It was my great fortune, privilege and delight that A Canadian Treasury of Medical History was designed by Gerry Porter. Gerry, or Ger, was a warm, generous and creatively talented man about whom no one can think of anything bad to say. He was a great designer, but was above all devoted to an elegant and pristine dynamic that did the most with the least amount of fuss, and that was always lovely to look at, but not for its own sake. It was all about functionality. Behold this beautiful construction.
One of the last projects that Gerry worked on was a fairly simple one by his standards, but lots of fun and wackily up his alley: filling out a densely packed blackboard with an eccentric array of references to iconic elements in 20th- and 21st-century art and politics for a scene in the feature-length documentary I am making on Robert Cordier. Cordier was the director of “Miracles in Modern Medicine,” the film projected in the Man and His Health pavilion at Expo 67, a lost minor masterpiece of avant garde documentary cinema that I was able to find at Library and Archives Canada.
The last time I did any real blogging on this site, I’m ashamed to say, was just prior to the exciting screening of the Expo medicine film in Montreal after it had been, as Cordier put it, “lost in the files” for 48 years. The reason I stopped is that my life was subsequently consumed by the decision to make the documentary about Cordier’s artistic practice. It’s been non-stop since that point with all other projects more or less in a holding pattern.
Along the way — as always in my more challenging endeavours — I was able to turn to Ger for creative design help, and I’m happy that as a result he and Robert Cordier were able to meet. Cordier — who has worked with such people as Warhol, Rauschenberg, Dalí and James Baldwin — immediately recognized Gerry as a fellow traveller dedicated to creative work with no bullshit. When I all too soon after the shoot told him over the phone that I’d received the bad news of Gerry’s illness, he immediately remembered who I was referring to, expressed his dismay and asked me to send his good wishes.
In memory of Gerry Porter, I’m going to resurrect A Canadian Treasury of Medical History. Mostly I will devote myself to blogging on the extraordinary process of making this film about Cordier, in particular what it has allowed us to find out about the amazing history of the Expo medicine film itself. But I’ll also be returning to the original mission of documenting in eclectic fashion elements and aspects of the deep fibre of Canadian medical history as it is run into and tripped over en route.
Rest in peace, Gerry — you did truly great and beautiful work on this earth, for people’s illumination, entertainment and participation in a world wide web that has extended humanity’s fabulous road to nowhere in exciting new directions.