Saturday, February 11, 2012

Object Acquisition # 2001-014 McLean Book Plate

Documenting objects from The Hunt Show:

Object Acquisition # 2001-014 McLean Book Plate
Object interpreted and Statement by: Jessie Benenson

"The McLean Prospected Fund Memorial Scholarship Trust"

The OHSU Archive is haunted by traces of the lives of medical practitioners, researchers and patients. A medical archive is filled primarily by the words and materials of dead men and women. Doctors and Institutions leave their papers to an archive in the hopes that their lives and sacrifices were important enough to be maintained and preserved. It is interesting to wonder at what is saved and even more intriguing to speculate what is not included; what stories are lost.

There is no way to catalog a life and even if there were, there is no way to control the way information is disseminated after you are gone. A brilliant and arrogant brain Surgeon donated his book collection to the archives perhaps in the anticipation they would be useful in the future.

My "object" in the scavenger hunt were the hand painted book plates. The Surgeon's attitude about death and what lies after, seemed to thumb a nose at a spiritual passage, and he asks specifically for his name to sink into oblivion. But the grotesque figures in the book plates look to me to be roguish Spirits who have not only kept the Surgeon alive in the archive, but let his personal story mutate into a fable. I used his own words, excerpted from his will, but I alternate them with my imagined puppet play. The Spirits form the book plate seemed vaguely Balinese to me, and drawing from my knowledge and love of puppet making, I fabricated a small shadow theater featuring the Spirits and my re-imagined Surgeon.

I have read that brain surgeons are often seen as "playing God," and if that is true, artist do it as well. I have taken information from the OHSU library, and shaped into a narrative of my own device, and to serve my own purpose.

Curator's Note:
This shadow puppet play was softly lit from the inside but yet showed the Surgeon in his true vocation. I am ever amazed at the artists in my life.... Jessie Benenson also grew and had a baby during the making of this piece. I want to thank her and her wonderful husband Ian for support and advising this project when itself was in utero to its fruition.  

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