And While I Have Been Lying Here Perfectly Still: The Saskia Olde Wolbers Files
by Philip Monk
Art Gallery of York University, Toronto, Canada, 2009
136 pp., illus. 111 col., 2 b/w. Paper, $20
Reviewed by Rob Harle
This delightful little book is an enigmatic enigma? It was published in conjunction with an exhibition of Saskia Olde Wolbers at the Art Gallery of York University in 2008 and curated by Philip Monk. It is a fiction about fictional fabrications based loosely on true stories loaded with pathological lying. Be prepared to throw logic to the wind.
Olde Wolbers works predominately with short video pieces, many presented as gallery installations. These videos are fantastical stories matched by equally fantastical landscapes. Sometimes the meticulously created sets are filmed underwater to add to the dream-like, fantasy of the story. Each of the videos has voice-over narrative with a hypnotic-like lure.
And While I Have Been Lying Here Perfectly Still: The Saskia Olde Wolbers Files by Philip Monk is beautifully illustrated with both color and black & white plates together with excellent graphic presentation. The illustrations are comprised of video stills, gallery installation stills, and photo archives.
The first section of the book consists of The Case Studies of Russell Clergy, 01 – Placebo; 02 – Interloper; and 03 – Kilowatt Dynasty. Each of these script Case Studies? is the transcribed narrative from Olde Wolbers’ video pieces; these run for six minutes each and are accompanied with a Forward by Florence Wellington MD and an Introduction by Stanley Pugh.
The second section of the book has Postscript To A Fiction by Philip Monk, followed by 04 – Trailer; and 05 – Deadline, 10 and 18-minute videos respectively. Discussing the Trailer video piece Monk has this to say, ”A lie is not just in the telling. It is just as much what is unsaid, such as family secrets shielded from children – that is living a lie rather than telling one. Trailer relates the bizarre unraveling of such a family secret that was always waiting to be exposed” (p. 77).
Fictional fabrications indeed, “[I]n this book Olde Wolbers’ artworks are treated at an interpretative remove through the genre of psychological case studies … these are case studies where the doctor/author, an expert in pseudologia fantastica, is himself a pathological liar” (“Rear Cover”). It reminds me of the old philosophical conundrum known as Epimenides paradox. Epimenides was a Cretan who made one immortal statement: “All Cretans are liars.”
In our contemporary world where “dumbing down,” banality, and superficiality seem to be the order of the day, Saskia Olde Wolbers’ artwork and Monk’s commentary on her artworks are like a breath of fresh air. Convoluted, challenging, sophisticated and multi-faceted, I guarantee they will intrigue you and mess up your mind in an enchanting way. But then why should you believe me?
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