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The Mattress Factory is an artist-centered museum, international residency program and renowned producer and presenter of installation art. We say “yes” to artists, offering time and space to dream and realize projects in our hometown, Pittsburgh, PA. We invite audiences from around the world and around the corner to step inside, immerse and connect with the artistic process.

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Jonathan Callan

For Stuart Callan. 1962-2005


This play is a reflection on the (im)possibility of accepting diversity and the other. The fragmented body of the neoplasm—the fruit of unstable conditions—overcomes barriers, loves and denies itself and others, wanders around, forgetting its profession. It frequently and with pleasure divides, goes through dangerous palpation, questions the possibility of contact with the experience of the other. Poorly brought up but very successful, it invites us to a trans-species transition.

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On the 4th floor, visitors are confronted with an enormous structure, which at first glance replicates the cross-section of a felled tree. However, after examination, viewers find that Callan has erected his entire installation out of coverless books that are drilled together to create an intrinsically organic structure that begins to approach a painting or drawing. In previous works, Callan has cut, scratched, folded, and punched surfaces of original prints, paintings, and photographs rendering the original virtually unrecognizable. In this manner, he draws attention to the objects we are surrounded by every day. Callan addresses books as objects rather than sacred cultural artifacts and prompts viewers to explore ideas of materiality: what is a book and what is its purpose? Within a cultural context of hypertexts, virtual communication, the Internet, and the commodification of books, Callan’s work encourages viewers to consider how we now address traditional modes of relaying knowledge such as through the use of textbooks, encyclopedias, and atlases.

Artist Statement

My work addresses the relationship of disembodied knowledge to embodied experience and materiality.


Messages & Communications: October 2, 2005 – April 2, 2006
About The Artist

Born in Manchester, England in 1961, Jonathan Callan lives and works in London. Callan studied at the Goldsmith College of Art and Slade School of Fine Arts. Preoccupied with language and its limitations, Jonathan Callan often works with textbooks, maps, or photographs - as source material. No longer a secondhand carrier of information, text is turned into an object of first experience. His methodology consists of amplifying the physical aspects of the object by embedding or dissolving it until the original form is barely identifiable. Through this sometimes violent, often obsessive process, Callan develops a system of inquiry, which both drives the work and generates meaning. His works have been exhibited extensively in museums and galleries throughout Europe and the United States. Select institutional exhibitions include: Islip Art Museum, East Islip, NY; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; Boghossian Foundation, Villa Empain, Brussels; Wesleyan University Museum, Boston, MA; Teylers Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands; John Michael Kohler Arts Center, WI; and Royal Society of British Sculpture, London, UK. His work is included in major museum collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The British Museum, London; The Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, UK; Whitworth Gallery, Manchester, UK; The High Museum, Atlanta GA; The Leopold-Hoesch Museum, Duren, Germany; and Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ.

More from this Artist

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