. Identity is both comforting and imprisoning, and the horror of the spectacle is balanced by the pleasurable thought of freedom from one’s ego and the conformity it imposes upon our more anti-social urges. Images of disaster presumably work along the same lines, albeit on a larger scale. While terrifying, the spectre of disaster brings with it an anarchic sense of release, whether it is a meteor crashing into the core of one’s own city, as in Carol Beecher and Kevin D. A. Kurynik’s animation Meanwhile, in Outer Space; the unspecified natural disaster afflicting the unidentified suburb in Adriana Kuiper’s installation at TRUCK; or Sawako Nakayasu’s “Nightmares about hamburgers.” In these three works, destruction brings with it the zero-degree freedom of “nothing left to lose,” to quote the philosopher Kristofferson.

The contemplation of disaster can act as a comforting form of denial. At TRUCK, the Great Disasters of the past in Tim Barnard’s drawing reassure us that disaster is survivable. Similarly, Scott Bowering’s maps, drawn from 1970s pseudo-science disaster predictions, point to the psychological function of the worst-case scenario. The comfort of the unimaginable lies in knowing that it will probably never happen. Moreover, regarding disaster in this way always invites us to project ourselves beyond it, to imagine ourselves in an “after.” Not “the end of the world” then, but rather the more acceptable “end of the world as we know it.”

And thus imagining the worst is far easier than dealing with the less spectacular, incremental disasters that are happening all around us. This, as Daniel Dugas’s Nuclear Mickeys at TRUCK suggests, is the most dangerous side of our consumerist psychosis: the belief that we are always entitled to a completely fresh start, even if it comes in the form of a nuclear cloud. There is, therefore, no need to worry about disease, the ozone layer, poverty or starvation. The end will be more pleasingly spectacular, and when the dust settles, there we’ll be–miraculously, improbably–at the beginning of a brand new day.

– Jim Ellis & Jill Hartman

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