In Search of a Wife in Search of a Husband

Stories of love, marriage and marital gravity · 2009

John Shipman, In Search of a Wife in Search of a Husband, Nuit Blanche 2009Experience a moment of marital gravity with your significant other (or any other) in a slowly-rotating space. See your practice wedding in video projections on the surrounding walls and ceiling in the main sanctuary of a heritage church. Hear and see the spirit of love and marriages past: the wedding song fragments of Sappho in ancient Greek and English, the memoirs of Lady Hyegyong in Korean, and the last letters between Samuel Johnson and Hester Thrale in English. Feel the pulse of the traditional music of love and marriage played on pipe organ, violin and cello.

In Search of A Wife in Search of a Husband — a collaborative installation with Jihee Min, Myung-Sun Kim and Adrienne Coffey presented at St. Matthew's United Church on 3-4 October 2009 as part of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Toronto — included three video stories about love and marriage past:

In her marriage songs and poetry, Sappho explored the sweetbitter of eros in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE. In ancient Greek, the active form of the verb to marry was used only about men: Men marry; women were given in marriage, taken to wife.

Ancient Greek read by Liz Warman
Songs arranged and sung by Dianne Wells from If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho
Text used with permission of the author Anne Carson, Alfred A. Knopf, New York (2002)
Brides · Hélène St-Amant and Lena Tashijian
Video by John Shipman

Spitting out blood
The memoirs of Lady Hyegyong (1735-1815) recount her early marriage to the Crown Prince of Korea and her experiences before and after her father-in-law, King Yŏngjo, forced her husband, his 25-year-old son, to climb into a rice chest which was then sealed. The Prince died in the chest eight days later.

Narrated in Korean by Jihee Min
Narrated in English by David Seol
Script and video by Jihee Min

You are ignominiously married
Five letters culminated an intense, 20-year friendship between Hester Lynch Thrale and Dr. Samuel Johnson. In letters exchanged over 16 days during June and July 1784, Thrale, 43 years old and recently widowed, announced her intention to remarry. Johnson, 74 years old, reacted strongly. They were not to see each other again: Thrale left for Italy and Johnson died in December 1784.

Johnson read by Desmond Ottley
Thrale read by Susanne Tabur
Video by John Shipman

Slideshow · photographs from the installation


John Shipman · Jihee Min · Myung-Sun Kim · Adrienne Coffey

Contributing artists · Samantha Crowhurst, Janna Hiemstra, Dr. Paul E. Jessen, Desmond Ottley, Robert Park, May Ing Ruehle, Hélène St-Amant, David Seol, Clara Shipman, Victoria Shipman, Susanne Tabur, Lena Tashijian, Liz Warman, Dianne Wells, Pamela Williams, Zhang Xing

With thanks to Vtape, all the volunteers during Nuit Blanche 2009, Marcelle St-Amant, Sheila Moll, Rev. Katherine Brittain, and St. Matthew's United Church, venue sponsor

For more information about the installation as presented during Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2009, please contact John.

Photos · Marcelle St-Amant