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Thursday, July 26, 2007

I’m Too Sad To Tell You

posted by on July 26 at 10:57 AM

Last week, an artist named Jeremy Blake was seen wandering into the ocean off of Rockaway Beach. Nearby, his clothing, wallet, and a suicide note were found under a boardwalk. The week before that, Blake’s girlfriend of 12 years, Theresa Duncan, had committed suicide in their apartment. (Duncan was a filmmaker with a blog called The Wit of the Staircase.)

At first, the story of Duncan and Blake was blurry and sad. It looked like he had walked to a watery death out of mad grief over his lost love. It brought to mind Ophelia, without the floating body. The 35-year-old Blake was just missing, gone, disappeared. I thought of Bas Jan Ader, who, for his final work of art, sailed out to sea alone in 1975 after his friends sang him a romantic shanty, and never returned. He, too, was never found. (Jan Verwoert has a really terrific recent book about Jan Ader’s alternately heartbreaking and rationalistic, fake and real, art.)

Yesterday, the LA Times published a story titled “The Apparent Double Suicide of Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan.” Evidently, the lovers had been convinced that Scientologists were after them. Friends and family who expressed doubts about the pair’s claim were shut out. Blake and Duncan became something like a cult of two themselves.

And then comes today’s news, linked on Artsjournal, that a fisherman has found a body in the area. The story is all talk of physical details: a body marked by “brown eyes brown hair, but no scars, tattoos or any other distinguishing features except for several teeth with gold crowns,” the investigators’ search for “any dentists or doctors who might have worked on Blake’s teeth.”

Blake’s best-known work outside the art world, where he has shown at big museums and even has a major exhibition scheduled to open in October at the Corcoran in DC, is the abstract color sequence he did for the film “Punch Drunk Love.” The sequence is set right into the middle of the movie, like a visual intermission from plot. The movie has been underappreciated, but it is a thing of strange, popping beauty, full of rage and uneasy love. I’m going to watch it again and think about the media image of Blake’s blank skin and gold teeth.

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So, someone artsy fartsy freaks kill themselves and I am supposed to be sad? I have other stuff to worry about.

People who aren't selfish and egotistical enough to kill themselves and hurt anyone who cares about them, are much more worthy of my care. Some selfish fish with a blog about how imprtant she is, kills herself and a flash in the pan with a debut in an adam sandler movie off's himself, I don't shed a tear.

Posted by ecce homo | July 26, 2007 11:35 AM

you're mean.

Posted by any normal human | July 26, 2007 11:39 AM

What a sad, beautiful post. I'm going to watch Punch Drunk Love again, too, in solidarity.

Thank you, Jen.

Posted by papillon | July 26, 2007 11:39 AM

@1 - maybe you should do the same yourself.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 26, 2007 11:40 AM

Actually, I have known 4 people who have committed suicide in the last 8 years, and never once have I deprived my family to attend a "memorial service" for them.

The most selfish and cowardly act a person can do is kill themselves. Period.

Posted by ecce homo | July 26, 2007 11:44 AM

That's the second time I heard the comparison to Bas Jan Ader and I don't really get it, other than the fact that they're both artists and died in the water. Blake committed a deliberate suicide. Van Ader was "making art". If any reference to another suicide needs to be made, I'd say that Ray Johnson's would be more apt.Coincidentally, a gallery mate of Blake's.He, also, walked (or dove) into the water deliberately to die.

Posted by come again | July 26, 2007 11:45 AM

E.H.- in some cultures it's a noble act to commit suicide. If I thought you were noble, I'd suggest the same for you.

Posted by come again | July 26, 2007 11:48 AM

Some people here have very strange priorities.

Posted by ecce homo | July 26, 2007 11:52 AM

Ecce doesn't have the balls to kill himself. He's the type of guy who would swallow a bottle of Advil and call his mother.

Posted by Mr. Poe | July 26, 2007 11:53 AM

At least my mother would have a son who was alive.

Unlike the douchebag that offs himself.

BTW he did it in a non-original way. He could have at least planned something interesting and not copied the guy from back east who did the love poster.

Posted by ecce homo | July 26, 2007 12:01 PM

There's a quite a bit more to this story. It has not yet officially been determined that the deaths were suicides.

There is commentary on this blog, from both sides, apparent friends who thought them delusional, and others who posit different scenarios:

More questions and connections on the RI blog, (which Theresa mentioned as a source in her recent forays into conspiracy) taking seriously the pair's claims of harassment and Theresa's recent posts on artist Anna Gaskill.

Posted by PW | July 26, 2007 12:01 PM


Wait, back the truckup.

Scientologists were trying to kill them?

So they killed themselves?

I can't fucking wait for the Lifetime movie.

Posted by Star Turn For Estrada | July 26, 2007 12:03 PM

Beautiful post Jen

Posted by Preston | July 26, 2007 12:26 PM

This is a seriously weird story.

They were either
2)being chased by Scientologists.

Posted by dr thompkins | July 26, 2007 12:28 PM

I actually agree with Ecce Homo. *shudder* but seriously, suicide is cowardly. It is the worst thing you can do to your family and friends. Dying on purpose when there are tons of people surrounded by you to help is just shitty.

And parents never forgive themselves if their child commits suicide. They always think there is something they could have done.

So for these 2 people (if its true), its the same. There were TONS of people to help them, and yet they choose some cowardly and tragic way to go. I do not feel sorry for them. I feel sorry for their loved ones.

Posted by Original Monique | July 26, 2007 12:41 PM


I think it's safe to assume that knowing you played a vital role in their decision to kill themselves. Way to go. Murderer.

Posted by Mr. Poe | July 26, 2007 12:49 PM

@16: Wow, that was low.

Posted by Once more...with feeling | July 26, 2007 12:55 PM

Original Monique, if it's any comfort, I'm not sure it's accurate to say you "agree" with ecce homo, since there's no reason at this point to think that ecce homo actually believes the viewpoint expressed @ #1, as opposed to bot-typing whatever it thinks will shock the most people in any given thread.

Posted by David | July 26, 2007 12:56 PM


I know! WOOT!!

Posted by Mr. Poe | July 26, 2007 1:11 PM

Mr. Poe,

You really are a disgusting human being.
Blog tit a' tat is one thing, but you really lack any sense of decency.

I know its hard to imagine in that broken homo hipster soul of yours that not everyone is a cynical ascerbic DINK.
You say you hate kids, God, white people, and now accuse me of being a murderer.

I feel sorry for you, and the people that care about you.

Suicide is a personal decision, but one that effects so many people. In my mind, there is no excuse for it. After living through the aftermath of it, I have strong feelings on the subject. One of the people I knew that killed themselves was a young gay man who couldn't figure his way in life, despite a supportive family, church and extended support system. He destroyed his father and mother, and hurt so many others. Incredibly selfish and shortsighted. In fact, in every case, it wasn't the least bit admirable or romantic.

I suspect you are far too young and have lived so little in life to understand how destructive it is.

Posted by ecce homo | July 26, 2007 1:13 PM

"The most selfish and cowardly act a person can do is kill themselves. Period."

Actually, the most selfish and cowardly act is being unable to muster compassion regardless of the circumstance. And please note, by showing compassion does not mean you are justifying the action or pooh pooh stuff. Just sayin.

Posted by stone | July 26, 2007 1:13 PM

Hey stone,

Perhaps you should wiki the word compassion.

Posted by ecce homo | July 26, 2007 1:17 PM

eh, if i need to wiki compassion then i'm in real trouble :). Perhaps you could simply state how your comments about this preventable death were compassionate and then i'd understand.

Posted by stone | July 26, 2007 1:25 PM

So let me get this straight, Suicide Ethics 101.

If your folks are already dead, you have no dependents and you're pretty much a loner, then go ahead and pull the rip chord?

Suicide is dramatic and sentimental for the most part but there are plenty of people who don't leave a note, don't do it with a bitter notion or a heavy heart or for medical purposes. Some people are just bored and unimpressed. Nothing personal.

but we have to make everything about us don't we?

These poor sould were being chased by The Curch Of Scientology for crying out loud! Their only escape was suicide! If Travolta would've caught them I can only imagine a fate worse than death. Meanwhile their parents stood by and let it all happen because, "They sounded crazy" or whatever.

I escaped a Scientology compound on Fountain and Normandy in Hollywood 9 years ago and they will not take me back alive! They can have my money and my soul but they're not getting this dick anymore!

Posted by Adam Rich | July 26, 2007 1:37 PM

I never claimed to be compassionate.

In fact, I claimed that I had NO sympathy for these assholes who killed themselves.

I have compassion for their families and friends, but doubt that means anything in the grand scale.

Anyway, whether or not you or I have compassion for suiciedes is completely irrelevant and demonstrates more about the lessons this backward culture gives about why we should have an ego/self-centered view of morality and spirituality. It was always taught to me that compassion is of value when it comes to helping other human beings. Otherwise, its just frothy emotionalism.

I prefer to put my energy where it counts, helping people who are not such asspies as to kill themselves and who actually ask for that help.

Posted by ecce homo | July 26, 2007 1:37 PM

In fact, the waste of energy that these deaths have resulted in on this board could have been put to better use in the gas tank of my prius.

Posted by ecce homo | July 26, 2007 1:39 PM

@5, @26 - I think you should join them.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 26, 2007 1:47 PM

Ah there's Will,

Mr. Poe and Will in Seattle must be very disgusted with their lives to wish suicide and death on people.

Do you guys live together and have a love child named KX One.

Posted by ecce homo | July 26, 2007 1:50 PM

EH, your arguments are specious at best and that baiting of how one comment is akin to a larger example of the the (insert adjective) of our culture is th tool of the best of our culture's armchairs philosphers. Frankly, you;re better than that, yes?
The challenge of compassion for all of us is to not use it as a judgement, that is to say "I'll be compassionate that to those who meet my criteria.." You assume that feeling compassion for the dead is not useful. In fact, in the long run its supposed to be better for you; and what's compassionate about calling dead people name or someone a fish? And lasly you kind of started this by putting energy towards admonishing jg for putting anything up in the first place. Surely you can't be surprised - apres tu, le deluge.

Posted by stone | July 26, 2007 2:04 PM

and yes, I'm a bit too passionate to spell, any yes my dear eh, we know you never said you were compassionate. You didn't have to. Now, then if I need some help with something will you help me or no, because I called you out?

Posted by stone | July 26, 2007 2:14 PM


This, coming from the guy who wrote #1 and #5. Hilarious.

Posted by Mr. Poe | July 26, 2007 2:20 PM

Sorry for the off-topic, troll-baiting comment, but I really don't get the type of sentiments expressed @1. Why do people get so bent out of shape over suicide? Is a death easier to deal with if it's due to accident or disease?

Actually, I forgot, I know exactly why people get so upset about it. When a person commits suicide, their family and friends are so afraid that they had something to do with it and are so determined not to take any responsibility for not seeing/not doing anything about the warning signs, that it's easier for them to blame the person who committed suicide.

Posted by keshmeshi | July 26, 2007 2:57 PM

So it's selfish of someone you know to kill themselves? You need to blame yourself for that or something?

You guys are acting like being selfish is a capitol crime or something. Like suicide is always some desperate, romantic act.

Get off that Sylvia Plath shit and get with some Jihad y'all!

Posted by Sepuku Is My Favorite Pokemon | July 26, 2007 3:01 PM

Ugh. Assholes.
So when someone commits suicide, it's because they sat down and weighed it out, and made a selfish choice? Because they didn't go out and get the help they needed? And what are you doing to help?

Now I haven't done it (obviously), but I think maybe suicide is the complete absence of choice. People get backed into a corner, they see no more choices. Either they're really sick, they're out of control, or they just don't see any other way. No one decides on it. Some may obsess on it. Certainly they ask for help if they can. They just aren't heard. That's not any one person's fault. There's so much suffering, I'm sure not one human has gone without having to filter out some just to keep going.

No one chooses to bring more suffering into the world, to their loved ones. Especially someone who knows suffering intimately, firsthand, overwhelmingly.

Posted by t | July 26, 2007 4:55 PM

Thanks jen, i've always thought pdl was underrated and the cinemascapes really made a strong impression. wish i'd paid more attention to him before now.

Posted by diana @ vermillion | July 26, 2007 5:13 PM

ecce @ 25 and everywhere else:

Clearly, the thought that someone might be in so much emotional pain that asking for help is impossible has never entered that walnut-sized thing you call your brain.

I would never say suicide isn't selfish or even necessarily morally defensible. But I think it's laughably presumptuous of you -- not having experienced the indescribable, unsurmountable anguish that drove these people to kill themselves, knowing full well how it would affect everyone they love -- to sit back and judge how others should have behaved.

Posted by Really, ecce? | July 26, 2007 6:18 PM


Here's a question for you. Since you are the arbiter of right and wrong, please tell us: What is Good?

Posted by NJ Matt | July 26, 2007 6:30 PM

Good is that which adds more beauty to the Universe.

Suicide is the complete opposite and is the definition of COMPLETE SELF ABSORBTION.

Posted by ecce homo | July 26, 2007 11:21 PM

Unfortunately, E.H. I believe that many who commit suicide do so, at least partly, because they feel that they're not adding to or a part of the beauty in the universe. That is what's behind the reasoning of "the world would be better off without me."

Posted by come again | July 27, 2007 1:14 AM

Guess what folks? It is easy to talk trash about celebrity suicides. They were just some far off art world super-stars that lived in NY, right? But guess what? Jeremy had friends that live right here in Seattle, that read The Stranger and people that you might actually know if you spend any time at all in the local art community. People that are hurting over all of this and searching for more information and are probably reading these posts.

Posted by Joel | July 27, 2007 6:08 AM

Well, now they know it's selfish to kill yourself. And we have always claimed to have the highest selfish rate in the nation so...

Posted by Ecce Homeowner | July 27, 2007 7:44 AM

"suicide is painless

it brings on many changes

and I can take or leave it if I please.

...and you can do the same thing if you please."

Johnny Mandel & Mike Altman

Posted by GFS | July 31, 2007 11:41 AM

Man.. there's alot of anger here at people who kill themselves. Where's the empathy. People here seem to assume that they know exactly how the person felt and what their life was like. They seem to assume that they could handle that situation. I gaurantee that 90% of you people here would kill themselves if they had to spend one day living the horrors that eventually drove one of my friends to suicide. He spent over a decade often being restrained physically.. tortured sexually, physically, emotionally, mutilated, disfigured for life... And I'm supposed to be angry with him because he couldn't hack it and wanted to die??? People should count their lucky stars that their life is not so bad. I'd highly recommend against suicide, as it is so final... but to judge someone for it? to call them selfish? that's just plain ignorant and shows a complete lack of empathy.

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