inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #51 of 85: Linda Castellani (castle) Sun 9 Apr 00 01:46

A question from Jasna via the Internet:

From Sun Apr  9 01:43:59 2000
Date: Fri, 7 Apr 2000 20:01:33 -0400
From: Jasna <>
Subject: a question for Nick Bantock

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Dear hosts,
I've been reading the conversation between Nick Bantock and Linda and I
was wondering if Linda would mind if I asked a question?
Today I finished an essay for my postmodernism class on "The
Deconstructive Reading of the Griffin and Sabine Trilogy" which sounds
grand, but it means that I got to have fun with three of my favourite
books. : )
What I'd like to ask Mr. Bantock is does he agree with the opinion of a
reviewer from Globe and mail who thinks that Victor Frolatti is a fiction
of Sabine's designed to spur Griffin along?
I'm sorry that I can't contribute to the discussion on The Museum because
I read it a long time ago, and I only remember little things about it.  I
hope to be able to jump in once you get to The Venetian's Wife because
that book was one of the more interesting and inspiring pieces of writing
that I've been fortunate enough to come across.
Thank you!
Jasna Maksimovic, Toronto
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #52 of 85: Nick Bantock (purgatory) Sun 9 Apr 00 20:22
I make a habit of avoiding any definative answers about G and S, but
let me chuck out some possibilities.
If Sabine is an invention of Griffin, then so must Frolatti.
If Griffin is an invention of Sabine, then she quite probably
contrived Frolatti.
If they are both real then either could have invented F for their own
If F is real, then he is clearly a threat. But what kind of threat?
He wants to read their letters, but isn't that something we, the
readers, are doing already. Why do we object to him? Is he a construct
of our voyeristic guilt?
Is it because he's the outside force--transplanting Griffin's fear and
doubts, and thus becoming an external threat. Maybe the dark-angel
(madness or love) that Griffin fears, transorms and becomes manifest in
an individual who represents an erosion of intimacy.
Maybe, F is all of these and more...
Only a year and a half's wait to find out.
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #53 of 85: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Mon 10 Apr 00 11:27
Nick, you mention that you have created all the artworks and artifacts that
you attribute to the characters in your books, a concept I find fascinating.
The concept also raises some questions for me, but the questions are
extremely broad-based, so bear with me...

You've gone to great lengths to create objects that, when put together, tell
a story about a fictional character's life. You have put tremendous talent
and energy into making the items appear entirely legitimate (as in "real"),
down to the cancellation marks on post cards and so forth.

I have a friend in Hawaii who does super-realist watercolors of Hawaiiana    for an example...

The watercolor you'll see if you look at that URL reminds me of those old
childhood readers. On the cover was a picture of Dick and Jane reading a
reader. On the reader they're reading, there's a picture of Dick and Jane,
reading an even smaller reader on the cover of which is a picture of Dick
and Jane reading a teeny tiny reader with a picture of Dick and Jane... ad

The way my friend creates her stuff: She finds an object (or objects) of
Hawaiiana she wants to paint. She arranges the pieces into a still life,
then takes a photo of them. Then she recreates the photo in watercolor, so
precisely that it looks just like the photo.

Then the watercolor is photographed so she can send me a .jpg of her latest
work. This is very convoluted, the snake swallowing its own tail, sort of.
I've got a .jpg of a photo of a painting of a photo of a still life. Whew!

I know another artist who used to take old, raggedy-ass found objects and
combine them into scultures for gallery shows. Later, he began creating
objects that *looked* like raggedy-ass found objects and combining these
into sculptures for gallery shows. The attention to detail is fascinating,
the objects he creates are faded and distressed, chipped and mangled, they
look like they came from a hay loft in a leaky Maine barn, and the way he
combines the objects is wonderful.

So what's my question? I'm still struggling with it.

Nick, you spend large amounts of time crating artifacts for you books. These
items look like they might have turned up in the collection of papers of
some old dead person whose estate is up for auction.

Instead of inventing these items for your book you could have scoured
rummage sales and flea markets and found material you could have assembled
for your stories. Is is the art in the *creation* of these invented
artifacts? If instead of making your own artfacts you'd found onces that you
compiled into a story, would it still be art? Is it art of it is more
convoluted or less?
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #54 of 85: Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 10 Apr 00 16:44

Cynthia's question seems to dovetail nicely with my next question:

The objects in the museum *must* exist - there are photographs of them
in the book!  How is this possible?  How did you do that?
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #55 of 85: Nick Bantock (purgatory) Mon 10 Apr 00 17:05
Your question is multi-headed and it would be only too easy to get
sucked into a multi-tailed response, but instead I'm going to go for
the straightest answer I can.(See Jasna, I don't tie everything into
First the photo realism. I think it's a very different issue related
to perception within the bouneries of fine art.'For me' that's a dead
end street, but I wouldn't presume to judge for others.
The second artist, and his raggedy-ass stuff, sounds much more to my
liking. I imagine he's attempting to build a bridge backwards, before
travelling over it to the present--that's an interesting journey.
Why don't I scour the flea markets? But I do. And the things I find,
teach and inspire me and often become absorbed and integrated into the
things I make. Sometimes I simply tweek and tamper to get them to go
the way I need. Sometimes I turn them inside out and only their essence
Why don't I use them exactly as they are? Because then I would have to
write the story around them and that's not the way to build a marriage
of words and images (it would be no more of a union than just
illustating text is). 
I work with words and images together, they re-act to each others
creation, slowly forming the narative.
I'm not trying to make 'art', nor am I trying to write literature. I'm
attempting another path. Try to think of these books as a totality,
one world not two. Then you'll see what I'm trying to achieve, and why
I re-invent artifacts that never were.  

inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #56 of 85: Nick Bantock (purgatory) Mon 10 Apr 00 17:41
Having found-made the objects, I spent a couple of months overseeing
the photography. It was a painstaking process, because the lighting had
to be perfect in order to give the whole book continuity. We shot
didgitally because I wanted to be able to unify the backgrounds.
However, as tempting as it was, I didn't want to use photoshop to alter
the objects themselves because that would have tainted them with a
different kind of atmosphere.
The background cleaning also helped create other realities. For
The angel essence was achieved by photographing old bottles in front
of hard lit sections of my paintings. These pictures glowed through the
glass, and when we digitally wiped out the surrounds, only the area of
painting directly behind the bottle showed. Thus making it look like
lights were actually inside the bottles.
There was of course some motive behind this and all the other
tamperings. And if you read the spinning-top chapter, you'll see that
Levant and I were playing the same game. Believing that we were making
mischief for a good reason.
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #57 of 85: Nick Bantock (purgatory) Tue 11 Apr 00 08:47
I've been thinking. I sense you were really asking for some clarity
about art in general. What is art? If the artist says its art, then is
Big stuff!
OK. Here's my take on the subject.
Like the word 'love' confusion comes because we try and make 'art'
mean too many things. As though it were an all or nothing definition.
I'm inclined to think of art as a presence. In some paintings a lot of
it exists, in others there's next to nothing (and every shade in
Everyone views things differently--how centered you are and how long
you've spent learning to see also become part of the equasion.
And so does mood and timing.
I never really related to Mark Rothko's paintings until the day I
stepped into the exhibit of giant maroon paintings in the Tate
gallery--then I got it in spades. They drove straight passed my
interlect and right into my guts. 
Do I think there's bad art? Absolutely.Tto my mind, if you can have a
bum note in music, why shouldn't the be a bum mark in art? Mediocrity,
predictability they make lousy music. The same things make bad art.
What do I want from art? Monumentality-humanity, compasion-an edge,
enchantment-clarity, timelessness-presence. The full oximoronic
spectrum...nothing less. 
Why settle for third rate decoration or someones ego dressed in the
Emperors new cloths.
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #58 of 85: Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 11 Apr 00 12:06
Here's a question from novei on the Internet:

From Tue Apr 11 12:04:18 2000
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 15:10:00 -0300
Subject: Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"

Hi there! I just found out about this event , and I feel a little like
"freeform" to enter into this conversation, after seeing such inteligent
questions (and answers), but I couldn't miss this chance.
I read all the messages until now, and I have some comments on them: (pls
forgive my English if there are too many mistakes....I'm at work, and I can
make some confusion....)

- Ceremony of Innocence - I think I was the first Brazilian to have this
CDRom (and I have it for a long time) and I'm still amazed at the fact that
most people, even in the US, doesn't know about it. My question is: Was
there some kind of advertisement/publicity on the release of this CDR, or it
was not a concern when it was made?! I don't understnad why it has not
become a huge success as the books did...

- G&S Movie? - I agree with Hey-Jannie that a conventional movie wouldn't be
the best choice for a work as G&S. Maybe something like the CDR.....The
movie should involve the viewers as the CDR does, and should be a feast of
images and sounds, instead of a movie with characters playing their roles....
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #59 of 85: Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 11 Apr 00 12:17

I agree with everything novei says!!

My CD-ROM arrived.  I spent the weekend playing with it.  It is gorgeous,
inventive, creative.  Filled with amazing art, fabulous animation,
wonderful visual details and lovely music and perfect sound effects.
Yet...nobody knows about it.  What a huge shame.  

Before we get too far afield, I want to post an image here.  This is an
example of what Nick was talking about when he described how he created
the angel essences for _Museum at Purgatory_.  Picospan readers, launch
your browsers!

 <img src="";>

Remember, these bottles are NOT lit from within...
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #60 of 85: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 11 Apr 00 12:35
(thanks for the elaboration, Nick)
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #61 of 85: Nick Bantock (purgatory) Tue 11 Apr 00 13:50
Hi Novei
Ceremony of Innocence:
There was no advertising to speak of. Peter and Real World spent so
much money on the construction, that by the time it was finished and
the market place for CD ROM's in general had shrunk, they just couldn't
bring themselves to spend another pile of cash on advertsing. Then all
the big distributors said it wasn't their kind of thing--meaning they
were more concered with feeding the audience they already had (electric
mayhem), than trying to grow a new one. "If women and snags bought
more CD ROM's it might be different". Their words not mine.  
It's just one of those things. If it had got past the crest of public
awareness via word of mouth (like the books) it might well have
snowballed, but it didn't. 
To my knowledge there's nothing else out there like it, so who can
tell, maybe one day it will rise up like the phoenix.
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #62 of 85: Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 11 Apr 00 18:09
We can only hope!  

Back to Museum for a bit...

In "Museum" you have developed a very complex theory of the afterlife.
In addition to Purgatory, you refer to the other states to which it
is possible to move on, called Utopias and Dystopias, each with 12
levels.  In fact, there is a diagram of them:

Dystopias:  Inferno, Satanic Mills, Terminus, Hell, Naraka, Styx,
Orcus, Pandemonium, Mordor, Nastrond, Hades, Amenti.

Utopias:  Eden, Shangri-La, Fiddler's Green, Falak al Aflak, Heaven,
Avalon, Elderado, Capolan, Nirvana, New Jerusalem, Valhallah.

I recognize some of these, of course, but not others.  Which levels
are your constructs?  Can you give us an idea of how each level
differs from the others?  For example, what's the difference between
you view of  Hell and Hades, or between Heaven and Valhallah? Is there
any significance to the fact that the diagram shows these states side
by side, not one on top of the other, like you might expect? 
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #63 of 85: Richard Evans (rje) Wed 12 Apr 00 05:32

I'm just going to break in with a quick question relating to an earlier
point and a quick compliment- we'll do the compliment thing first, if that's
OK- you're books are not only delightful in the extreme but their various
words and images exhibit that wonderfully annoying tendency to leap to the
fore brain at all kinds of odd moments, such as while shopping or changing
nappies, which for me is a sign that a particular artist has hit a home run
in terms of engaging the imagination of another.

My question, on the other hand, relates to reproduction. Earlier you
mentioned that you had exhibited some early paintings in commercial
galleries but had become disenchanted- when you started doing the mock up
pages for the first Griffith and Sabine book were you tempted to do the
limited edition artbook thing or did you conceive of them as a kind of
variation on the book in the sense of mass market multiples?

Also do you consider memory to be another form of reproduction?
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #64 of 85: Nick Bantock (purgatory) Wed 12 Apr 00 06:45
No I didn't consider the limited edition thing back when I did the G
and S dummy . I wasn't even thinking seriously about mass market. I
liked the idea of it being seen in a non-elitist way but I couldn't
quite get my head round the idea of my book-art-hybrid being something
anyone else would care too much about.
You know what it's like when you meet someone and your really
attracted to them but you're too close or needy to see if they're
interested in you. Then later your friends say, of course she was, she
was putting out all the signs. But you were just too close to your own
self doubts to read what was obvious to others.
That's what it was like with G and S. I was passionate about the book,
butI didn't know what 'it' thought about me.
Do I consider memory a form of reproduction?
No, I don't think so. For two reasons. Memory is far from constant,
like truth it depends which direction you come at it from. And
secondly, the statement resinates of conceptualism, an artform I lump
together with 60's phrases like ,"Sorry man, I coundn't get it
Any Conceptualists tuned in please forgive my rudeness, but I'm afraid
I lost my cloak of innocence when I read Tom Wolfe's 'The Painted

I thought a lot about memory (and the lack of it) when I was working
on The Museum at P. and I came to the conclusion that it was so wrapped
up in sense of self as to be at leat 50% unreliable.
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #65 of 85: Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 12 Apr 00 13:48
From Christina on the Internet:

From Wed Apr 12 13:47:07 2000
Date: 11 Apr 00 23:30:45 EDT
From: Christina Creech <>

Hello Mr. Bantock

I have read most of your adult fiction numerous times and I couldn't 
help but wonder if you had ever published anything with a private 
press?  Your work is so textural, I can easily imagine it done on 
handmade paper, letterpress, in a great hand binding.

Thanks for giving me hours of enjoyment!
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #66 of 85: Nick Bantock (purgatory) Wed 12 Apr 00 17:17
Unlike Dante these are not levels, they're individual worlds. The map
shows them floating freeform. Like any static astro map the
conjunctions are in a constant state of change. 
Some of the Utopias and Dystopias are well recorded else where, the
otheres are more difficult to locatate historically and geographically,
but they are all very real--somewhere. 
No, Ive never done anything private press though I think it might be
fun at some point to work a little closer to the edges and on fine
paper. One day I might do something erotic and then I'd have to decide
if I wanted to make it limited edition or frighten off mye more
delicate readers. 
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #67 of 85: Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 12 Apr 00 23:42

The more questions I ask, the more mysterious it seems to get.

There is a tantalizing glimpse into one of the levels of Utopia, Falak al
Aflak, in the Cavarn room, populated by Archelo Bora Cavarn's collection
of miniature mummies.  At the end of the section about her, you say that
she went from Purgatory to Falak al Aflak, "where excavations into the
future were already underway."  Excavations into the future?!
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #68 of 85: Nick Bantock (purgatory) Thu 13 Apr 00 14:00
The future is different for everyone (obviously) for Cavarn the future
had been troubling since her childhood (reason to follow*). When she
got to Falak al Aflak she met with Howard Carter (of King Tut fame) who
had also been so preoccupied with looking backwards that he was
obliged to dig forward in order to readress the balance.

*One day, overhearing her mother in the conservatory, tearfully
lamentingthe death of the fuchsia, Cavarn thought she understood her
parent to be saying, "The future is dead." And from that  casual
confusion she concluded that she had better stick to the past, which
was no doubt still alive.
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #69 of 85: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 13 Apr 00 14:06
Heh!  Fuchsia shock!
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #70 of 85: Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 13 Apr 00 15:28

Gail!  <applauding wildly>

Well, Nick, I am sad to say that our time here is drawing to a close -
tomorrow is our last day and I am still full of questions for you.  I
guess I shall have to figure out which are the most burning
questions...okay.  Here's two:

First, after working through the Ceremony of Innocence CD-ROM, I was
struck again by the thought that Griffin and Sabine should have just
picked up the phone and called each other.  Of course, I am happy they
didn't, since there wouldn't have been a book, but still.  Did you ever
consider that?

Second, in preparing for this interview by reading some - not all - of
your books, there were a number of themes, but the primary one seemed to
be that of correspondence and stamps.  The _Griffin and Sabine_ books are
primarily composed of that, of course, but I also find it mentioned on
your Web site in the description of the book about Capolan:  

"When the Capolanian government wanted commemorative stamps and postcards
created in honor of their 650th anniversary, they turned to Nick Bantock.
The result is a sumptuous treasure box of history, legend, and fantasy.
Inside you will find postcards and stamps Mr. Bantock created along with a
book - not much larger than a passport - in which he introduces the
history, philosophy, customs, and traditions of this mysterious nomadic

And, in _Museum_ there is The Delancet Room, full of lost mail.  At
the end of the book, in a small glassine envelope just like you get at
the post office, is a block of exquisite, perforated stamps labeled
"The Museum of Purgatory Souvenir Sheet."

So, postage, stamps, letters, postcards...I would love to know what
prompts you to take these everyday items and turn them into works of art. 
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #71 of 85: Nick Bantock (purgatory) Thu 13 Apr 00 21:01
Here's a little bit from the soon to be coming overthe hill, 'Artful
Like most kids, I collected stamps for a while, but my interest was
only fleeting and I thought no more about philatelics till the day I
was asked to do a cover for Rose Macaulay's Fabled Shaw—a book set in
Spain in 1945. I wanted some way of defining both place and period and
surmised that a Spanish stamp showing General Franco would do the
trick. I'd remembered seeing a philatelic store in the local Corn
Exchange Market and so I leaped on my trusty bike and rode over there
to see if they had what I needed. The owner of the store was a
ruddy-faced, cheerful man who loved talking about stamps, and we got
into an ongoing conversation that lasted, on and off, for the remainder
of my time in England. After breakfast most mornings, I'd trundle down
to his shop to chat about stamps or to listen to his exchanges with
the other customers. There I'd hear stories about people like the vicar
who was so obsessed with the idea of not damaging the gum on the back
of the stamp that he mounted his collection back to front. And the
collector of rareaties that put a million dollar stamp in a book to
press it, then died. His wife not realizing, sold the books to a second
hand bookstore and it was only later that, while going through the old
mans notes, someone found refference to the hiding place of the
missing stamp. I love the idea that it's still out there lodged between
the pages of a musty old tomb. There was even a story that a second
version of a supposedly unique stamp had turned up, and the billionaire
who owned the original had bought the second stamp and burnt it on the
        Philately is a wierd combination of history and geography, and both
intrigue me, but it's the treasure hunting that truely captures my
imagination. I'm always hoping that one day I might stumble over
something truly beautiful and valuable. However, until that happens, I
endulge myself by inventing, countries, stamps and even the mail.

Why didn't G and S talk on the phone. There are a number of
metaphysical reasons why it was problamatic, but on a practical level
the answer revolves around American nuclear testing in the Pacific
during the late sixties. The Sicmon Islands brought a case against he
US government, claiming that the ocean around the islands had been
contaminated. Lawyers for the US had urged congress to bring preassure
against the island by holding up the telecomunication networks to that
part of the world. The islanders being stubborn and the US not wishing
to set a president, the case had been stuck in limbo for over ten years
and thus the lack of telephone lines meant that the couple couldn't
speak by phone, even if they'd wanted to.
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #72 of 85: Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 13 Apr 00 23:27

Thank you, Nick.  It's been a pleasure having you here on the WELL and in
inkwell.vue.  I hope you will come back and visit us again.
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #73 of 85: Nick Bantock (purgatory) Fri 14 Apr 00 09:08
Thanks for having me (why does that sound like my kids talking).
If anyone has feedback now that I've finally put a sock in it, please
go ahead.
All the best
And Linda, that was a very fine bit of interviewing. Thanks again.
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #74 of 85: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 14 Apr 00 09:38
What a delicious conversation.  Thanks, both of you!
inkwell.vue.70 : Nick Bantock - "The Museum at Purgatory"
permalink #75 of 85: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 14 Apr 00 12:26
And I'd like to add my thanks to Gail's for this wonderful discussion. I can
hardly believe you've been here two weeks, Nick. You and Linda have made
this a fascinating exchange, and I appreciate that you took the time to
answer my flailings with some cogent responses.


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