The slippery world of fact and illusion

“‘The stories we tell ourselves to get over things can have nothing to do with what really happened,’ the Lebanese artist Walid Raad said to me the other day,” wrote The Globe and Mail’s Sarah Milroy in a review of his work Sept. 30. “‘Fiction can take on the weight of the real.’ We were talking about the slippery world of fact and illusion in his enigmatic art work, being shown in two concurrent Toronto exhibitions this fall, at the Art Gallery of York University and Prefix Institute for Contemporary Art, works that mischievously undermine our faith in conclusive histories and the documents that shore them up,” wrote Milroy. “Growing up in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war (which lasted from 1975 to 1992), Raad experienced the dramatic unfolding of history at first hand – in all its bloody unpredictability. His father was a Christian Maronite, his mother Palestinian, adding another layer of complexity to his experience of this already fearfully complex conflagration.”

At the Art Gallery of York University, wrote Milroy, one work examines car bombings. “Here, Raad has installed a fragment of an archive of photographs documenting the engines that were thrown from the exploding cars. ‘The papers would always say how far the engines flew,’ remembers Raad, ‘and it always mentioned how wide the crater was, where the explosion had taken place,’ an effort to confer a sense of the quantifiable amid the bedlam.”

The law respects the right to reproduce

In a Sept. 30 story on fertility clinics, the National Post interviewed Patricia Kazan, an ethics professor in York’s Atkinson School of Analytic Studies & Information Technology. She made the point that infertility clinics do not turn away couples with histories of genetic disease in their families. And although couples get screening for disease if they want, it is still up to them to decide whether to take the risk and have a baby. “The law respects people’s right to reproduce, no matter who they are,” said Kazan. “The question is whether we have different ethical requirements if there is an intervention.”

Writing program welcomes poet-novelist

Margaret Christakos is living her fantasy, reported The Windsor Star Sept. 30. For the writer-in-residence at the University of Windsor, the weekly long haul away from Toronto to teach is a dream come true. “This came as a godsend to me,” Christakos, 42, said, who added that the commute is more like a “weekly writing retreat.” The university recruited the poet and writer to the creative writing program this year. Christakos has emerged as a writer who is able to fuse her loves of poetry and fiction, most notably in her debut novel Charisma, which was shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award in 2001. As a small-town girl growing up in Sudbury in the mid-’70s, she found solace through writing and visual arts. She obtained a writing and visual arts degree from York University in 1985.

Hockey has worst owners in pro sports

It’s hard to feel sorry for National Hockey League owners, suggested Canadian Business in its Sept. 27 issue and quoted York University researcher and lecturer Julian Ammirante. “In terms of mismanagement, hockey has some of the worst owners in the history of professional sports,” said Ammirante. He said the NHL has hurt itself by expanding into markets it has no business being in, such as Nashville and Atlanta, just so the owners could reap the rewards of expansion fees. The players, he added, have been more astute in exercising their market powers. “And now the owners are asking the players to agree to a salary cap to protect themselves from themselves. It’s preposterous.”

On air

  • Jennifer Jenson, professor of pedagogy and technology with York’s Faculty of Education, discussed her education video game Contagion, which teaches kids how to avoid contracting infectious diseases, in a feature on CFTO-TV’s “World Beat News” in Toronto Sept. 29.
  • Sheila Embleton, York’s vice-president academic, was interviewed about a partnership agreement between York University and Peking University, on “OMNI News: Cantonese Edition,” OMNI.2 in Toronto Sept. 29. Toronto’s Chinese press, including Sing Tao Daily and Ming Pao Daily News, also carried the story.