What's the Story? Geoffrey Smedley Part 2

I thought he was 85, but he is 86 and one-quarter, he reminded, with the precision typical of this intellectually rigourous man. That in itself is a story. No lying back for this artist.

The other thing is that he makes his art in a studio on Gambier Island, which is accessible only by passenger ferry or private boat from Vancouver or Gibsons. There are a few gravel roads, and some of the 150 or so permanent residents barge over vehicles to drive them, but nothing is simple when you live on an island. It requires desire and determination to brings things on or get things off. That's another big part of the story.

And I haven't yet introduced the work itself, 20 years in the making, an electro-
mechanical sculpture in four pieces, collectively called "Dissections," it is a literal interpretation of Descartes' view of man as a collection of mechanical parts. Each of Geoffrey Smedley's pieces are one of the organs of the character he calls Descartes' Clown, the last robot on earth.  

"Like Descartes, the Clown is neurotic. Each call into question their existence and non-existence, " he writes. "....The Clown removes the pineal gland Descartes thought the foyer to the immortal soul, the agent of life, and asks, is it here I shall find truth? It is the intuition that truth lies beneath that propels the robot to dissect himself."

Those passages come from a book that accompanies the work, which will be exhibited at the Canadian Centre for Architecture beginning June 6. The book is also called Dissections, white on black, featuring 100 fragments Geoffrey photographed himself, and facing-page texts that are as thoughtful as they are, often, hilarious, which comment on the metaphorical implications of each part. Much of the text is narrated by the Clown/robot himself. Not yet halfway through, I have found enough quotable lines to keep me tweeting for months (once I open an account.)

Because I think people have to know about this man, his vision, his commitment, his intellect, his skill as a machinist (he tooled all the parts himself, in his Gambier Island workshop), his sense of artistic elegance, his wife Brigid, who is dealing with a second bout of cancer, the Herculean effort it took to get the pieces into 12 crates weighing several tons onto a barge, then into a truck for the ferry across to Vancouver and the 4500
km journey to Montreal. The crates are on their way. Geoffrey and Brigid will follow in a couple of weeks. The story will continue.