Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba

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Artist Talk with Jacob Scheier

Photograph of Jacob Scheier. Jacob is a white man in his 50s with brown hair and a beard with streaks of grey. Jacob is wearing an olive-green shirt under a black button up top. Jacob is gazing into the camera with a slight smile. He is standing in front of a brick wall painted red.

Summary

Artist talk by Jacob Scheier

Photograph of Jacob Scheier. Jacob is a white man in his 50s with brown hair and a beard with streaks of grey. Jacob is wearing an olive-green shirt under a black button up top. Jacob is gazing into the camera with a slight smile. He is standing in front of a brick wall painted red.

The “Mad” Artist in the 21st Century  

One of the roles and expectations of an artist in our culture is to present a unique “vision”—a perception of and into reality that is both distinct but resonate. When it comes to artistically presenting experiences of mental health struggles, this expectation can lend itself to the romanticizing trope of “the mad genius” or visionary—which actually impedes authentic rendering of such experiences. For example, to write a poem that renders the mundaneness of psychiatric institution is to disappoint such a cultural expectation. And in this respect, the “mad genius” or visionary trope is as stifling a cultural script as the medical model—with its clinical categorization of symptoms that treat mental suffering as particular kinds of diseases in need of a “cure.” The challenge for the “mad” artist today then is to render the radical subjectivity of mental suffering while not falling prey to the trope of the “mad genius/visionary” or conforming to the medical model’s attempt to narrowly define and pathologize our experiences. This presentation, through the medium of poetry, will suggest some ways we, as artists, might begin to accomplish this difficult task. 

Bio: 

Jacob Scheier is a Canadian poet, essayist and journalist. He is the author of three full length poetry collections with ECW Press, including the Governor General’s Award winning More to Keep Us Warm (2007). His most recent collection Is This Scary? (2021), explores the radical subjectivity of chronic mental and physical illness. His poems have been published in numerous magazines, journals and anthologies, as well as nominated for a National Magazine Award and longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize. Jacob is also the author of My Never-Ending Acid Trip, a hybrid work of literary journalism and memoir, published as an ebook with the Toronto Star, and his personal essays have appeared in a number of publications, including Brick and the Globe and Mail. He is currently Writer-In-Residence at The Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture (CCWOC) at the University of Manitoba.

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