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Ten Models of the Universe · Comments

Posted on: 3 December 2013 by John


The artists and 14 volunteers were hosts to more than 500 Nuit Blanche Toronto visitors from sunset to sunrise on 5–6 October 2013. One hundred and twenty-six visitors left comments.

Visitor comments

The projects hosted at this church are always the highlight of my Nuit Blanche experience. I took two turns reading "The Endless Proverb." Sometimes grim, sometimes hilarious, always thought-provoking and hypnotic. Thank you to all the artists and helpers for creating such a unique and special experience. I can't wait to see what appears here next year. — @4:47am

One word:
Cool. Excellent! Awesome.
Interesting. Delightful! Funny.
Multiverse. Neato! Great. Awesome!
Terrific! Congratulations! Thanks.

Two words:
Totally cool! Wonderful experience. Wonderful work.
Great exhibit! Great fun! Great work! Great job.
Very engaging! Very interesting. Cool beans.
Very creative! Very enjoyable. Thank you.

Three words:
Awesome—thank you!! Loved the art.
Unique really liked. Fun and playful! Bless you all.
Super cool time! Very interesting exhibit! Neat interactive event.
Lots of fun. Lots of fun. Lots of fun. Lots of fun! Lots of fun! Tons of fun.

Four words:
Really fun, thank you! Wonderfully evocative and fun! Out of this world. Wonderful—lots of fun.
Loved it—perfect location. Really interesting to see. Very fun and educational.
Never spite your nose. Time turned upside down! Nice use of space!
It was super cool! Many nice small projects.

Five words:
Very interesting and unique idea. Amazing!
I love the universe. I enjoyed the installation. It was really really nice.
The interconnection of the universe! Neil Turok wud love this.
Thanks for another great show. In it to win it.
Thanks for the X10 pin. Love the interaction and thoughtfulness.
These were definitely funny universes!
Very nice ideas into realization.

Six and more words:
Thanks for engaging all the senses!
Great way to express the universe.
Best models of the universe are the ones you are free to construct!!!
Owen is awesome and so is this place!
Wonderfully inventive absorbing creative and also great fun!
A church open to the sacrilege and presence of the public, imagine that!
Loved the fact that it was interactive—really enjoyable—thank you!
This was very creative and entertaining especially that we were able to be part of the event.
A comment in Mandarin
A comment in Greek (?)
I had a great time contributing to the scrabble board, knitting and kvetching and listening to the words of wisdom from the pulpit.
Soft as smoke and tough as nails.
Fabulous as always and moved by your visions.
Who knew there were so many universes?
I am flying lotus of the cosmos. The universe unfolded as a flower in Spring.
Nothing works up your appetite more than travelling across the multiverse...Had a great time.
Another one in and out of the bag.
Universally speaking of course, that is an endless guest book message, as one wrote, the words continued, beyond what one wrote and so on.
I wonder why the stage is picked to be a church.
I will think about it...also nice that to create a universe is to create out of everyday object that you feel the texture of them.
First words in our heads: stars, planets, public, infinity.
What a wonderful way to bring the universe closer to us.

•   •   •

Ten Models of the Universe from the Department of Household Science & Advanced Proverbs featuring the Endless Proverb is dedicated to the Department of Household Science at the University of Toronto, (1902-1906?) with our thanks to:

Event volunteers: Andrea Beranek, Veronica Clarke-Hanik, Tony Hanik, Rosary Kwak, Sheila Moll, Clara Shipman, Elisabeth Shipman, Victoria Shipman, Emilie Shipman-Wight, Marcelle St-Amant, Susanne Tabur, Andy Soter, Jenna Teece Soter, William Teece Soter, Sonya Teece, Chloe Taft

Venue sponsor: St. Matthew's United Church—Rev. Lauren Hodgson, Sheila Moll, Renwick Burnett, Xing Zhang, Sonya Teece

Commercial sponsors: Ferrier Wire Goods Company Ltd., Primavera Interior Furnishings Ltd.

Other suppliers: CanaKit, Goodwill Industries, Sesco, Home Depot, Mountain Equipment Coop, New Canadians Lumber, Active Surplus, Lee Valley Tools, Rona, The Source Shop, Tap Phong Trading, Walmart, World Sew

Special thanks to: Marcelle St-Amant, Pat Steenbergen, Dan Eylon, Wil Moll, the City of Toronto, and the Department of Household Science & Advanced Proverbs

3 December 2013

Posted on: 2 October 2013 by John


Catch the first hour or so of The Endless Proverb text posted news-ticker style as it scrolls across your screen on

A shorter fragment-in-progress was posted here on 3 July 2013.

You are invited

Posted on: 1 October 2013 by John


You are invited to Ten Models of the Universe - John Shipman

Come create models of the universe with orphan socks, words and other earthly things this Saturday from 6:51 pm to sunrise at St. Matthew's United Church, 729 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto.

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2013

Graphic: Joy Shipman


A 12-hour long sentence constructed from proverbs from around the world, The Endless Proverb Model of the Universe will be projected as a crawling news ticker video around St. Matthew's Church's magnificent great hall on 5–6 October 2013 as part of Ten Models of the Universe by the Department of Science & Advanced Proverbs, an Independent Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Toronto Project.

For more info plus details about other models, please see Ten Models of the Universe.

An excerpt of text-in-progress from hour two of The Endless Proverb Model of the Universe:

… a promise is a promise,
as a rose is a rose is a rose, though when
roses fall, but the thorn remains, so
that which we acquire with the most difficulty we retain the longest, but
for a lost thing care nothing, and
the unlooked for often comes, so
those who long for something grow old in a day, and
only remembrance of a well spent life is sweet, but
remorse is the echo of a lost virtue, and
the owner has one house, the renter a thousand, so
let the one who receives the profit repair the inn, though
the report makes the wolf bigger than it is, as
reputation is often without merit, and lost without fault, and
one who digs a pit, often falls into it, for
revolution never goes backwards, but
ridicule is the test of truth, and
one who rides on a giant's shoulders sees farther than the one who carries him, however
whatever way you take, there is a stretch of bad road, and even though
all roads lead to Rome, you may row your heart out, if the wind and tide set against you, so
a boat that will not answer to the rudder must answer to the rock, and though
there is no rule without an exception,
the exception proves the rule, but
one that would rule, must hear and be deaf, see and be blind, though
the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world, and
it is a poor rule that won't work both ways, though
the only rule that works both ways is the golden rule, so
do as you would be done by, but,
if you don't have anything to do, don't do it here, and
before gold, even kings take off their hats,
use their heads for something besides a hat rack, and
don't talk through their hats, but
never forget where they buried the hatchet, as
we hate where we hurt, and
we always hurt the ones we love, and
love the ones we hurt, so
hunger sweetens what is bitter, and
though I am bitten, I am not eaten, and
better a friendly bite than an enemy's caress, so
take two bites, if one is too large, but
don't bite off more than you can chew, for
charity begins in the home, and
though charity and pride have different aims, they can both feed the poor, for
different strokes for different folks, so
different time, different manners, and
different folks take different views, but
when people come face to face, their differences vanish…

Text as of 3 July 2013

Caverne St-Clair 20012: text fragments

Posted on: 19 November 2012 by John


Fragments of text were found in Caverne St-Clair 20012 and each fragment was given an accession number.

Five collections of these fragments were displayed during Toronto Nuit Blanche 2012 mounted around a large translucent five-sided pylon.

Download the five fragment collections here.


Caverne St-Clair 20012: comments

Posted on: 11 October 2012 by John


Caverne St-Clair 20012 was visited by more than 700 people during Toronto's Nuit Blanche, September 29-30, 2012. Visitors listened to explanations of artifacts found at the site, received a 35mm slide badge, read fragments of lost texts, rode on lookUP cars to view images from 18,000 years ago on the ceiling of the Caverne, and absorbed the vibrations of Orgone played on the restored pipe organ.

144 Nuit Blanche visitors left comments about their experience:

Artifacts / fragments

  • Great artifacts! This must have been a wonderful culture of individuals.
  • What a creative installation...really thought that 2012 was a primitive point in time!
  • I traveled back in time from the year 30,042 to study how citizens of Quora 75-B13 (20012 AD) studied Torontonians of 2012. In the future we have less colour. I am jealous.
  • Remembering culture I didn't know I used to have.
  • What strange and wonderful lives these Toronto people lived!

lookUP cars / Carousel of Carousels

  • I feel dizzy but I wasn't was...I don't have the right words.
  • Looking at an exhibit lying down does make the act of looking much different.
  • I really enjoyed the flashlight. It puts you in the "detective" mode.
  • Loved the carousel of carousels!
  • Retour à l'enfance, mon enfance et celle de l'humanité bientôt. Superbe concept!

Ancient pipe organ / Orgone

  • Absolutely beautiful! Sounds concept, the mysterious cave of wonder!
  • The sound seems to reverberate through the ages.
  • The understanding of the pipe organ and the way it functions was truly interesting.
  • An altering experience taking me into wild and relaxing places.
  • I could listen to the soundscape all night long.
  • Why our organ must be saved!

.... summing it up

  • Totally cool to experience...and cookies

Caverne St-Clair 20012 was created by John Shipman, Mani Mazinani, and Veronica Clarke-Hanik. Sparked by Veronica's idea of pilgrimage, John developed the exhibition, lookUp cars and the Carousel of Carousels. Mani composed Orgone for the pipe organ which he performed with the assistance of Tony Hanik. Veronica made the slide pins, animated the exhibits, and recruited and led the volunteers that made the presentation of Caverne St-Clair possible. Joy Shipman—graphic design. Clara Shipman—design and fabrication. Dr. Paul Jessen—technical assistance, organ. Harry Vance—technical assistance, electrical. Andy Wight—technical assistance, electrical. Wil Moll—technical assistance,electronics. Dan Eylon—technical assistance, mechanical; design/construction of small rotating platforms. Liz Shipman, Tony Hanik, Sheila Moll—35mm slides.

Event volunteers: Diana Abraham, Nikki Abraham, Andrea Beranek, Doug Bond, Tiffani Brass, Kyra Chantal, Luna Ciandre, Rebecca Duquet, Patrick Gallagher, Andrew Hanik, Josef Hanik, Tony Hanik, Isaiah Huntsman Merker, Kira Huntsman Merker, Lara Huntsman, David Jenkins, Anais Malena, Clara Shipman, Emilie Shipman Wight, Liz Shipman, Victoria Shipman, Marcelle St-Amant, Tessa Stephens, Susanne Tabur, Kathryn Tate, Jenna Teece Soter, Sonya Teece.

Thanks to St. Matthew's United Church for hosting their seventh Nuit Blanche project: Rev. Lauren Hodgson, Rev. Katherine Brittain, Sheila Moll, Renwick Burnett, Xing Zhang, Sonya Teece, Kathryn Tate.

Word cloud of Caverne St-Clair 20012 visitors' comments

7 October 2012

Listening to Love: comments

Posted on: 29 January 2012 by John


Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2011 

John Shipman, invitation to Listening to Love, Nuit Blanche 2011The following is a selection from the 100 written comments received from 441 visitors about the interactive multi-media installation about gender and sexuality: Listening to Love: next time can we choose our gender? that I presented at St. Matthew's Church, 729 St. Clair Avenue West, as part of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Toronto.

Visitor comments:

I have three daughters. Nothing but questions on my mind. How will I support them in their choices? How will I do? Thank you.

Interesting what combination I felt most comfortable listening to: woman to man which is the sort of relationship I'm in right now. The other combinations I wasn't as interested in what they were saying. Cause for thought...

Amazing. What a great way to start a necessary communication.

I like this. At first it was kind of cheesy, but really enjoyed it afterwards — felt warm and kind of oddly validating.

Fascinating that it was held in a church; almost ironic.

It is distasteful to put this exhibit in a church.

Another visitor responded to the comment above: That's the point. Open your mind. Loosen up! I love art and ideas in a church!

I love the way Facebook says we are in a relationship. It makes me laugh. Not because it's funny, but because it makes me happy [a quote from one of the gendRphone voices]. So good. I really enjoyed this — perhaps this will be my highlight at Nuit Blanche?

Beautiful. Everyone should have a gendRphone of their own — nice for the good days and the bad.

I loved the message and I loved the form the installation took. I loved the discussion with you.

So lovely... Such a treat to see another great project — I especially enjoyed sitting in a booth where everyone is connected through the shared inner circle.

The text on those little business cards is very well put. I took one... hope you don't mind.

I love the space and the setup. The music, the gendRbooths, they all struck a cord. And the art out front, it fit perfectly with the theme. The cards were a great touch.

Fascinating! Why were the voices automated / robotic? It seemed to deprive it of the emotional intensity I was expecting.

Wow! Great installation. Nicely designed/crafted, suits the space very well!

And from a child: Dear John, I liked the way you shoed girls and boys and it was very nice. I was cind of inspierd but again I didint reely know about it.

Read John Shipman at Nuit Blanche, a review by Heather Saunders

Originally posted 11 October 2011

Invitation: Joy Shipman

Today Years Ago: a long poem

Posted on: 29 January 2012 by John


John Shipman, Today Years Ago, 2010 This long poem written in 2010 is comprised of rediscovered, reconstructed, and re-purposed fragments of western art history excavated from Art in Theory 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas by Charles Harrison and Paul Woods. It pulls phrases from their original context and places them within a larger sequence: a sort of text sampling, a larger context that they in some sense helped shape. In part, it suggests an intellectual history of my own interests as they have been constructed from others' words and ideas.


Today Years Ago: fragments from western art history: 1906 to 1991

1906> The counter-pole to the need for empathy is the urge to abstraction —
1906> Returning the individual thing to its arbitrariness and seeming fortuitousness.
1908> The telegraph hammers all over Europe, but tells hardly a word of the glory of Messina —
1910> Movement and light.

1913> The world, a monstrous, fantastic, perpetually moving machine.
1914> Painting sets before us that which a person could and should see —
1915> The movement of red, green and blue,
1915> Constructed on the basis of weight, speed, and the direction of movement.

1912> Not the situation of objects, but the situation of a spectator —
1912> An internal strength whose radiance shines all around.
1913> Superfluous development of sentimental and popular subject matter —
1913> This is that.

Read the complete poem.
Download Today Years Ago.

Originally posted 19 December 2010

All Night I Mourned Myself: comments

Posted on: 29 January 2012 by John


Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Toronto 2010

John Shipman, poster for All Night I Mourned Myself, Nuit Blanche 2010 Visitors made a surprising 217 entries in the four comment books available during the 12-hour, night-long presentation of All Night I Mourned Myself: when I am gone what will be said? Approximately 600 people made their way to Toronto's farthest north Scotiabank Nuit Blanche project at St. Matthew's Church on St. Clair Avenue West. While most arrived between 7 pm and 1 am, 20 visitors stopped by between 6 and 7 am. Visitors in 2010 almost doubled 2009's total number of visitors to the same location.

Seven people indicated that All Night was the best or one of the best Nuit Blanche projects they had seen. Eighty seven visitors found the installation moving, engaging, powerful, profound, awesome, beautiful, very good, really enjoyable, magical.

Twenty nine people commented on more abstract aspects of life and death, 11 referred to someone they were mourning and 10 commented about attending their own funeral. That one third of the visitors commented suggests All Night evoked a strong response.

Comments ranged from the agonizingly personal — one visitor filled a page with a list of 28 friends, relatives and pets that had died — to a few hard to decipher drawings.

Visitor comments:

The entire experience was fantastic. Very moving. It was difficult to leave the pew! The music was beautiful, the words beautiful, the photos too! Amazing work.

Beautiful installation. Very peaceful and thought-provoking. The computerized voices captured the mood brilliantly.

This was a great piece! The music made me sad but had happy moments to keep me in neutral thought. It's great to displace yourself for a few moments and put some thought into such a meaningful idea. Great work.

It was genius. Made me think of my late grandma, and made me run off. It was very interesting either way and very mind-blowing.

A very good project, very deep meaningful perspective into the deep individual way of dealing and conceptualizing one’s death and its perspective. One of the only pieces I saw this year which was able to convey a deep meaning which can be both spiritual and which can connect with any religion and ethnic background. Sorry, I just loved it. Hope to see more in the future.

Thanks to St. Matthew's for an innovative use of your church — wonderful installation and well done — keep it up!

Very unique, interesting, beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for your work. Best piece at Nuit Blanche!

Cool idea. Next time let us choose our gender.

Originally posted 24 November 2010
Full report available on request.
Poster: Joy Shipman

Dragging my video camera down the front steps

Posted on: 29 January 2012 by John


30 years of unconventional camera movements from the Vtape collection · 2009

John Shipman, poster for Dragging My Video Camera at Vtape, 2009 This essay was written for a project I curated at Vtape that included a 60-minute program of eight short videos by Leslie Peters, Jeremy Drummond, Vanessa Renwick, Gunilla Josephson, Tom Sherman and Jean Piche, Samuel Chow, Steve Reinke and Martha Wilson that used unusual camera positions and movements to create a slightly different visual gravity: showing things improbable but viscerally informative.

Anxious, thoughtful video artists hear many contradictory whispers about how they might position and move a video camera. Visual memories of camera movement from the hours, days and months of watching commercial television and movies disturb their optical unconscious. Whispers pursuing them range from levelness, verticality, and not crossing the index vector line, to the conventions of various genres, and other axioms on camera positions and movements. Altogether they form a formidable presence and usually an effective predictor of camera positioning and movement. Perhaps the loudest whispers are the ones about levelness and verticality — the viewers’ expectations about the relationship between the projected image and the centre of the Earth.

In 1609, Galileo used a primitive telescope that enable him to conclude that there were mountains on the Moon, and small bodies orbiting Jupiter. Encouraged by these observations, he published his Dialogue on the Great World Systems (1632) in which he asked his readers to consider that having the Earth rotating around the Sun did not need to compromise their spiritual beliefs. Galileo, a champion of problematic views and a user of a visual apparatus, re-emerges here in the 21st century with a determined but cryptic perspective on the conventions of camera movement. He is joined by his foil from the 1600s, Simplicico, in an imagined dialogue about the movement of video cameras with respect to the centre of the Earth (1):

Simplicico: We expect people and other vertical objects to stand upright on level ground. A tilted horizon is sloppy camera work.

Galileo: It is possible to force the apparatus to produce something impossible to see in advance, something improbable, something informative.

Read the complete Vtape essay.
Download the essay.

Originally posted 27 October 2010