Inside an actor’s brain | Fiona Shaw performs in a scanner
As part of a new exhibition on human identity, actor Fiona Shaw agreed to have her brain scanned while performing parts of TS Eliot’s poem The Waste Land. Stuart Jeffries joined her at University College London
Appreciation of the art of Henry Darger is unequivocally influenced by the known facts of his life: his mother died when he was four years old after giving birth to a baby sister, whom he never saw. When he was eight years old his father, unable to continue caring for him, put him in an orphanage and died soon after. Diagnosed as a disruptive trouble-maker, he was removed to various mental insitutions until he ran away at age 16.
For the next sixty-four years, he lived a reclusive life, working as a janitor in Chicago area hospitals and going to Catholic Mass daily. Neighbors would see him going through the trash, picking out magazines and newpaper illustrations. Finally, at age 80, unable to climb the stairs to his rented room, he was moved to a nursing home and died shortly thereafter.
His landlord was cleaning out his room after his death and came across a startling discovery: alone in his room, Darger had created a beautiful and violent fantasy world, primarily embodied in a 15,000 page epic narrative, “The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion.” (…)