Lecturer in novel is lecturer in real life only not really

Posted by mjs76 at Sep 16, 2010 12:15 PM |
Fact and fiction merge in quasi-surrealist art project. Or something.

It’s not every day that one of our academics becomes a fictional character but that is what has happened to Dr Angus Cameron from our Department of Geography, who will feature in the crime thriller Looking for Headless, to be published next year.

This isn’t some in-joke passing reference on page 78; Dr Cameron is actually one of the book’s main characters. Or at least, one of the main characters has the same name and job as Dr Cameron and looks exactly like him.

Or something.

The whole Headless affair, created by Swedish artists Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby -  goldin+senneby as they like to be known – is extraordinarily convoluted and deliberately bizarre in places. Attempts to differentiate the real parts from the fictional are only likely to make your brain itch.

The basic plot of Looking for Headless is the hunt for a mysterious offshore company registered in the Bahamas, called Headless Ltd, which sounds straightforward enough, But this relates in some way to the work  of ‘renegade surrealist’ French writer Georges Bataille who founded a short-lived secret society in the 1930s called 'Acéphale', which used a headless man as its logo. According to some accounts, all the members of Acéphale agreed to have their heads chopped off as in ‘initiation’ but they were never able to find someone willing to do the decapitating.

Bataille worked in many forms and used many pseudonyms and the author of Looking for Headless, one ‘KD’, is also pseudonymous although it is known to actually be John Barlow, author of Everything but the Squeal (a book about his attempt to eat every single part of a pig…).

To get back to Dr Angus Cameron, he has been acting as spokesman for the reclusive goldin+senneby since 2008 and has given (real) lectures and written (real) articles which will somehow feed into the (fictional) book. The last of these takes place this weekend at London Zoo where the contemporary art collective Gasworks is organising a conference and exhibition on Hydrarchy: Power and Resistance at Sea.

At noon on Sunday 19 September, Angus will present a talk entitled ‘Each thing seen is the parody of another, or is the same thing in a deceptive form’ in which he will “explain what a 14th century fictional knight and a handful of monkeys in Gibraltar have to do with the construct of state sovereignty and its peculiar states of exception.”

All of this is being documented by two film-makers who are making a TV documentary about the Headless project. Whether that will actually make any of it clearer or explain quite what is going on remains to be seen.