Sunday, April 8, 2012

Visualising Literature by Camberwell Press

I was invited by Billie Muraben of Camberwell Press to take part in their project Visualising Literature as part of the programme Into The Fold which took part over two weeks during March 2012 at Camberwell College of Arts.

The text I chose to illustrate, is taken from Anthem by Ayn Rand, one of my favourite authors. Anthem is written as the diary of Equality 7-2521, a young man living in a future in which people have lost all knowledge of individualism, to the point of not even knowing words like 'I' or 'mine.' Everyone lives and works in collective groups, with all aspects of daily life dictated by councils - the Council of Vocations, the Council of Scholars, etc. When he is assigned to a menial job cleaning the streets, Equality 7-2521 rebels against collectivism by conducting secret scientific research, which eventually leads him to re-create electric light. When he presents his discovery to the Council of Scholars, they condemn him for daring to act as an individual.

This is a subject very close to my heart, more so than ever as we find ourselves in an (online) world where collectives are increasingly being relied upon in order to 'filter' content, and treated as a united voice. The diversities and complexities of us as individuals mean that a 'united voice' is impossible, even from groups where similarities may appear on the surface. This laziness is dangerous, and should serve as a call for better editors, prepared to sieve deeper (a new role in a new online world) for the truth*.

*Big word.



Here is my illustration, in response to text from page 52-53:

Then, after many tests, we found the answer. The frog had been hanging on a wire of copper; and it had been the metal of our knife which had sent the strange power to the copper through the brine of the frog's body. We put a piece of copper and a piece of zinc into a jar of brine, we touched a wire to them, and there, under our fingers, was a miracle which had never occurred before, a new miracle and a new power.

We have built strange things with this discovery of ours. We used for it the copper wires which we found here under the ground. We have walked the length of our tunnel, with a candle lighting the way. We could go no farther than half a mile, for earth and rock had fallen at both ends. But we gathered all the things we found and we brought them to our work place.


I took a very consciously deconstructive approach to this illustration. I wrote and re-wrote the text out in terms of lists of objects and actions - very similar to the idea behind the Visualising Literature workshop at Into The Fold. Instead of trying to summarise the text as a whole, it became about connecting up and joining together the individual elements. I have become more aware of this as a subconscious process within my work and I am interested in exploring the space just before the 'whole' comes together.


Galvani's Frog - Luigi Aloisio Galvani discovered that the muscles of dead frogs legs twitched when struck by a spark in 1771. He also died on my birthday - 200 years before I was born!

I'm really happy to be part of this project, and looking forward to seeing everyone else's contributions!