Monk’s new book examines America’s violent ways

After a “spirited” launch in New York, Toronto will see the release of Spirit Hunter, the new book by Philip Monk, director of the Art Gallery of York University, on Saturday, 4 to 6pm, at the Drake Underground, 1150 Queen St. W.

Spirit Hunter coverSubtitled The Haunting of American Culture by Myths of Violence: Speculations on Jeremy Blake’s ‘Winchester Trilogy’, the book looks at the American artist’s hallucinatory work inspired by the 19th-century mansion of Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Repeating Rifle fortune. Blake’s original exhibit probed the psychological aura of this architectural wonder constructed by Winchester over the course of 38 years, beginning in the late 19th century, as a response to tragedy in her life. A medium told her spirits claimed the lives of her only daughter and late husband in revenge for those killed by the rifle that made the family fortune. The visions that haunted her are revisited through the images of Blake’s multi-media presentation, which was exhibited at the AGYU in May 2004 (see story in the May 13, 2004 issue of YFile). Blake’s art genre of video projection as time-based painting, lies somewhere between video and painting and serves as the medium through which Winchester’s mad architectural project transmits its ghostly inheritance.

Spirit Hunter examines how the message of the violence-haunted mansion’s design as interpreted by Blake reverberates today in America’s latest wars. The book ranges widely through frontier myth, American foreign policy, technology, war, film history, psychoanalytic theory (Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok’s cryptonymy) and philosophy (Jacques Derrida and Emmanuel Levinas), as it weaves art analysis into the troubled history of a social artifact. Spirit Hunter pursues Blake’s speculations on the secrets Winchester kept through architecture and questions whether she was hostage to her haunting or to national myth. “The book is truly amazing! Excellent in every respect,” said Blake, at the New York launch Oct. 8.

Spirit Hunter is published by the Art Gallery of York University and distributed by Distributed Art Publishers.

Philip MonkAbout the Author

Philip Monk is director of the Art Gallery of York University. His previous books include the award-winning Double-Cross: The Hollywood Films of Douglas Gordon (see story in the June 2, 2004 issue of YFile), also distributed by DAP), and Struggles with the Image: Essays in Art Criticism.

Toronto Alternative Art Fair International 2005

This launch event is part of the residency of AGYU@ Drake Artists in Residence Matthew Brannon, Liam Gillick and Monk and includes the Toronto premiere of “A Way of Curating”, a video by Emelie Chhangur, AGYU’s assistant curator, and Monk. The AGYU in partnership with the Drake Hotel present the culmination of the artists’ residency at TAAFI 2005, Canada’s only alternative art fair (Nov. 3-7).