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ceremony of innocence : bantock bio
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Nick Bantock was born in England in 1949. He attended art college at Kent, and began his career as a freelance illustrator at age 23. Between 1972 and 1988 he produced covers for over 300 books, including novels by Philip Roth and John Updike. In 1988 he relocated to Vancouver with his family, and soon began fostering his own book projects.
Bantock the painter, illustrator, and writer has named his primary artistic influences as a heady combination of Zen, Gestalt therapy, and the poetry of William Butler Yeats. Yet the author's earliest literary ventures were in the realm of children's pop-up books. These began with 1990's There Was an Old Lady (Viking), based on the classic playground verse "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly." Subsequent ventures in the genre included tactile versions of Jabberwocky (Viking, 1991), Solomon Grundy (Viking, 1992), The Walrus and The Carpenter (Viking, 1992), Robin Hood (Viking, 1993), and Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan (Viking, 1993). There were also two nonfiction pop-up books: Wings (Random House, 1990), which illustrated scientific principles of flight, and Runners, Sliders, Bouncers, Climbers (Hyperion, 1992), which elucidated various forms of animalian movement.
In 1991 Bantock published Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence (Chronicle Books), part one of his popular Griffin and Sabine trilogy. This so-called "epistolary romance" used a combination of text, image, and tactile objects (pull-out letters and cards) to reconfigure the children's pop-up book for an adult audience. The story of an uncanny long-distance relationship between two artists is told by reproducing their letters and postcards - rich works of collage which tell the story of their creators as much through imagery as through written words. Griffin and Sabine launched a new genre of art book fiction that enticed millions of book-buyers worldwide. Bantock soon completed his trilogy with Sabine's Notebook (Chronicle, 1992) and The Golden Mean (Chronicle, 1993).
Spurred by quick success, Bantock continued to explore the narrative possibilities of this hybridized word and image form through the 1990s with releases such as The Egyptian Jukebox (Viking, 1993), The Venetian's Wife (Chronicle, 1996), The Forgetting Room (Harper Collins, 1997), and The Museum at Purgatory (Harper Collins, 1999). Each of these books finds its own strategy for marrying image and text. For example, The Forgetting Room tells the story of an artist who reconnects with his past while working on a painting in his dead grandfather's studio. His symbol-strewn collage evolves with every turn of the page, in a way that conveniently reveals the methodology behind Bantock's signature style of painting. Meanwhile, The Museum at Purgatory is the tale of an ambiguous curator whose job is to help perished souls make smooth transitions to the afterlife. Each spirit was a collector in life, and must weigh the quality of his or her existence by pondering the bizarre and unlikely objects that attracted them while living.
In 1997 Peter Gabriel's U.K.-based Real World Multimedia released Ceremony of Innocence, a cd-rom retelling of the Griffin and Sabine trilogy. Directed by Alex Mayhew, the cd recreates Bantock's postcards and letters as game-like riddles that combine the original artwork with interactive animation, film, and sound. This retelling also includes narrations of the original text by Paul McGann, Isabella Rossellini, and Ben Kingsley. A translation in German is available. Ceremony of Innocence won numerous major international electronic media awards, including three European Multimedia Awards (EMMA, 1997), a gold medal at the New York Festivals Awards (1998), and the International Award of Excellence at Canada's Atlantic Digital Media Awards (1997).
Other works released by Bantock during the 1990s include: Averse to Beasts (Chronicle, 1994), an illustrated book of original poems with accompanying audiotape readings; and Paris Out of Hand (Chronicle, 1996), a travelogue of a nineteenth-century Paris which never existed, written in collaboration with Karen Elizabeth Gordon and Barbara Hodgson.
The Artful Dodger (Chronicle and Raincoast Books, 2000) is Nick Bantock's artistic autobiography - a collection of images, anecdotes, and insights into the author's creative process.
Sage is a recent online interactive work by Nick Bantock and Shannon Wray. This is an "oracle" game which Bantock has described as "what would have happened if the 1920s' Surrealists had got their hands on the I Ching." Players shuffle and pick from a deck of question and answer cards, combining them to form spontaneous poetic aphorisms that explore "the sense within nonsense."
The Gryphon (Chronicle, 2001) is Nick Bantock's most recent book. It is part one of a new trilogy in which the correspondence of Griffin and Sabine is rediscovered. It will be followed in September 2002 by Alexandria and in 2003 by The Morning Star.
Nick Bantock presently lives in Vancouver. For more information and links concerning his life and work, please visit his Web site http://www.nickbantock.com.