Gail Jones Talks Time and Art

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“Clock-time is tyrannical,” Gail Jones tells me over the phone from her home in Sydney, half an hour in the future.

Having published two collections of short stories and five highly regarded and awarded novels, Gail Jones has the freedom to look at the world differently. For Jones, the widely accepted notion of time in the 24-hour day is at odds with real human experience. As anyone who has experienced a fast day at work or the time a watched pot takes to boil might agree, “time slows down, speeds up and stops in peoples’ lives”. As Professor of Writing at the University of Western Sydney, Jones works on linking writing to the work of other faculties like fine arts, cinema and philosophy. She has worked internationally in Ireland, France, the US and India, and lectures across the globe on topics as metaphysical as this. This month, she will be meditating on time and imagination in Adelaide. Asked why she is so interested in exploring our experience of time, Jones tells me, “Well, it’s one of the big issues… I do think there’s an essential mystery in ‘time’ – it has a strange elastic duration. “What I’m really rejecting is the chronological view of time. I believe that time is more subjective.” When it comes to literature, Jones is interested in the “afterlife of art”. That is not to say, the life a piece of art takes after its birth, but the way art can transcend time, drawing readers or viewers’ imaginations into another age. Jones says that reading older texts is like “communing with people who aren’t there in a way, you know, their voices in your head.” This ‘spooky quality of art’ is what drives much of Jones’ work. Thanks to the Friends of the Library at the University of Adelaide, Gail Jones will be speaking at the University on Thursday, September 19 at 6pm for a 6:30pm start. The talk will be open to the public for the price of a gold coin donation.

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