Reading List: Michael Anthony García

Michael Anthony García is a visual artist and independent curator. He is also a founding member of the Austin-based curatorial art collective Los Outsiders. Los Outsiders’ most recent project /person/place/thing explores District One through community, memory, and object, and gathers the stories and mementos of people in the area. García’s solo exhibition i, object opens Thursday, November 5, 2015 at Wyatt Brand.


Over the years my literary preferences have been quite scattershot, but the books that have drawn me in and that stick with me tend to deal with philosophies of some spiritual, scientific or pseudo-scientific nature. These ideas and approaches often leach into my art-making. I also love quiet, complex stories filled with ambiguities, another commonality with my installation- and performance-based work.

 
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Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
 
In my creative endeavors I like to flesh out theories, be they grounded in reality or exploring conspiracies. I’m interested in subtle stories that tweak reality. This book’s plot unravels like a show you’ve binge-watched on Netflix that throws in a jaw-dropping twist that simultaneously fits so perfectly you can’t believe you didn’t see it coming. Ishmael, the title character, is a telepathic gorilla. Before you dismiss it, consider this: Ishmael spends the entirety of the book calling out humanity and our hubris in believing we are the apex of evolution, and he calls into question modern civilization, examining our downward spiral and where we first went wrong. 
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When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön
 
If you’ve ever wanted to read a book by a Buddhist nun who tells it like it is, this one is for you. When Things Fall Apart is full of philosophy and advice you didn’t know you needed and approaches to life that you don’t want to hear but probably need to take to heart. It’s a go-to for difficult times and everyday situations alike. This book was quite transformational for me and my approach to life. Although I wouldn’t call myself a Buddhist, I do tend to approach life and in turn my studio practice with many of the philosophy’s tenets.
 
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The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk
 
I love exploring alternate realities and projections of future outcomes, and writer/activist Starhawk’s novel is a great fit for these themes in my work. The Fifth Sacred Thing’s post-apocalyptic story is a rich and layered journey through a future in which the United States are no longer united. As expected, it’s a political tale, with most of the protagonists based in a future San Francisco that’s more like a huge commune than a major city. It’s full of adventure, great sex scenes for people of all persuasions, and strange but relatable characters. It’s a hippie’s dream!
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Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
 
In my own creative practice I often weave in ideas of science and technology, particularly in relation to spirituality and religion. Cat’s Cradle is a humorous and dark work by Vonnegut that enjoys exploiting that battle royale by having the protagonist, a writer, research a book about the family of one of the (fictional) creators of the atomic bomb. The novel develops in ways you’d never expect, with an explosive ending so unbelievable that it’s actually real life in the making. 
 
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The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
 
Roy’s debut novel (a Man Booker winner) is a wonderfully poetic, dark tale about how minute experiences shape us our whole lives. Told through the childhood memories of a set of twins in India, the novel is about the butterfly effect applied to human personalities, flipping back and forth through their timelines. It instantly became a favorite of mine, and I recommend it to other people all the time. The quiet poetry in this work is something I strive for in my studio. Like Roy, I enjoy creating hallways full of closed doors that intrigue rather than entreat the viewer to open up and find something specific they’re looking for.

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