Friday, November 4, 2005

john mitchell

The Mr. Peanut Mayoralty Campaign of 1974

Consider this a lesson in family history as well as a courageous attempt to face my fears. Mr. Peanut, that dire denizen of my darkest dreams, is also something of a family legacy.

“In 1974 Vincent Trasov and fellow artists John Mitchell devised a unique performance that purposefully brought art into the real world, indeed, into the very core of the political system, with the 'Mr. Peanut for Mayor' campaign during the Vancouver civic election. Mr. Peanut registered as a candidate, attended meetings, interacted with the public and press” (
taken from here).

John Mitchell was a cousin of mine. A second cousin technically, he was my dad’s first cousin. I have no recollection of ever having met the man and quite possibly I never did , not having been born yet or being an infant. My mum can’t quite remember when he died or if I was around yet. Anyway I am quite fascinated by stories of John, always have been. I remember this postcard (John Mitchell’s Turtle Island, 1981, photo by Kim Tomczak) of a performance piece he did. Apparently he’d bury himself up to his neck in the sand, then when the children would gather around he’d struggle out of the sand as he was ‘born’ or some such thing. Remember these are all stories passed on to me and I don’t have the most reliable memory. There was also something about a book that, when opened, would reveal a large hole through the pages. Something about life I suppose. I may be unintentionally making these pieces sound trite and I assure you that is not my intention, nor do I think any of his art was. I’m intrigued. By the stories, pictures and articles I’ve found online. Do any of you have any eccentric black sheep in the family tree? Black sheep you say? Yes he was that I hear. My favourite is the story of how my dad, John and a 40 ouncer of vodka built the fireplace at our old house. What a fun night that must’ve been. I’d like to think I’d be his favourite if he were alive today, because well that sounds like something I would do.

Alright back to the peanut. I found out that we (my family) just missed an exhibit on the Mr. Peanut campaign. It was June 3, 2005 to September 18, 2005 at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in BC. Too bad, tho if I ever get out to BC I will have a chance to see everything at the Belkin Gallery. Here’s some more Mr. Peanut for Mayor related info:

“Fellow artist John Mitchell suggested to Trasov that he run as Mr. Peanut in the November 1974 Vancouver mayoralty election as a symbol for artists and their artistic aspirations. Mitchell saw Mr. Peanut as living sculpture, a visual icon in the landscape, belonging to heritage like monuments and landmarks, embodying history and illuminating the present”(
taken from here).

“While campaigning and attending all-candidates meetings, he didn't speak; he tap-danced, and sculptor John Mitchell--who proposed the Mr. Peanut for mayor idea--spoke for him. "I became a symbol of the unknown and unexpected in art," Trasov later wrote in Style, a 1982 exhibition catalogue. Although he won slightly less than four percent of the vote, Mr. Peanut stole the media show, garnering extensive local and national news coverage” (
taken from here).

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