A More Precise Distance Between the Reader and the Ultimate Visions

Gareth Long


Book, 22 x 14.5 cm, 43 p, language : English, publisher : Witte de With, Center for Contemporary Art.
Materials: ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2025/996).

Literary synopsis

The project relates the traditional text-spaces of an exhibition (exhibition catalogue, guide, wall labels, wall texts, etc.) to the text-space of Gustave Flaubert’s 1849/1856/1874 book The Temptation of Saint Anthony. Weaving together lines from this book, from Flaubert’s sources for the story (Athanasius, Jerome, Augustine, etc.); from the whole corpus of Flaubert’s work (including his novels, novellas, plays, correspondences, juvenilia, travel diaries, notebooks, etc.); some secondary materials relating to The Temptation (Michel Foucault, Jonathan Culler, Julian Barnes, Maxime du Camp, George Sand); as well as Long’s own writing, this collage-text recuperates Flaubert’s story in relation to the exhibition; sometimes only tangentially making the relationship to the works in the exhibition legible. Much as Hilarion –the main protagonist in the story- guides Anthony through the various temptations, Long’s narrative acts as a metaphoric guide to the exhibition. In Flaubert’s telling of the story of St. Anthony, the book (as in the book –the Bible), though the source of Anthony’s faith, is the site from which desire and temptation arise. Long, similarly, turns to books, opening up his reading practice in order to see what apparitions and visions may come forth. Long worked with designer Mike Gallagher of We Have Photoshop to design the exhibition guide and wall texts, and had some research assistance from Zach Seely.

Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice

Having made a number of other works that reference the works of Gustave Flaubert, including the series of desk-sculptures titled Bouvard and Pécuchet’s Invented Desk for Copying and the related project The Illustrated Dictionary of Received Ideas, this project falls in line with many of Gareth Long’s that deal with literature and reading. The style of writing is a sort of collage style that has the reader effectively reading over Long’s shoulder as he reads Flaubert (who is reading a number of ancient authors to be able to write The Temptation of Saint Anthony). Long has employed this sort of collage-writing previously in Literary Asses –a play that he has been writing in the style of an ancient Greek Comedy (like Aristophanes). The first section of this play was published by Triple Canopy.

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