I received a copy of this book from the publicist in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
I went into Things That Art knowing only its tagline–“A graphic menagerie of enchanting curiosity”. Curious, I was, but I didn’t know much about what this book was about other than that it had art. Read on to find out how this going-in-blind thing worked for me.
Lochlann Jain’s debut non-fiction graphic novel, Things That Art, playfully interrogates the order of things. Toying with the relationship between words and images, Jain’s whimsical compositions may seem straightforward. Upon closer inspection, however, the drawings reveal profound and startling paradoxes at the heart of how we make sense of the world.
Commentaries by architect and theorist Maria McVarish, poet and naturalist Elizabeth Bradfield, musician and English Professor Drew Daniel, and the author offer further insight into the drawings in this collection. A captivating look at the fundamental absurdities of everyday communication, Things That Art jolts us toward new forms of collation and collaboration.
The first time I was introduced to the word “classification” was in 4th grade Science. In what would later be the answer to a question worth two marks in the exam on that chapter, the definition of the word stumped me. I vividly remember my mom pointing out her box of spices in the kitchen cabinet to explain how we classify things based on similarities between them. This was the start of me relating science to everyday life in order to better crack the two-mark questions I had in exams. But I digress.
“Savants throughout history have assumed that in an ideal and dependable world, all things would, like puzzle pieces and children, stick to their designated spots.”Lochlann Jain, Things That Art
Lochlann begins their last chapter in the book with this line. But their entire book is about turning this belief on its head. Things That Art is a book of 4 x 6-inch watercolour pads filled with stamp-sized drawings, classifying objects and things in a hitherto not-thought-about way.
Being an anthropologist who studies people and societal norms, it’s surprising that Lochlann’s graphic menagerie is so…untraditional. They make you completely reimagine known forms of classification, and therein lies the beauty of this book.
The postcard for “Things one draws” includes “breath” and “bath”. But it also includes “curtain of discretion” and “boundary”. Similarly, “Things with nails” includes “coffins” and “manicurist”, but also “snails” and “Jesus”.
Sure, this book elicits amusement, but it also elicits questions. It’s not just Lochlann classifying things in a new way, it’s also the reader themselves wondering what else would fit into these little postcards of interest. Are the concepts scholars write about all there are in the world? Or can these ideas be stretched to include different things, things you never could have thought about in the first place?
Things That Art is an invitation to the reader to step out of the box and regard the world with a little more curiosity. And it doesn’t always kill the cat, you know.
Rating: 4 out of 5