MA3 — Week 3: Provocations and Progress

Provocations Task

Reflecting on Julia Dhar’s talk on productive disagreement, I really appreciated the way she spoke about trying to change ideas, not the people themselves by finding a common ground, but how much of that opinion actually defines a person?

We are a week away from election day in Canada, and it has felt like an especially polarizing time, mostly do to the increased awareness of the People’s Party of Canada, whose founding members include extreme far-right, anti-immigrant supporters. At many public debates there has been a call for them to simply not participate, and I find myself agreeing. The PPC candidate in my riding has openly made terribly racist statements, and continually denied any open dialogue with the public. Rather they openly attack anyone trying to open a debate with them, and attack moral character, rather than separating the ideas from our identity.

In this election especially, the no one is allowing themselves to be wrong (though the Liberals have made many mistakes in the last 4 years, it is becoming too painful to hear them openly lie about it) and no one is allowing themselves to be intellectually humble, and are thus more defensive than ever. Like Dhar said, we are very prone to pre-commiting others to being wrong and that is something I would like to see myself as better than my politicians, going into the provocations task.

This means going into the provocations task, I am really going to try and have an open mind, and challenge myself to find validity in hoaxers. Multiple truths have always been of interested to me, and how power, class and gender lead to some truths being more reliable than others, but what of the furthest end of the spectrum, the truths outside of myth and fiction, but the truths that are so true to others, and not the rest of the population, that it defines them as outsiders.

Topic: Memory, Fiction, Reality and Identity — Does autobiographical memory and narrative equate with truth?

Jo’s Claim: Personal narrative is built from memories, even if fictional. ie. Personal narrative defines the self.

My Claim: Empirical evidence is required to find truth in memory, and preserve ‘facts’ related to definitions of identity. ie. Collective memory, History, defines the present self.

Subject: Idea that Moon Landing was not real, as evidenced through no empirical evidence, leads to the identity of hoaxers

Proof/initial collection of ideas:

  • machines of memory – internet, archives,
  • fallibility of human memory ‘…a purely cognitive memory must belong either to a robot or to an inert database.’
  • George Steiner’s reflection that “it is not the literal past that rules us…. It is images of the past”
  • “Life is a dream. ‘Tis waking that kills us,” Virginia Woolf
  • The idea of an unchanging “you” or “self” is inherently fraught with confusion and conflict, and if you consider the topic for too long it can begin to feel clammy, almost suspect. An apparent string running through all the previous versions of you — the one five minutes ago, a few hours ago, several years — the idea of “self” inevitably gets tangled up in things like the physical body and appearance, like memory. It’s clear that you cannot pin yourself down as any one particular “thing” but rather that you resemble a story line, an endless progression, variations on a theme, something that enables you to relate your present “self” to the past and future ones. — Ella Frances Saunders
  • Echoing the great neurologist Oliver Sacks’s recognition of narrative as the cognitive pillar of personhood, she adds:

    We do seem to make sense of ourselves and the world as a part of a narrative — we think in terms of main characters, those we speak and interact with, and where the beginnings, the middles, and the endings are.

  • “Memory produces hope in the same way that amnesia produces despair,” Walter Brueggemann
  • collective memory we call history, Memory of joy and liberation can become a navigational tool, an identity — Rebecca Solnit

Warrant: explanation of how ideas are ties to identity, using example of moon landing hoaxers

Potential Objections:

  • whiteness of memory / reliable narrators
  • what value is there in creating this ‘hoax’


Humanity craves empirical evidence to find comfort in the murky waters of the unknown. Memory, leads to changes in narrative, when no physical ground truth is available.

Format: 8 min audio recording/live script with hand drawn slideshow, simple line drawings or collages. Written transcript included for discussion afterwards.


Studio Progress


The major timing of the video have been laid out, and the animations need to be created and laid in to the empty shapes. The animations will be made of prints, which have varying textures from the printing process, which will  be inverted to white on black and looped to create a bubbling effect.

Here is a sample of a few of the prints:

five star test from Rachel Thornton on Vimeo.


The little body of work surrounding the myths of St. Catherine and Ann Elizabeth Fowler Hodges connection continue to develop. These may not go anywhere, but they have been a very productive studio exercise, allowing me to think through making. There feels like less pressure in these works, as if something goes awry, I can just cut it out and keep going.

Screen Shot 2019-10-09 at 2.49.46 PM.png



Currently Reading: Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith, to escape politics and social media.

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