Notes from Galveston (week 4): Jac Saorsa, Visiting Scholar, University of Texas

Way back in post-WWII Texas, one nightclub stood above the rest. It offered the best entertainers, the hottest crowds, and the best illegal gambling in the state. It was the infamous Balinese Room on Galveston island, the swankiest spot on the Gulf Coast.

Way back in post-WWII Texas, one nightclub stood above the rest. It offered the best entertainers, the hottest crowds, and the best illegal gambling in the state. It was the infamous Balinese Room on Galveston island, the swankiest spot on the Gulf Coast.http://www.balineseroom.net

Just up from Murdoch’s on the Seawall is a structure that may at first seem strange to the uninitiated eye. It is the only piece that remains of the famous Balinese Room Pier. Four timber struts and a slatted roof are all that is left of the original entrance which was on the Seawall itself. The rest of the Pier was completely obliterated by Hurricane Ike on Saturday, September 13, 2008.

Left as a poignant reminder of the once internationally (in)famous venue – which was at its peak during the 40’s and 50’s when Galveston was familiarly known by some as the ‘Sin City of The South’ – the odd quadrangular construction now stands incongruous, yet with an aura of history and pride, prompting tourists to pause and question its significance.

You can find lots of information on the Balinese Room on this comprehensive website http://www.balineseroom.net/index.htm that now, on the home page, has a sad note of farewell from the owner. In July 2013 the word was that the 27,000 square feet of (underwater) space and 140 feet of Seawall frontage was up for sale.

The work on the Drawing Womens Cancer project is ongoing and I am feeling so very inspired by the gift that this Visiting Scholarship has afforded me. I read, I write and I work, in between walking along the shore and exploring as much of the island as I can either by foot or on my trusty borrowed ‘beach cruiser’ cycle. Time seems to go a little more slowly here…yet my thoughts and passion for what I am doing are free to develop and deepen.

I am thinking about the profound relationship between my drawings and the consideration of what it actually means to be ill in contemporary society – meaning that is in terms of all its variables.

I am thinking about the opening of a new level of discursive space and about the relation between our sense of horror and the sublime.

I am thinking about Hannah Arendt’s distinction between pity and compassion.

I am thinking about The Diagnosis, the signature drawing of the project as a whole, in relation to this definition from Alan Radley’s excellent book, Works of Illness: Narrative, Picturing and the Social Response to Serious Disease

The Diagnosis

The Diagnosis

The sensed disintegration of life under these circumstances arises not so much  from a splitting of plans and routines as from the altered significance of everything in ones world, where each fragment is drained of the totality of meaning that is the taken for grantedness of everyday existence (p.150)

I am thinking…

More notes from Galveston soon.

About Jac Saorsa

Independent visual artist, writer and researcher in philosophy and contemporary art practice, primarily in the field of Medical Humanities. Director and Senior instructor at The Broadway Drawing School in Cardiff.
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