Useful, Beautiful, Toxic

Jesse Oak Taylor’s recent article in Novel makes a bold claim about modelling, realism, and the project of representation. He suggests that Dickens’ novel “performs a kind of fictional ‘greenhouse effect’ in which the real is severed from its stabilizing lifeline to the natural, giving way to the paradoxically artificial nature of the Anthropocene” (1). Among the things I learned from reading it was the range of Victorian attitudes to urban pollution, including the belief “that coal smoke could be beneficial in combating [the] noxious vapours…killing off the organic components of miasma, sterilizing the fog” emanating from the natural marshes upon which London sat (13). I’m skeptical that very many Victorians held this view—every era has its fringe theorists—but Taylor’s article supports the view that Victorians were deeply aware of and interested in the effects of their industrial lives upon the landscape. Continue reading “Useful, Beautiful, Toxic”

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“We Sit Starving Amidst Our Gold”

Though I could not go to Venice this year — where NAVSA/BAVS 2013 is about to begin — Venice, it seems, came to me, by way of Toronto’s Globe and Mail. Last Saturday’s edition featured on the cover of its arts section an image taken from the “buzz” piece at the 2013 Venice Biennale, Jeremy Deller’s “We Sit Starving Amidst Our Gold.”

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Image courtesy of British Council. Jeremy Deller’s British Council commission is at La Biennale di Venezia until 24th November and will tour national UK venues in 2014. http://www.britishcouncil.org/visualarts.

“Hey,” I said to my partner before reading the piece, “that looks like William Morris throwing that yacht!” I’m both proud and ashamed of my nerdiness in this regard. Continue reading ““We Sit Starving Amidst Our Gold””