U of T Alumnus Draws a Convincing Blank State by Miki Sato 01/10/2009
Imagine this: Toronto in the future-a city full of abandoned condos and high-rises, where everyone has fled, except for the artists, who are left to fend for themselves. This “condopocalyptic universe” is the basis for U of T alumnus Dave Proctor’s first full-length literary work, Blank State. The first installment of the novella series–Volume Zero: Condopocalypse Now!–illustrates the response to a deserted city core through the eyes of two ambitious young filmmakers.
Proctor’s idea for Blank State arose after attending one of his sister’s high school drama performances, where he considered the notion that acting might be “just taking steps towards the darkest parts of human nature.” Presented with the idea of the “doughnut hole” theory of city development around the same time, the author merged these concepts–along with his idea for a story involving clique-y musicians–and created a post-real estate market crash, entirely artist driven Toronto.
Exploring the themes of alienation and alternate reality, Proctor cites his influences, authors Franz Kafka and Kurt Vonnegut, for their “not-always-subtle weigh-ins on life and the world, and how they can be so funny and so tragicans so beautiful all at once.” He acknowledges Dr. Seuss also, who is “often filled with scathing commentary” and also “has the balls to make it fun and filled with hope.”
Proctor does a polished job at simultaneously painting an accurate portrait of Toronto’s art scene, while offering valid criticism on it as well. In Blank State, we are introduced to a new geography of the city, where downtown becomes an allegorical warzone, and the territory of Actors, Filmmakers, Musicians, and Writers are awell-defined. It’s a Toronto where Convocation Hall is transformed into a concert stadium, a Queen convenience store into a Studio; where OCAD, Fair Trade organic food, and a Rush song all start to look a little more magical, more romantic.
As well as possessing dark-comedic social commentary, the story’s portrayal of the early stages of love between two of its main characters, Helena and The Bum, is “very pure, very normal.” “I wanted people to read this sprawling satire about cannibals and crazed musicians and a city that allows condos to be build on top of hospitals. And yet, through all that, look at Helena and The Bum and see their romance as the most unbelievable aspect.”
Proctor states that his goal with Blank State was “not just to bitch about a lack of connection in the Toronto Art Scene, but to try to create some of that community.”
“That’s why I had three very different musicians–Dog Star Man, MJ Cyr, and Chang-A-Lang–two incredible live painters–both from Funktion Gallery–and one very underrated venue–The Bread & Circus–all mashed together to help me celebrate the book’s launch.
The same theme-specific launch party is planned for the second installment of Blank State, slated for release in January 2010.
“Blank State – Volume Zero: Condopocalypse Now!” Is available at This Ain’t the Rosedale Library (86 Nassau St.) and Funktion Gallery (1244 Bloor St. W), or can be purchased online at www.woodenrocketpress.com.
Tags: Blank State