My work draws promiscuously from literature ranging from Old English poetry to Herman Melville to J.R.R. Tolkien. But now an MFA turned PhD thesis focuses my attention entirely on one beguiling, profound and maddening book: Haruki Murakami’s novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Page by page, I translate into images my dialogue with the novel, transforming a blank 1998 Vintage paperback English translation of the book into a new work of art. Drawings, paintings, etchings, woodcuts, monotypes and lithographs interfere in every one of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’s pages. Together, they are exhibitions of one reader’s imagination, one reader’s obsessive devotion, one reader’s participation in recursive interpretation that is literary experience.
This marginalia-turned-art is also literary graffiti which obscures the very text it highlights. It is scholarly study applied to the novel’s stakes: the challenges of cultural transmission and appropriation, the politics of media and household, the generational traumas of empire and patriarchy. Reading and research incite these images to visual criticism, essays that place the text in new contexts, draw forth unintended associations, lay bare the novel’s shortcomings, re-write, curate, and even lampoon the novel, all in acts of love both tender and violent.
Above all, this work celebrates reading as an extraordinarily creative and productive act. It is in reading that we collaborate with texts and authors to construct worlds and face fears, to lose ourselves in pleasure and to train our faculties for critical thinking and compassion. Reading is, indeed, an artistic endeavor, a feast for the curious and imagining mind where we draw form and meaning and purpose from texts that, without our attention, would remain inert, only partially formed, indeterminate. It is this very indeterminacy which inspires the reader to dream.
What a shame that this artistic exchange between author, text, and reader too often remains private, undervalued, left unseen in the dark. In refusing to take itself for granted, my work radically externalizes how, in the act of reading, we draw from deep reservoirs of textual indeterminacy left by the author and generate literary experience. My work congeals out of this democratic economy of imagination, hoping to inspire more of its kind, more works that recognize the time has come to recalibrate how we think about reading and show what reading makes.