Satin Island

Tom McCarthy


Book, 14.98 x 21.59 cm, 208 p., language : English, publisher : Knopf, New York, ISBN : 978-0307593955.
Materials: ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2027/726).

Literary synopsis

U., a “corporate anthropologist,” is tasked with writing the Great Report, an all-encompassing ethnographic document that would sum up our era. Yet at every turn, he feels himself overwhelmed by the ubiquity of data, lost in buffer zones, wandering through crowds of apparitions, willing them to coalesce into symbols that can be translated into some kind of account that makes sense. As he begins to wonder if the Great Report might remain a shapeless, oozing plasma, his senses are startled awake by a dream of an apocalyptic cityscape.

Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice

Coinciding with the publication of his novel Satin Island, Tom McCarthy collaborated with set designer Laura Hopkins to present a real-space version of the world that the book’s protagonist inhabits. This project took place at ICA London from 23 – 29 March 2015, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to physically step into, walk around, touch and interact with a work of fiction. As well as welcoming visitors throughout the week, U.’s office at the ICA hosted two public events:

A “Think Tank” where Director of the Weltkulturen Museum Frankfurt Dr. Clémentine Deliss, feted media consultant Alfie Spencer and leading critic and novelist Mark Blacklock discussed the triangle (central to McCarthy’s novel) linking anthropology, capitalism and literature within contemporary culture.
A “Company Report”: All-day reading of Satin Island on Saturday 28th March, from 12 noon to 10 pm. Specially invited figures from the world of writing, theatre and art read McCarthy’s novel from start to finish, non-stop in relay, in the style of an extended press conference or AGM statement.

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