Nicholas Zirk, Artist – Toronto
Nicholas Zirk’s object-oriented paintings create portraits of imagined individuals through the things they keep. In his work, he tells universal stories with a sense of humour while implicitly examining the coping strategies we use to exist in the modern world. He earned a BFA from OCADU in 2017. He has had solo exhibitions in Toronto, Vancouver, and Victoria, and participated in group shows internationally, in Vancouver, Toronto, Hamilton, Los Angeles and New York. Zirk also occasionally curates, both independently and as a group, and has facilitated exhibitions in Vancouver and Toronto.
He currently has a small exhibition titled Lucubrations with Sagan Editions at Flying Books in Toronto, and will be in the group exhibition Tomorrow’s Science at Galerie Nicolas Robert’s Montreal location, opening mid-February.
I have been loving the films of Wim Wenders recently. It began years ago by happening upon Paris, Texas while watching TV at my parent’s house. I was captivated by the masterful composition – every frame could be a still – and the sense of loneliness pervasive throughout the story. My obsession with Wenders was recently reignited by his film The American Friend, where a young Dennis Hopper drips cool as the quintessential hipster playing a deranged con-man art dealer in 1970’s Hamburg. Since then, I have been watching all Wenders’ films on the Criterion Channel (side obsession: the Criterion Channel).
During Christmas 2016, right in between the election of Donald Trump and his inauguration, I had a conversation with a friend about the literary genre magical realism. He was telling me about how it arose in two different areas and times (Stalinist Russia with The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov and South America with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, et al.), but the connection they shared was the disparity between people’s lived experiences and the state reality forced upon them. While friends and loved ones were starving, displaced, or being disappeared, the official edict was one of prosperity, abundance, and glory. My friend posited magical realism as a pathological response to having to entertain two contradictory realities simultaneously. Awash in fake news and the prospect of a lurch towards fascism in the United States, I felt that now was the time for a resurgence of magical realism to contend with the seeming total lack of reality consensus we were experiencing and continue to experience. A few years after this conversation I followed up with my friend to ask for the sources of his argument. He didn’t know, and couldn’t even remember the conversation. Did it really happen? Did I imagine the whole thing?
I have been reading about economics a lot recently. I am interested in intellectually framing economics as a form of materialist magic. Consider this: economists mostly engage in some form of prediction by trying to see into the future of the market or foretell the behaviour of groups of peoples. Economics can convince, coerce, and beguile by manipulating a system of symbols (money). To the economist, money is symbolic of time and labour, an object signifying an agreement to future or past actions, a source of temporal transcendence. Economics is steeped in the language of rationality, but also requires a level of faith – a contradiction I find fascinating. Anyway, there’s more to it, but I haven’t pinned it all down yet.
- Conspiracy theories
I read an interview with Adam Curtis, just after the release of HyperNormalization (side obsession: Adam Curtis) where he spoke about conspiracy theories as modern day myths, and that was it for me. I was conspiracy-pilled. Conspiracy theories hold so much power in our current moment, particularly Q-Anon, and Q-adjacent right wing conspiracy theories. It is fascinating to see them mythologize and grow in real time online. When I was younger, I loved listening to Coast to Coast on the radio at night; the stories are so wild. I am not really a true believer, but I am fascinated by belief. Except for interdimensional Big Foot; I’m all in on that guy.
I always like to subscribe to some sort of publication. It’s nice to get something in the mail consistently, and I enjoy being exposed to an array of different topics; it keeps me fresh. For the last year and a half that publication has been the New York Review of Books (side obsession: the Toronto Public Library). It has led to so much reading! Never before have I followed up on sources or books from a magazine like I have with the NYRB. Also, there is great art and art criticism. The New York Review feels like one of the last institutions of a generation that venerated writers and thinkers, a connection to a bygone New York that valorized intellectualism and critique. Plus, they are not afraid to publish trenchant criticism, and the letters section can get SPICEY.