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Jon Sasaki

March 22, 2012

Jon Sasaki is an artist who uses video, objects, performance, installation, and interventions to produce work that mixes humor and pathos, usually with discomforting and gently antagonistic results. He is currently partway through a traveling solo exhibition entitled Good Intentions, organized by the Doris McCarthy Gallery in partnership with the Kenderdine Art Gallery, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Southern Alberta Art Gallery, MacLaren Art Centre, Prairie Art Gallery, and the Dunlop Art Gallery. He has a BFA from Mount Allison University, lives and works in Toronto, and is represented by Jessica Bradley Art + Projects.

1. Prometheus

Prometheus was the name given to an exceptionally old Bristlecone Pine tree growing in a Nevada national park. In 1964, a grad student named Donald R. Currey decided for some reason that he wanted to ascertain the tree’s exact age and, after one or two unsuccessful attempts at drilling out core samples, he simply chopped Prometheus down in order to count the growth rings. It turns out the felled tree was over 5000 years old, making it the oldest unitary organism ever discovered. There is a clear lesson to be learned here: if you absolutely need to determine the exact age of an ancient tree, you should throw a bunch of extra auger bits in your backpack in case the first ones don’t do the job properly.

2. Centralia, PA

A few years before Currey’s blunder, some workers in the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania were tidying up the local dump in preparation for their annual Memorial Day festivities. They set a pile of trash on fire, which in hindsight was maybe not the wisest thing to do as Centralia was a coal-mining town and the dump was located at the mouth of an enormous anthracite coal seam. The seam ignited, wasn’t extinguished in time, and has been smoldering underground ever since. Even now, nearly fifty years to the day later, crevices in the earth spew hot smoke and carbon monoxide around the clock. Centralia was once a community of nearly three thousand, but when I visited a few years ago there were only ten tenacious residents of this ghost town. They are not particularly friendly to curious visitors.

3. Staged train crashes

The staged train crash in Crush, Texas probably also seemed like a good idea at the time. In 1896, William G. Crush, vice president of the Katy railroad, thought he would promote his railroad by crashing two steam locomotives head-on into one another at high speed, presumably to send the message that train travel was exciting, if not always perfectly safe. Forty thousand spectators showed up at the site near Waco to witness the collision. Not surprisingly, there was a hiccup: the boilers of both engines exploded on impact, showering the crowd with hot shrapnel. Tragically three people were killed and many more seriously injured by flying bolts, chains, and shards of wood. Remarkably, this was not the end of staged train crash shows in America; it was in fact the first of hundreds that would follow over the next forty years. I am somehow impressed by the commitment to an idea, even a stupid and baffling one.

4. Floating cups

This YouTube video is kind of magical, even more so if you watch it with your computer’s sound off. I imagine a thirsty ghost has just done the drive-through at McDonalds and is jiggling his drink cup around while sitting in the driver’s seat. It also resembles the inside of a space capsule if astronauts were allowed to bring their own beverages on missions (which they’re probably not).

5. The million-mile drive

Element 21 is a Toronto-based golf club manufacturer who holds the record for the longest golf drive in history. The shot, taken in 2006 by a Russian cosmonaut while standing on the International Space Station, traveled an estimated million miles. As astounding as that is, I would think a six-iron that effective would be undesirable. I am not a golfer, but I’m guessing most fairways are not that long and a million-mile drive would necessitate a great deal of backtracking.



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