A beautiful mind

Artist Stacey Ho took impossible stories from her friends and turned them into an extraordinary book.

The bigger picture The stories in Stacey Ho’s Impossible Things provide glimpses of other truths.

Stacey Ho has always dreamed of impossible things. But nothing interesting happens to her. Maybe it's because she's too rational. Maybe she doesn't have faith. The only impossible thing she can remember doing is predicting the cover of her kindergarten yearbook. So, Ho uses art to create the extraordinary world she wishes she could see.

Her latest project is a book called Impossible Things. Ho asked her friends to tell her something impossible that's happened to them, and she took photos to correspond with the stories.

"I was always that kid who wants to see a ghost but never does," says Ho. "I believe we have a really huge need to have these things that can't be explained in life and are beyond our control."

There are seven short stories in the thin handmade book, which features writer Joey Comeau, artist Laura Dawe, two anonymous submissions and more (including an audio story by Michael Fernandes, which comes on an accompanying CD).

"It sounds silly but you get a variety in looking at them all. There's dreamier ones, scary ones and some magical ones like Michael Fernandes's, where three random impossible things are wrapped in one."

Ho conceived the project three years ago. She was living in Halifax and studying at NSCAD University, when a good friend of hers said he needed psychological help. Concerned, she caught a ride-share with a woman who insisted on driving 22 hours straight to Toronto.

"If I was looking out a window I might see a tree, a building, a bird and a grey sky and I'd think it was a normal overcast day. He'd see something completely different and it would be a sign. All those objects would mean something entirely different.

"It was kind of frightening but interesting because that's a lot of what artists try to do." Ho thought photography could help make the impossible things her friend was seeing more real. Staging elaborate photo shoots, Ho wanted to help her friend and show the world he wasn't crazy after all.

Ho admits it didn't work out the way she planned. Instead of making the impossible tangible, she found her level-headed rationality opening up to the impossible. She now has a wider view of people's beliefs.

"It's more about how there isn't one way of seeing things. Everyone has their own eyes that are their own personal cameras in their minds, recording different things from my mind. A lot of people's personal movies don't get shown."

Originally, the project was supposed to consist of a story and an accompanying photo. It was interesting, but Ho didn't think it looked right. The day before she was going to present her project she went around her house photographing things that reminded of either the story or the large photos. These photos evoke the sensation of flipping through TV channels and only getting snippets of sound and image. Ho says the little images pulled things together.

"When I read these stories I feel like I'm getting glimpses into some sort of truth, some bigger picture where these things have a reason, like predicting plane crashes, having a rabbit jump in front of your car three times or having a wolf show up in a tent."

Ho's friend didn't want his story to be used, but he's pleased with what Ho's done. Contributor Laura Dawe says telling the world how her and her mom fought Satan in their dreams is "totally embarrassing."

"It's near impossible to say an impossible thing," says Dawe. "You have to have a balance of humour so people know you're a functioning member of society with enough sincerity to let them know you believe this happened."

Ho graduated from NSCAD University last spring and moved to Toronto in September. Once the first 145 copies of Impossible Things are sold, Ho plans to use the money to have more printed. Meanwhile she hopes to make a music video for Be Bad and has another project to do with photography and the creation of other worlds.

"I can't decide if all these different stories are people creating in their mind what they want to happen or if there's something out there that can't be explained that you have to keep looking for," says Ho. "I would love for something like that to happen to me "

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