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Ephemeral Art: Telling Stories to the Dead

Keywords: ephemeral art , (Liz) Magor , (Alex) Shapley , storytelling , trauma

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: The endurance of the form of storytelling and the compulsion to tell them suggests that telling stories is not merely an entertainment, an optional extra which we can chose to engage with or not, but a fundamental aspect of being. We tell stories to construct and maintain our world. When our sense of reality is damaged through traumatic experiences we attempt to repair our relationship with the world through the repeated telling of our stories. These stories are not just a means of telling but also an attempt to understand. Stories are performed and performative; they do not leave us unchanged but can in fact motivate us to act. They are not merely about things that have happened, but are about significant events that change us. Through our stories we demonstrate that we have not only had experiences but that those experiences have become part of one’s knowledge. In this essay O’ Neill will explore the potential of objects to tell a story, the object that is both the subject of the story and the form of telling. Two ephemeral art works will be considered: Domain of Formlessness (2006) by British artist Alec Shepley and Time and Mrs Tiber (1977) by Canadian artist Liz Magor. Both works embody the process of decay and tell a story of existence overshadowed by the knowledge of certain death and the telling of the story as a means of confronting that knowledge. The ephemeral art object tells a story in circumstances when there are no words, when we have nothing left to say. Résumé: La persistance de la forme narrative, mais aussi notre compulsion narrative, nous signalent que raconter une histoire n'est pas un simple divertissement, un supplément plus ou moins superflu qu'on pourrait laisser de c té si on le voulait, mais un aspect fondamental de notre vie. Nous racontons des histoires pour construire et sauvegarder notre univers. Lorsque des expériences traumatisantes ont entamé notre sens du réel, nous essayons de rétablir notre contact avec le monde en multipliant les récits. Le but de ces récits n'est pas seulement de raconter, mais aussi de comprendre. Un récit est donc un acte, il nous change et il peut nous pousser à l'action. Un récit ne parl


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