Published September 17, 2015
In the “Skin Project,” fiction writer and conceptual artist Shelley Jackson tattoos a story on 2,095 volunteers, one word at a time. More recently, she has been working on “Snow,” an Instagram-based story written in the snow — also one word at a time.
Jackson “excels at thinking across formal disciplines,” says Christina Milletti, associate professor of English.
Milletti calls Jackson “a unique interdisciplinary writer in that her work with narrative moves conceptually between the realms of print, media and art in order to examine the relationship between bodies and texts.”
The WBFO Visiting Professor in the Arts for 2015-16, Jackson will bring her “cross-genre” perspective to UB next week during the first of six visits to campus. She will read from her work to open the Department of English’s Exhibit X Fiction Series; the reading also opens the Gender Institute’s 2015 Gender Week, the theme of which is “Wonder Women and Super Men.”
Jackson’s reading will take place at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 in Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center, 341 Delaware Ave., Buffalo. It is free and open to the public.
During her visits to UB — three this semester and three in the spring semester — Jackson also is scheduled to present a lecture in the Department of Media Study’s PLASMA (Performances, Lectures and Screenings in Media Art) series on Feb. 8.
Milletti coordinates the Exhibit X series and worked with UB colleagues Dimitri Anastasopoulos, English; Josephine Anstey, Media Study; and Paul Vanouse, Art, to prepare the proposal to bring Jackson to UB.
She says Jackson has written two “print” works —“Half Life,” a novel about conjoined twins, one of whom wants to “end” the other — and a story collection, “The Melancholy of Anatomy,” a rewriting of a famous 17th-century work “The Anatomy of Melancholy” in which each story reconceives the body, externalizing its elements.
Jackson’s other works, though, move across media platforms.
“Her first piece, ‘Patchwork Girl’ — written in hypertext before Google was formed or Facebook even imagined — responded to Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ by presenting a female monster whose body, assembled from many other women's bodies, tells women’s stories even as the monster searches for her own identity,” Milletti says. “Her most recent narratives, ‘Skin’ and ‘Snow,’ are printed one word at a time on peoples’ bodies — as tattoos in the former — and then photographed on Instagram in the latter.”
While at UB, Jackson’s activities will be “many and varied,” Milletti says. She will meet with graduate and undergraduate students in the three departments that sponsored her visit “to discuss her work and theirs.” Among them are students in Anastasopoulos’ Graduate Fiction Workshop from the MA in Innovative Writing Certificate Program, students in Milletti’s course on women’s experimental fiction, Vanouse’s MFA students and Anstey’s students from her “Gender & Technology” seminar. Undergraduate students enrolled in the Creative Writing Certificate Program also will have a chance to meet with her.
Moreover, an interdisciplinary symposium on Jackson’s work and related issues of text and image is planned for the spring, with graduate students and faculty in English, Media Study and Art being invited to present.
And “weather permitting,” Jackson also will present, to both the UB campus and broader Western New York communities, a special installation of “Snow.”
For more information on Jackson and her work, visit her website.