Kay, E. (1999) Worldview Book Works ISBN 1 870699 37 8
Emma Kay is a British conceptual artist whose monumental written works of art, geography and histories are constructed from unaided memory. Her books include The Bible from Memory (1997), Shakespeare from Memory (1998), and Worldview (1999).
Worldview is an idiosyncratic global history drawn exclusively from half-remembered exams, costume dramas and articles from colour supplements.
Interestingly, the neutral and rather dryly authoritative style of Kay’s Worldview seemingly admits no doubts, yet the text is inevitably fallible – as fallible as all our memories would be given the audacity of the challenge, to write no less than a history of the world. It’s Kay’s crooked facts and massive omissions that are fascinating; it’s the gaps, inaccuracies and the missing parts of history that are as important to the work as the recollections themselves, and provide much of the interest. It challenges you not just to correct and question, but to doubt your own account of history.
Here’s an example of a page from the book:
After all the Ice Ages, and as the Sun continued to get hotter, the Earth became a nicer place to live again. Some of the mammals had begun to try to walk on two of their legs, to reach food that was growing on trees. They were the apes. Dinosaurs gathered food this way too, but their upper limbs were quite weak in comparison to the lower ones. Apes’ upper limbs were long and strong, and were known as arms. Their brains were much larger in relation to their upper body weight than the dinosaurs’ brains. About a million years ago apes were multiplying rapidly, they appeared all over the Earth in pockets. They lived in social groups, which were hierarchical. They were herbivores. Most lived in trees but some had begun to live on the ground. The apes had the biggest brain in relation to their body of all the creatures so far. Their brain continually evolved, and their social interaction grew more complex. They made very rudimentary tools to assist with food-gathering. They protected each other, not just their offspring. They spent a proportion of their time in play, since they were so good at gathering food that they did not need to do it all the time. Their predators were larger mammals such as lions and tigers, wolves and bears. As they became more intelligent, they learned how to avoid being eaten. They were a very successful species, and this fact enabled them to multiply and evolve at a quick rate. p.12
It’s a quirky dip-in read, a bit of fun, or a serious piece of conceptual art depending on your Worldview! But also undeniably fascinating, teasing and thought-provoking.