The following reading and conversation was recorded at The Collected Schizophrenias, an event co-organized with KADIST on December 5, 2018, in San Francisco. The author Esmé Weijun Wang read “Perdition Days,” an essay from her book The Collected Schizophrenias. She was then joined in conversation by Corrine Fitzpatrick, guest editor for Risk Pool, an issue that asks: how are sickness and wellness defined, and by whom? What are the effects of these definitions, these acts of naming and describing?
Can’t make the event? Live-stream here.
“When the self has been swallowed by illness, isn’t it cruel to insist on a self that is not illness?” asks Esmé Weijun Wang in her essay “Perdition Days.” “Is this why so many people insist on believing in a soul?” In sickness, our bodies and minds become the focal points of a swirl of medical, social, political, and metaphysical attentions. How might we navigate, let alone represent, such an overwhelming situation, such a swallowing of the self?
The Collected Schizophrenias—named after Wang’s forthcoming essay collection—is an evening of film, reading, and art. The program begins with a screening of Barbara Hammer’s short film, Sanctus (1990, 16mm), for which the filmmaker rephotographed and hand-colored found 35mm X-ray footage of human bodies in motion, shot by Dr. James Sibley Watson in the 1950s. In one sequence, liquid spills down the gullet of a skeleton; in another, a radiant heart pumps within a glowing set of ribs. The result is a captivating, foreboding glimpse inside the fragile machinery of our physical selves (and of film emulsion).
Wang reads an essay from her exhaustively researched and deeply affecting book, which opens with the journey toward her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, goes on to explore disagreements within the medical community about labels and procedures for diagnosing those with mental illness, and examines the manifestations of schizophrenia and compounding chronic illness in her own life. Writer and Triple Canopy guest editor Corrine Fitzpatrick joins Wang in conversation.
Artworks from the KADIST collection that explore relevant subjects and concerns are on view in the gallery, including pieces by Firenze Lai, Chadwick Rantanen, and Finger Pointing Worker (Kota Takeuchi).
The Collected Schizophrenias is co-organized with KADIST as part of Risk Pool, Triple Canopy’s twenty-fourth issue, which asks: How are sickness and wellness defined, and by whom? What are the effects of these definitions, and how do they mark us as narrators of our own lives and the systems in which they are enmeshed?
KADIST’s street-level space and bathrooms are ADA-accessible.
- Esmé Weijun Wang is the author of the novel The Border of Paradise, which was called a Best Book of 2016 by NPR. She received a 2018 Whiting Award, was named by Granta as one of the Best of Young American Novelists in 2017, and is the recipient of the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize for her forthcoming essay collection, The Collected Schizophrenias (Graywolf, 2019). Born in the Midwest to Taiwanese parents, she lives in San Francisco.
- Corrine Fitzpatrick is a writer based in Inverness, California. She teaches for the Low Residency MFA Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
- KADIST believes contemporary artists make an important contribution to a progressive society, their work addressing key issues of our time. A non-profit organization dedicated to exhibiting the work of artists represented in its collection, KADIST encourages this engagement and advocates for the relevance of contemporary art in our lives. Its programs develop collaborations with artists, curators and art organizations around the world, facilitating new connections across cultures. Local programs in KADIST’s hubs of Paris and San Francisco include exhibitions, public events, residencies and educational initiatives. Complemented by an active online network, they create vibrant conversations about contemporary art and ideas.