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July 25, 2007

The opposite of silence (updated)


Theresa Duncan, film-maker and video-game designer, perhaps best known to Flea-readers as the writer and publisher of The Wit of the Staircase, is dead. She committed suicide July 10. Many of us are only finding out now - her last posts suggested she was away on business - as the press seeks comment from the many people touched by her work and her spirit.*

Horror upon horror, her long-time partner followed her into the unknown region. It seems he chose not to live without her.

In a case that is reverberating in the art world, the New York Police Department said yesterday that a video-game designer and budding filmmaker committed suicide last week and that her companion, a rising art star, has been missing since Tuesday.

The filmmaker, Theresa Duncan, 40, who has also drawn attention for her writings on cultural topics, committed suicide in their East Village apartment on July 10, the police said. Her companion, Jeremy Blake, 35, a well-regarded artist known for digital animation that blurs the line between abstract painting and film, has been missing since his clothes were found on a beach in the Rockaways on Tuesday evening, they added.

A New York Post article cites friends who are, of course, shocked at this final turn of events. Shocked by the tragedy and shocked because suicide seems out of character. They were both so absolutely alive.

Theresa is quoted in the comments to Perfume of Life. She had wandered so very far from home.

Q: If you were to make a perfume that embodied the essence of Los Angeles, what would it smell like?

A: My cologne is called Santa Ana after the powerful winds that bring desert heat and faraway smell into the city. It smells like: Celluloid and sand, coyote fur and car exhaust, contrail cloud and chlorine, bitter orange and stage blood and one bushel of ghostly, shivery night-blooming jasmine flowers like blown kisses from the phantoms of the ten thousand screen beauties who still haunt our hills every full moon because they think it's a stage light.

What a soul to come out with a sentence like that. As a friend used to say, she is missing.

* This is the first, and will hopefully be the only, time I have ever learned someone was dead because I was asked for comment. Still, best to know.

Update: The LA Times has more details. Some speculative.

Charlie Finch remembers the couple at artnet.

Links: Other posts about Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake.

The Last Post, July 27, 2007
The Lunar Society of Los Angeles, August 2, 2007
Good Artists Borrow, August 9, 2007
We Are Just Another Damn Song, September 11, 2007
So Not Cool, May 1, 2008
Let. Them. Rest. In. Peace., May 2, 2008
Letting the Freak Flag Fly, October 14, 2009
The Master, December 4, 2009
The fourth, the fifth The minor fall, the major lift, February 27, 2010
The Commodification of Tragedy, May 21, 2010
Ars Memoriae, May 17, 2011

Posted by Ghost of a flea at July 25, 2007 07:07 AM


Yes, it was a dreadful way to learn of Theresa and Jeremy's passing, but as you say, still best to know. I had just returned from a few days away from home (Milwaukee, WI) and was so saddened to learn not just of Theresa's unfortunate demise, but also that I could easily have attended the services in Lapeer, MI, as I was just a few miles away in Flint as they happened, had I only known.

For all of her skills and insights, it is Theresa's friendly and kind manner which I shall miss most, and of course her wit, polished to a fine sheen, as it was.

Thanks for a nice summing up of the various reports.

Posted by: Fortune's Pawn [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 25, 2007 11:55 AM

Just nodding my head over here. Your words are lovely and appropriate, Flea.

Posted by: agent bedhead [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 25, 2007 02:00 PM

It was through your site that I heard about what happened. I had visited Ms Duncan's blog on a more than daily basis. As she always had yet another thing to say later in the day. I love to read the writings of intelligent, humourous and loudmouth women. She was that and they are often hard to find. It feels so strange to feel so heartbroken at the passing of someone I've only ever encountered online. She always generously returned any email I sent whether it be about who invented which scent for Chanel or how cool is this minaiture recreation of Freud's office. Your post is lovely. Thank you.

Posted by: rockabillygirlscout [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 26, 2007 01:27 AM

Wow how utterly bizarre and insane. I wonder what drove them to a suicide pact?

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 26, 2007 06:32 AM