London: McIntosh Gallery, Western University

london John Lennon was shot and killed last night. Today the campus is electric, impassioned by the shock and grief. It’s all anyone wants to talk about, especially in the offices of the student newspaper. Justin keeps acting out the role of Mark David Chapman, the close-range assassin.

I go to the microfiche area of the library and find the New York Times from exactly one century before, December 8, 1880. I record excerpts from various accounts of murder in Manhattan. I am surprised by how graphic and melodramatic the writing is. The shortest sentence, echoing the shortest verse in the New Testament, is “He died.”

I have to wait outside the Gallery for thirty minutes on this cold December day because the young woman who comes to unlock the door is late. I am excited to visit the Gallery today because they are featuring Ed Pien. I graduated from the Fine Art program with Ed in 1981. When I explain this to a couple of women also waiting to get in, one of them says “Well then, you must remember the women in the raccoon coats!”

Ed has one dimly lit room covered with white on black drawings. The drawings are largely abstract but recall erotic Hindu art. The other room features a white Sultan’s tent, anchored by rocks, within which is a village of glass homes. A haunting, droning soundtrack accompanies a shadow-show of First Nations figures.

The Gallery is filled with people, mostly parents and friends, for our graduating exhibit. There is some sort of commotion in the room to the left. One woman is overheard saying “Someone should call the police.” A young man is kneeling on the floor in front of a wooden chair. He recites lines that are graphic and melodramatic. Once in a while he yells out “He died!” and smashes the chair with the rock. Splinters from the chair fly off.  I recognize the young man.  It is me.