I have been drawing the putative lives of three Great European Thinkers: Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, and Mikhail Bakhtin. Why these three, and why “putative”?
Well, they are certainly important figures. As a woman who makes art, as a thinking woman who makes art, I am supposed to have read their works, at least the works of Walter Benjamin, if not the others. But I haven’t. And what’s good about this is that while it leaves me ignorant, on the one hand, it gives me a certain freedom, on the other. The freedom to imagine their lives, to draw out of a kind of “visual pantry” the images that would seem to fit these figures. Why do I have this storehouse of almost generic images from which to draw? Because of my background as a child of Holocaust survivors from Eastern Europe, because of my childhood hearing about the Soviet Union from refusnik mathematicians who stayed in our Toronto home, because I have been swimming in this grey-toned world of the past for my whole life, without necessarily wanting to. And humour is what has kept me from going under.
People often think that I have researched these figures, and that the images are “true.” They could be. Sometimes they turn out to be.