Simon Bill


Book, 17.7 cm x 10.9 cm, 286 p, language: English, publisher: Cabinet II, London, ISBN: 9781906496593.
Materials: ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2025/874).

Literary synopsis

The narrator and protagonist is an unsuccessful painter with a drink problem. Almost by chance he finds that he has landed the post of artist-in-residence at the lavishly appointed Norman Neurological Institute in London. BRAINS tells of his encounters with the patients an their improbable conditions – Colin, who can see perfectly but can’t see faces; Stick, whose Tourettes causes juggling; Zeinab, the hard nosed business woman who sees fairy folk. And Emily, who cannot hold on to any memory for more than fifteen minutes. BRAINS weaves in and out of the neurology clinic and the art world settings, as we witness the hero’s farcical attempts at career ascendancy (endless gallery private views), and to court Emily, who never knows who he is because she keeps forgetting. How did she get here anyway? And why are there creepy men with clipboards taking notes? Where did all the money come from? All the answers emerge in a climactic scene in which the hero stages an exhibition of art by neurology patients.

Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice

BRAINS is not an artwork in the sense of being a “text piece” or anything of that sort. It is a work of comic literary fiction intended for mainstream distribution. Its main departure from convention is that it is also a kind popular science book – the narrative is punctuated with passages in which the narrator breaks off to discuss matters of neuroscience, addressing the reader directly. The main connection with art is not as an aspect of Simon Bill’s practice but as subject matter – the narrator is an artist, and much of the comic aspect of the book is to do with the absurdities of the art world.

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