Mutable Histories

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Room Magazine vol 29.3: Mutable Histories
Edited by 
Melanie Klingbeil

Wise people have often told me that happiness means living in the here and now. But my impulse to agree always harbours some uneasiness. Part of me wonders what adopting this emphasis on today really means. I do see that continually sacrificing the present for an unknowable future gives rise to self-defeat. I also realize that if we fail to accept the irreversibility of time—that sorrowful events of the past can never be undone and yesterday's joys never truly relived —we may remain blind to new possibilities.

On the other hand, the influences of our past and expectations for the future shape who we are now; they condition our words and our thoughts, our impulses and responses in every moment. Seizing those moments, then, seems partly to be about taking control of our relationship with our past rather than striving for the impossibility of leaving it behind. The kind of consciousness that renders happiness—the consciousness that focuses on the here and now—must, it seems, betray itself just a little. It must open itself to the immediacy of a past that's gone, allow its traces on our memory and psyche to surface, become observable in our present life.

The effects of this remarkable layering of time, where the past radiates through the present that overlays it, show up in many of the works in this issue of Room of One's Own. The here and now of the characters who live in these pages bears a certain translucency, emitting but also reworking the stories the characters tell themselves about their pasts.


Authentic art bridges isolation when people connect emotionally to the work.

I paint about the tantalizing fact that we have only intimations of, but will never completely know, the nature of reality. About loss, fragility, old age, and mortality. And about compassion and love offering redemption. I am interested in how the size of a figure and its placement in space produce different psychological resonances; also in the way people group themselves when facing life. My work does not refer to literal history, or place the figures in any particular setting; I instead paint the interior world. Figures are often androgynous, not of a particular person, but about what confronts us as humans. I use drafting film because it provides an ephemeral quality, and I use oil paint as I love the materiality of the medium. I try to capture bewilderment, when structure and order break down, everything looks unfamiliar, and we are sure of nothing.

About the Contributors 

Carol Matthews has worked as a community worker and as an instructor and dean at Malaspina University-College in Nanaimo, B.C. Her short stories have appeared in various journals including Room of One's Own, Out of Bounds, The New Quarterly, Other Voices and The BC Fed Anthology. Her first collection of short stories, Incidental Music, will be published by Oolichan Books in 2007.

Ann Scowcroft lives in rural Quebec. In addition to writing poetry, she has lately been pursuing a PhD in second language acquisition.

Eve Leader was born in South Africa and immigrated to Canada twenty-five years ago. She worked in ceramics for many years before becoming a painter. Eve graduated from Emily Carr College of Art and Design in 1993 with a diploma in fine arts. She exhibits her work nationally and is represented by the Atelier Gallery in Vancouver.

Melanie Klingbeil is an MA student in communication at Simon Fraser University and an online facilitator for Athabasca University. Since earning her BA (Honours) in English at the University of Alberta, she has worked as an editor on both online and print publications. She has been part of Room of One's Own's editorial collective since 2005.

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