Monday, April 14, 2014

Holiday break

University is winding down for another academic year which means I’m heading off for a holiday.  I don't know about you but it feels like this winter has been never-ending.

But wait!  Before I go, I have to share a little story.

Just a couple of days ago, a co-worker brought the book The Underwater Museum: the submerged sculptures of Jason Decaires Taylor to my attention.  Loved it!

It’s a surreal but amazing look at the work of this artist who casts life-size human models (using real people) to create sculptural pieces that he then sinks off the coast of Grenada in the Caribbean and various places along the coasts of  Mexico.  It blends an artistic statement with a way to encourage reef development.  The three essays at the front of the book, one by the artist himself, Carlo McCormick an art critic and curator and finally, from a scientist, Helen Scales about reef conservation and the importance of healthy reefs to the environment offers different perspectives showing the relevance of such a project.

The book showcases a great blending of art and science.  Check out the website to find out more about the artist and the project.  I think anyone would find this fascinating to peruse. 

And, guess where I’m going?  Don’t say Mexico.  In looking for an off-the-beaten-track spring adventure this year we chose Grenada.  I love how serendipity plays out sometimes.  To find out about this underwater museum just before I go is just too auspicious and I’ll be making the most of this opportunity.

I’ll be back in May and will start posting again in the middle of the month.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Play’s the thing

I was pretty keen on reading an adaption of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival as a play.

I mean, a wordless book turned into a theatrical production?  Whaaaa?

Well, while it might be said to be ‘based’ on the book it turns out not to be a direct, page-by-page adaption but is better described as a companion piece to the novel.

Which doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have a place in the classroom. 

If you're studying immigration and the migrant experience, then this little play would be very relevant.  It follows three main characters as they think about their lives living in a different country, separated from their families. There are several minor characters of various ethnicities filling out the cast.  They represent the commonalities experienced among immigrants.  One of the characters even says that “We are all in the same boat now!” speaking both physically and metaphorically.  Tan’s male character also undergoes some of the same experiences, leaving his family, sailing on a ship, arriving in a new country, coping with culture shock and meeting new people, often other immigrants.  These overarching occurrences certainly tie the book and the play together.

The play provides stage directions that indicate that at several points, Tan’s illustrations from the book will be projected onto a screen.

This book could be used as an example of adapting one kind of literary work into a different format.  In a conversation with Shaun Tan that is included at the front of the play, we learn that he is also working on the early phases of a feature-length project also based on The Arrival.  He says, “this would be yet another interpretation of story concepts that is likely to depart significantly from the original book, simply because the medium is so different – so quite a challenge.”

I can only imagine what the challenges might be but I'm also very keen to see what this project will look like.

Overall, reading the play is not as rich an experience as reading Tan’s The Arrival.  However, I think watching this play might be the best way to take it in. It incorporates acrobatic and circus-like elements to help impart the story. It looks fascinating.  Take a look and decide for yourself:

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