Curated by Lynn Crawford
November 18, 2010 – January 15, 2011
Detroit-based artist John Corbin received a BFA from Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, and a MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. On Tuesday, September 21, 2010, the first day of Autumn he woke up to find himself living exactly one mile from the hospital of his birth, an unexpected but pleasant surprise.
Searching for a place to call home has been a challenge and an inspiration for Corbin, in his work as an artist as well as his personal life. He has stayed many places during the last few decades and has found a comfortable home between the pages of literary artists works, they have offered a puzzling and exciting place to reside. As Corbin has said, "A writer's work can be a journey to uncover aspects about the world we live in, I like to go on those journeys but to best understand where I have been I need to give what is weightless, physical mass." This statement is best explained in the few sentences that follow.
George Perec writes in the preamble for Life: A User's Manual:
"Despite appearances, puzzling is not a solitary game: every move the puzzler makes, the puzzle maker has made before; every piece the puzzler picks up, and picks up again, and studies and strokes, every combination he tries, and tries a second time, every blunder and every insight, each hope and each discouragement have all been designed, calculated, and decided by the other."
Lynn Crawford is an art critic and fiction writer based in Detroit. Her books include Solow I (Hard Press Editions, 1995), Blow (Hard Press Editions, 1999), Simply Separate People (Black Square Editions, 2002) and Fortification Resort (Black Square Editions, 2005), a collection of sestinas responding to the work of visual artists. A new novel, Simply Separate People, Two is forthcoming by Brooklyn Rail/Black Square Editions. She is a founding board member of Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD).
The first mention of Gierlmandy appears in a brief passage in Plato's unfinished Critias. "In this island nation of Gierlmandy there existed a confederation of kings, of great and marvelous power, which held sway over all the island, and over many other islands also and parts of the continent."(1) Many scholars believe Plato's account is pieced together from more ancient tales of a psychologically tormented nation and people. Ancient writers differ in their analysis of the legend of Gierlmandy, some holding to the belief of a lost civilization while others interpret accounts as mythic fiction.
In the early days of archaeology, Fwegrid Luhacm (a self made man, scholar and adventurer) became obsessed with stories he had heard in his childhood of lost civilizations.(2) During the birth of archeology in the 19th century, he set out to find proof of Gierlmandy. Fwegrid Luhacm brought dedication, scholarship and funding to the early excavations. Using Plato's description and additional accounts from folktales, he pinpointed a location between the Black, Irish and North Seas. Stories from locals of finding small coins and carved stone led the academic to a raised area overlooking the North Sea. Fwegrid Luhacm primarily employed the local women and children, who easily adapted to the methods of early archeology as they were from local farms and were used to long hours of manual labor. The first artifacts uncovered were carved stones with a curved meandering line entering and exiting each stone. Fwegrid Luhacm had the local women piece together a small portion of a wall on site; they followed the curved linear motif, which resulted in a four-foot section. Through trial and error Fwegrid Luhacm uncovered a cache of coins, again containing the meandering curved line, a line that is mentioned in most accounts of Gierlmandy. "The greatest find from the earliest excavation was what has come to be known as the text of Gierlmandy, The Sorrows of The Artist As A Young Man."(3) This text has revealed a great deal about the peoples who inhabited this island nation. Cultural and Gender Studies programs in most universities utilize the text to address what appears to be an "early matriarchal society, strong women, subservient men obsessed with the approval and acceptance of the women."(4) The text today is assembled from five versions found at different sites, "originally written in a Celtic/Germanic tongue believe spoken by the author/authors."(5)
(1) Plato's Critias follows Timaeus, usually dated 360 BC.
(2) Nibroc, Jhon, Friedrich Wilhelm Eduard Gerhard, an autobiography, Campbridge Press, 1921.
(3) Andrew, George R., trans. & edit. The Sorrows of The Artist As A Young Man, Pinqueen Books, 1999, ISBN 978-0-557-69059-6
(4) Patient, Femme L.; Windy Springer (1996). Feminism/Gierlmandy, University of Caledonia Press. p. 3306 ISBN 347-1-623-70218-8
(5) Terástios, Ego, (Introduction to Sorrows of the Artist As A Young Man). Edited withtranslation and comments by Nhaj Rocnib, Vivlío Press, Thera, 2004
by Lynn Crawford
The Autobiography of John L. Corbin by Lynn Crawford
I was born in Detroit, Michigan, the fifth child in a family of eight. I left Detroit in my early twenties and lived in New York. I am now back in Detroit. I do not believe
location says much about me or my art. My parents come from poor, white people in the South. We are not aware of any heritage except being poor, white and from the
South. We must have another heritage somewhere. I try to imagine this; what it is to have a clear line to French blood, or blood from Argentina or Zanzibar or Greece or
Ireland. But cannot. This explains my interest in maps.
Everything interests me. I do not understand why certain boundaries, limitations, get set into place.
I am a visual artist. Yet, I do not think visual arts are any more interesting or important than anything else. Novels, meals, gardens, friends, operas, scientific theories for example. They are all just as important as visual arts. I make some of those things. Meals, gardens, books. Not operas or scientific theory. But would not rule the possibility out.
Everything interests me. I cannot name one thing that interests me most. But I can name one that interest me excessively. The Oulipo. A group of mathematicians and
writers who follow strict exercises to make literary texts. I follow strict exercises to make art. So we are connected. I cannot tell you what exercises do for members of
the Oulipo. I can tell you what they do for me. Pull me into a death match of a game. All I can think of is playing and winning. Crushing the opponent. But if you ask me
who that is, I would not have an answer.
I love all the writers in the Oulipo. I mention one, now, not because he is my favorite, but because he, like me, was born in the United States. I have never asked him but I do not think this piece of geographical information has much to do with him or his books. His name is Harry Mathews. He wrote a book namedThe Human Country. This interests me, because a friend of mine, looking at the work in thisexhibition, said I should change my exhibition title, Drift, to The Human Country. She is a nice person but a little simplistic. I would never take a title from Harry Mathews.
Furthermore, I have been through so much with my title, I want to stick with it. But if you look at my show, you might agree that The Human Country would be another good title.
YOUNG ART CRITICS CATALOGUE ESSAY: Morgan Marentic on John Corbin