Defying the cycle of thought…

Archive for April, 2011



How to make “light” of the blox.

Cornell was obsessed with making light of things – he was obsessed with figuring out why things are as they are, how something is defined in relation to something else. It was about the quest for self-identity, to try and figure out his childhood, to capture this childhood and the nostalgia that goes along with it. Cornell was also concerned with the source of inspiration. He worked hard to make “light” of where inspiration comes from. This lead him to try multiple different methods when it came to organizing his boxes. He was always experimenting. However, part of the process of creating the dossiers, was to allow Cornell a chance to make “light” of his own thoughts. His working method included classifying ideas. Here he was with all these different thoughts, and he had the burden of peeling away some of the weight that accompanied them. Creating a box, in many ways, is about the quest for lightness or understanding. It is about having an idea, some idea, and trying to capture it in a way that portrays it to the best of its ability.

I tried to do just that when it came to creating my blox for lightness. However, it was very hard for me to make “light” of my thoughts, to sort them out according. It was hard to visually embody the simultaneous lightness and heaviness I experienced with this text, because my own thoughts weren’t even entirely clear. In many ways, going through the process of finding images, taking notes, creating my own dossier of sorts, allowed me to understand my own thoughts, to break them down into smaller and more manageable chunks.

While I was trying to map out my own thoughts, I was struck by this sudden idea, that lightness is, in many ways, about mapping out the world around you. It is about making “light” of yourself, the people and events around you. I knew that I wanted the image of a map, or the world, to be a central part of my blox. Not only is it about creating a space for understanding, but the obvious saying “carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders,” implies that you have not yet come to a state of lightness or freedom from burden.

Therefore, the central image, when looking at my blox, is one of a globe. Within this globe are the two opposing ideas of lightness and darkness. This geographically makes sense, because when part of the world is in darkness, the other half of the world is witnessing the sun and daylight. Metaphorically, though, this illustrates that within every body, we hold both the lightness and darkness. They coexist in the same world.

On the top half of the globe, there is the night. There is the world guilt, epitomizing the weight of actions, namely the guilt Anna experiences after starting the trial. Every action has a consequence. The burden of consequence is a heavy one. There is also the clock housed in this portion of the globe. Here is the reminder of time, of the fact that time is limited. The ultimate threat of time is death. In this novel, death is a highly relevant topic. It is what causes much of the heaviness or weight throughout the text. Up on this part of the sphere is also a locket. Anna sacrifices her locket to be able to afford the cost of a lawyer. Sacrifice is a burden, but it can also result in lightness, if the sacrifice ends up being worth it.

The bottom half of the globe illustrates more of the lightness. There is sunlight shining and a kid running around free flying a kite that is light enough to defy the burden of gravity. There is someone smiling. A sunflower is planted in this part of the globe. A little girl is swinging off the bottom of the globe. There is a freedom and lightness felt in this sphere. It is the light at the end of the tunnel.

In the middle of the globe, kind of bridging the two spheres is an actual image of the light at the end of the tunnel. There is the shadow of a figure walking towards the light, embodying the hope that lightness, or the quest for lightness, can bring.

On the bottom of the blox, is a scale with books on either side of it. Here is a literal depiction of the weight of words. In this novel, much of the heaviness comes from things that are spoken aloud. Anna opening her mouth about how she feels is the impetus for much of the heaviness and drama throughout the text. I put images of people holding the weight of the world in their hands on top of each of these books. To the right is a child holding up this weight, a weight that a child shouldn’t have to hold. This is symbolic of the children in this book losing their innocence too fast and dealing with weights they shouldn’t have to. On the left is the image of someone holding the world in his or her hands. These images of weight ground the image.

The scale is in balance, though, because it is not just holding up darkness, but also lightness. There is both in this blox, because there is both in the novel. The dichotomy of the two characteristics is what keeps the image balanced. Both aspects are needed for survival.

And, finally, at the top of the image is a starry night. In the novel Anna is named after a star. Her father is obsessed with stars and there are many stories about stars throughout the text. The interesting thing about a star is that it is light despite the darkness around it. It can shine, despite the constricting heaviness around it. The fact that Anna is named after a star, provides hope that she will recover her lightness once more – it is who she is, in essence. The starry night also serves to further illustrate the simultaneous coexistence of light and dark.

How to make “light” of the adapatation process.

Part of the adaptation process is determining which parts of the work of literature hold weight, or importance, and which are insignificant light details. However, light aspects still must be included to counter the weight – the only way to recognize that certain parts do hold weight, is to be aware of how they differ in relation to the light. Adaptation is a process of including some plot points, and dismissing others. It is about focusing in on what points of view should be included, and which can be left out of the adaptation. Which characters are integral to the adaptation, and which are not? When it comes to adaptation, it is about selection.

When it came to figuring out how to adapt My Sister’s Keeper, I looked for what aspects of the text stuck out to me, which ones held weight in my mind. Also, which parts did I find myself drawn to over and over again, dissecting them, questioning them, trying to make “light” of them? Which aspects of the novel emphasized the dichotomy between lightness and heaviness?

I thought about the catalyst. This, to me, was highly important. The catalyst holds a lot of weight. In this novel, the catalyst was Anna trying to rid herself of the burden of holding her sister’s life in her hands. The journey then, in a sense, is Anna’s quest for lightness. She wants freedom of choice. Looking at this story as a journey for lightness seemed like a good story line to follow for the adaptation process. The family works hard to fight Kate’s impeding death, to try to keep her young and alive and light. The goal of the book is to obtain this lightness and make the world a bit less heavy. Seger mentions that the easiest story lines are about a mission or achieving some goal. Seger mentions that one can usually find a beginning, middle, and end of a story by asking 3 questions:

  1. What does the character want?
  2. What does the character do to achieve that goal?
  3. When does the ‘want’ begin?

Using these three guiding questions, I encompassed my adaptation around the quest to obtain the lightness at the end of the tunnel However, because lightness is never independent of heaviness, but measured by the degree of heaviness, I wanted to also include road blocks. Life is not always light, but is often times dark and hard to overcome.

Experience can be “enLIGHTening.”

When I hear the word light, I think of so many things. I think of weight – of something that is not heavy, something easily lifted and carried. I think of color – hues that are bright and soft and cheerful. I think of lightness with regards to darkness – of there being light in a place so that one can see. Other types of lightness I imagine, are lightness of heart, soul, mind. Lightness of relief, of a smile, a laugh, a relaxing moment. Often I equate lightness with hope, inspiration, knowledge. The interesting thing about lightness, though, is that it can only be defined with an understanding of its opposite. Much like people are often defined in comparison to others, lightness can only be defined with regards to weight or darkness.

Calvino touches upon this dichotomy in his discussion of lightness. The only way to experience the presence of lightness, is to be aware of the absence of weight. An understanding of how these two states are related, is imperative to understanding the parts. In defining lightness, Calvino mentions a lightness of language, of thought. If something has been made light, then it has often been understood. To be enlightened, means to be made aware of something. Part of achieving lightness, is coming to an understanding, accepting it, and embracing it. Lightness is key to defying the weight of the world, or the potential weight of thought.

In My Sister’s Keeper, lightness is exhibited in many ways.There is the lightness felt as a form of relief when Anna finds out she no longer has to be a donor to Kate. There is the lightness felt when this burden is lifted. However, with the lightness comes heaviness. There is the heaviness of sacrifice. Anna sacrifices a lot by pursuing the legal battle. As someone who was born to take care of her sister, Anna holds the ultimate weight – she holds the burden of someone else’s life in her hands. She, in many ways, holds the weight of the world.

For the whole family, as well as the reader, there is this sense of the heaviness of time. Death is the ultimate weight. Since much of this book is about preventing Kate’s death, there is a constant weight upon everyone’s shoulders. However, the family has hope and this hope is what allows them to relieve some of the weight. This hope lends to a sort of lightness. There is hope that Kate will get better, hope that the legal battle will work itself out and everything will be okay. Anna hopes for freedom. Jesse hopes to be noticed. The lawyer hopes to prove a point.

The fact that the children lose their innocence fast, implies that they lack a sort of lightness. Their worlds have been made heavy. Innocence, or lightness, is gone. The family must also cope with a harsh reality, where laughter and smiles are fleeting, and responsibility and hardship is a daily routine. Their worlds are heavy.

Also, Jodi Picoult plays with lightness of language. She ends each section with a very deep comment, something heavy, that will impact readers. She does this so that readers can’t just move on without thinking. She wants them to take time to reflect and take the time to make “light” of the story line. She wants them to pick apart at the difficult and messy details, until they can come to a sort of understanding.

Not only does Picoult use language to portray lightness and heaviness, but the characters learn that words have weight. When Anna opens her mouth about how she feels, she realizes that her actions cannot be taken lightly. She can’t back down from them. Anna has to hold her ground, maintain her weight. However, there is this idea that with weight, comes visibility. It is only once she speaks, that she is really seen by her parents. Presence or lack of presence, is often determined by how light or heavy someone appears. At first, everyone makes decisions for Anna – she holds no weight or say. She is pretty much invisible, or light. However, once she makes her stance clear, her visibility thickens, hardens, and takes shape.


How does is all visibly fit into a blox?

When Calvino described visibility, he focused on where inspiration started – verbal word, or visual image. Blair writes: “Cornell’s ultimate quarry was the source of inspiration itself, and the dossiers were part of his idiosyncratic attempt to pursue and define the shaping force that lay behind his art” (26). Therefore, that is what I attempted to do in this blox. I reflected on what came first for me in this text – word or image? I wanted to convey both of these to viewers and then let them experience the ability to decide on their own which comes first for them.

I made a list of thoughts that came to mind when I thought of visibility with regards to My Sister’s Keeper:

Collapsing world

Trying to grasp this image of the collapsing world

Unable to grasp it

Image is too fleeting

What caused world to collapse?


Anna’s voice.

Anna finally speaks up, and this disrupts the whole image of the family

What is their image now?????

Silence versus sound

How can silence create space?

Does it deserve space?

What do I see when I think of silence?

What do I see when I think of noise?

How does a book create images?

How do these images then create further ideas?

The shattering of ideas

Shattering of images

Shattering of hearts

After writing down these thoughts, I looked for images that I thought embodied these ideas. My process made me reflect, once again, on how I often start with the word, and then arrive at the image. However, when relying on a book to create a blox, this seems like what would tend to happen.

I started my blox by making the background a book – a visual reminder of the written word, and how an image is often inspired by the written word. However, since viewer is being shown simultaneous reminders of both written word and visual image, it allows them to decide which is stronger – which one strikes them first and lasts with them longer. By making the book my background, I hoped to show that the words lend to the images, and the images can create the words. They coexist in the same space. I purposely chose a book that looked weathered and worn, to create the image of a story that is complex and can be tiring. It is not an easy read. I wanted to visually imply that.

In the center of the blox, and probably the most obvious image, is the giant open mouth. I wanted this to be the center of the novel, or the spine of the book, because it is the spine of the plot line. It is because Anna opens up her mouth, that the story’s conflict arises. Anna is what is holding the plot together, but also, in many ways, what is tearing the family apart.

Next to the mouth is a heart that is falling into pieces. I used this to visually portray the way in which the relationships in this novel are slowly dissolving. They are not as strong or intact as they once were.

Below the heart is a hand that is trying to grasp the inflated world. The inflated world looks like it is literally coming out of Anna’s mouth. Because she speaks, the world around the family collapses. Everyone tries to grasp the world, but it just sort of slips through their fingers. Because it is not whole, it is hard to hold onto.

Underneath the giant mouth, is the image of someone being silent, but who wants so badly to speak. Instead, she has written the word “speak” upon her lips, to illustrate her desire to say something, but her inability to do so. This is how Anna feels at the beginning of the novel.

The image of the finger to the lips to the right, is another portrayal of silence. In this case, it seems to imply that sometimes it is better to keep one’s mouth shut, keep it all contained. Once you open up your mouth, chaos will pursue.

At the bottom center of the blox is a girl reaching up towards a tear in the page. To me, this illustrates the notion that she wants a voice, she wants a say in the novel. She will literally rip the page, to assert her right to speak.

On the right side of the book are faded question marks in the background to illustrate the general confusion of the novel and the multitude of questions that arise. There is also the shattered thought bubble, illustrating that even the thoughts of the characters are not stable. Also this shows the duality of words – not all words are spoken. One’s thoughts or self-concepts, are also impacted.

At the bottom right of the book is the ever-present fire that threatens to consume their world. The fire also helps portray the notion that not everything is controllable. Actions can spiral out of control into an image that is hard to contain, even within the pages of a novel.

I tried to portray the different aspects of Anna in this blox – silent Anna, desperate Anna, verbal Anna, regretful Anna. I wanted to show that speech can lead to many different outcomes or images. And the impacts of speech can destroy an image or irrevocably alter it.

My main goal with this blox was to make the viewer constantly aware of both visual imagery and verbal content. It was hard to do this because a blox is, by nature, visual. However, for me, it was integral to portray both.

How to visibly adapt.

Okay, now to talk about how to make the visible MORE visible. But, also, how to translate the verbal elements, since this is a book, into s0mething completely visual. Here is where I turned back to the theme of this novel. Seger writes about how there is a certain amount of description needed to get images across in a book. These are chosen carefully to construct an overall image, or theme. This is often done by repeating the same image or idea, by adding details to the original image, or also by using contrasting images. I tried to implement these techniques when it came to my adaptation. I focused on the ideas of silence versus noise – of the implications of both, and how it can affect the overall image of a household. Seger talks about how movement is fluid in a novel. The narrator moves through the book in a way that helps readers understand the connection between details, ideas, and information that may appear again in different chapters. The author connects the past, present, and future. An interesting aspect of My Sister’s Keeper, is that the novel jumps around in time. The mother is often reflecting on the past, and many times whole chapters are flashbacks. This helps connect the imagery and themes of the novel, though. It illustrates how the past inevitably affects the present, which will also impact the future. These images are closely intertwined.

When considering my adaptation, I tried to fixate on repeated words, and the resultant images they formed. It was also interesting to note that sometimes the same words prompted totally different results, or images. Because of the ways in which the characters changed, the words took on new meanings, and formed completely different images. This contributed to the confusing mood of the novel and the inability of characters and readers to get a firm grasp on what is right and wrong. The words create images, however, which help form a general mood and theme for the book.

What I really wanted to capture in my visual adaptation, was the interconnectedness between verbal word and the formation of images. Whether these images are created by the character or the reader, they are a reaction to something said or not said. Image and word are tied together. And even though the relationship bonds in this novel are tested and torn and pulled to a stretching point, the bond between written word and visual image, remains constant. The words might change, the images might change, but the coexistence of the two, does not.