In the Realms of the Unreal / Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien

Wednesday, December 21, 2005 – 7:30 pm
USA, 2004. Director: Jessica Yu

In 1973, at a Catholic poorhouse in Chicago, an 81-year-old retired and isolated janitor named Henry Darger quietly died. After Darger’s death, when his landlords went to clean out his one-room apartment, they found an astonishing and monumental artistic legacy. Piled all over the cramped apartment were hundreds of brilliant watercolours, featuring disturbing and mysteriously beautiful images of little girls in the throes of apocalyptic battles with evil forces. Along with the paintings were a massive autobiography and perhaps the longest novel ever written, the more than 15,000 page “In the Realms of the Unreal.” In this remarkable film, Oscar-winning documentarian Jessica Yu tells what little is known of Darger’s life while unfolding a dramatized narrative of the Vivian Girls’ exceptionally bloody wars with their oppressors. By juxtaposing Darger’s parallel but opposite universes, Yu shows how magic can be forged out of even the bleakest of lives. Colour, 35mm, 82 mins.

Preceded by:

Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien

USA, 1996. Director: Jessica Yu

Jessica Yu won the 1997 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short for this honest and intimate portrait of an artist who lived for four decades paralyzed by polio and confined to an iron lung. Colour, video, 35 mins.

The program will include a post-screening discussion with:

Ramon Kubicek writer, artist, educator. Ramon currently teaches film history as well as art and design history at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. He has published short fiction, poetry, criticism, a book on art, “One Source”, and worked on film documentaries.

Evening moderated by:
Dr. Harry Karlinsky Director of Continuing Medical Education and Professional Development, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia.

Cosponsored by Gallery Gachet and the Art Studios and The Ubyssey


“The Madness of the Muses”

But if a man comes to the door of poetry untouched by “The Madness of the Muses”, believing that technique alone will make him a good poet, he and his sane companions never reach perfection, but are utterly eclipsed by the performances of the inspired madman. — Plato, Phaedrus 245

‘The Madness of the Muses’– a special series of films about visual artists – will examine the potential links between creativity, artistic temperament and mental illness from both a psychiatric and aesthetic perspective.



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