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.
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.
Trying to grasp this image of the collapsing world
Unable to grasp it
Image is too fleeting
What caused world to collapse?
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.
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.
An analogy for the idea of multiplicity can be found in a game called Bananagrams. This game is somewhat similar to Scrabble, but different in the sense that the pieces on your imaginary board – there is no actual board, you just use a desk or table, or some sort of surface – can move. Each player starts out with a determined set of letters. Then one player shouts out “split,” and all the players flip there letters over to reveal what they have. Once their letters are determined, a player has to start forming words. The words must connect to one another. For example, if you used the word APPLE, you could use the “P” to form PEAR underneath. Once you use up your letters, you shout out “peel,” and everyone must pick up another letter and somehow make it fit on their board. The idea is that you have to constantly move the letters around on your board to accommodate the new ones you are adding. Therefore, while the words, or the meanings, are constantly changing, they are all interconnected in the sense that the letters are not changing, only more are being added. The amount is being “multiplied.” People keep shouting “peel,” until there are no more letters left. At that point, when someone has used all of his/her letters to form words that are interconnected, he/she would shout out, “banana.” The game would then be finished.
I know this is an odd analogy for the idea of multiplicity, but as I sat at my desk thinking of ideas, I noticed my Bananagram set next to my foot on the floor. And suddenly I remembered playing the game with my parents – feeling this rush of adrenaline as I shape-shifted the letters to form new words, that really weren’t all that new, only a variation of what I had already had.
Now that I am thinking about it, I think the most obvious example of multiplicity is the alphabet. I guess this is what I was trying to illustrate in my Bananagram example – this idea that we have only twenty six letters. We sculpt them, mix them up, manipulate them – we have a limited source, but endless possibilities. The English language, itself, gains no new letters. But from these letters, arises “multiple” meanings.
I wrote this in my other blog a couple weeks ago:
There are only twenty six letters in the alphabet. I read in a book the other day how Newton, or maybe it was Galileo – I can’t really remember – likened letters to atoms. He said they are the smallest unit of communication and spin in circles forming new combinations, new meanings. In a way, words create a body, an object, something tangible, in the same way that atoms give weight to the world.
But, since there are only twenty six letters, there are only so many ways in which we might sculpt them, use them, manipulate them to say something we think is important, or maybe not important, or only of semi-importance. We can decide these things, to an extent. The audience, though, will take out of the words and the letters and the passages, what he or she pleases. A writer only has so much control.
With twenty six letters, a sort of cycling will occur, much like the circular image of a clock. Imagine, instead of numbers on the clock, 26 letters. And then imagine several hands on the clock moving from one letter to the next – forming new combinations with each tick or tock. So, while words may be timeless, there is also the sense that they cycle over and over again and maybe it is this cycling that is timeless. Maybe history repeats itself not just because of our actions, but our words.
Like the “I” is the grounding factor in the ever-changing cube of this E-lit, the alphabet, or the limited possibility of letters one can use, is the grounding factor in Bananagrams. Despite a changing board, the letters don’t change, only the combinations do. The letters are interconnected on a sort of grid, must like the “I’s” and “You’s” and “We’s.”
My emblem for visibility is a mirror. With a mirror, you can see yourself reflected back. You are presented with a visual image. However, before you look in a mirror in the morning, you can describe how you feel in words, and how you think you might look. Then, when you see the image of yourself, you can adjust your words – the image might support your words, or might differ drastically from them. Another way of doing it, though, would be to just wake up and look in the mirror, without giving any thought to how you might appear. You see yourself and because of what you see, you describe it in related words. It lends to the question of whether you think about something and then actually see it, or if you see something and then find the words to describe it.
The idea of a mirror is also interesting because the images we see alter our perceptions and words. What would life be like without mirrors? Would we just rely on words? Would we base how we feel about ourselves and how others might feel about us based off of our thoughts, not necessarily our appearance? Would we find other ways to create images – see other people’s reactions to things we say or do? Do mirrors really matter? Or does inner image matter more? The neat thing about a mirror is that it literally takes an inner image and can make it outwardly appear. If you feel sad, you can see it reflected back at you in a mirror. However, if you use words to say you are happy, you can influence your reflection, or your image. But, whichever one you utilize first, holds a sort of weight – if you look sad, you might feel sadder. However if you tell yourself you are happy, then it will probably show on your face.
The idea of the mirror – this reflection of outer image and inner thought – is much like the E-lit piece which shows the outline of a tree, with the words describing it within its interior. We have the image portrayed to the world, and then the meaning behind it. Or maybe we have the meaning within and how that is reflected back into the world. Likewise, with the movie, we have a character who may feel a certain emotion because the author dictates him to feel this, or we may have a character that takes on a sort of life of his own and urges the author to describe him in a specific manner. With The New Yorker, we have an image that reflects a certain meaning, and we are asked to find the meaning that best encompasses the image. In all these cases, there is a sort of reflectivity of thought to image or image to thought. There is transference of focus; however, the meaning ultimately remains the same.
As I was thinking about visibility, I remembered flipping through my New Yorker magazine earlier this morning. At the back of the magazine, they present the reader with a cartoon and then urge the readers to think of the best caption for this picture. They call it the “Cartoon Caption Contest.” This is interesting, because in this case, there is the assumption that visual image came first. However, there is also this idea that the picture was created with a set phrase of words in mind, and the closest the entries come to this, influences their chances of winning. Or, maybe it is about creating words that, afterwards, when looked it, make a whole lot of sense in relation to the picture. The words you choose require a heightened sense and understanding of visibility to truly capture the image. Word choice further emphasizes an idea, an image. Words can make something more visual.
Another analogy of the idea of visibility can be seen in the movie Stranger than Fiction. This movie is about an author writing a story, and how the character comes to life, and starts to take on a life of his own. There is this question of whether author is creating words that the character follows or if the character is an image that takes on his own life and influences the words the writer creates. As an audience watching this movie, we are presented with somewhat simultaneous cues of author writing and the image of character acting. We can hear the author narrating, and at the same time, we see the character partaking in related behaviors. Much like in the E-lit piece, the audience has to decide which to follow first – verbal cues, or visual ones? They must also decide which is more salient and how the two interact.
This idea of meta-fiction present in Stranger than Fiction, I think, applies to the idea of visibility. When an author is aware that he or she is writing to an audience, and the audience is aware of this awareness, then the idea of word meaning and image construction becomes a focus of attention. As an author writes, he or she will focus on whether to start with the word or the image, and the reader becomes aware that the author is sculpting the text and will also focus on whether to cling onto word or image. Another interesting spin on this is illustrated in the movie mentioned above – the idea that a character is aware of the author. For my Advanced Senior Seminar in Fiction Writing, we had to do a quick free write in class where we illustrate this idea of meta-fiction. I think this illustrates the relationship between author and character. It also hints at how the audience views the character based off of what the author writes and how these words create visual images. It illustrates how imagery may be formed or crafted, and how the text itself is highly manipulated. Here is what I wrote:
It is always about control – gaining it, obtaining it, losing it, spotting it, leaning towards it, reaching for it, grasping it, losing it again.
There is a way in which you should live your life. And I decide it. There is something to be said in just doing and being and saying. But, unfortunately, I don’t give you this chance. My words cannot be trusted, but, at the same time, since they are quite literally all you have, they must be trusted.
I look at you and I want to tell you everything that is wrong with your appearance. Your shoes are too dirty, your hair sticking out along the sides. Your teeth are a bit too yellow and you have this funny gap between two of them that your tongue occasionally slithers in and out of. I notice the coffee stain by the pocket on your shorts and the sweat stains gathered beneath your arm pits. Instead, though, I lie. I tell others that you are a good person with a good heart and even though you may do something wrong here or there, you will, ultimately, make the right choice. Otherwise, I would have to kill you. Because that is the way of things.
I decide when you will eat, what you will eat, if you will get sick, if you will love. Will the guy be a good guy, the right guy, does such a guy even exist? You have no say in your outcome. I control you. Isn’t that sad?
I feel like it is only fair, though, to provide you with a couple basic definitions, for I will soon throw you into a world in which your future is dark and unclear. You will not even know the color of your socks until you have them on your feet. One is going to be blue and the other green and pink with stripes. The least I can do is describe to you some of the laws. These of course, you have no say over. Maybe I am attempting to prepare you for a world in which you have no control. Or maybe I am just doing this to justify myself.
If you are going to lie, do it honestly. Admit to the fact you are lying and don’t let the lie deceive you as the liar. To be a liar, however, is all too common. It is to be a part of the trend. You look in a store window and you see lies all over the place. It might be a blue lie, or a green lie, or a lie that has a cute bow tied around the neckline. This lie could take many forms, but at its core, beneath all the color and glamour, it is, simply a lie. There is nothing original about it, nothing unique, nothing to be valued. You see a liar, run far away. And fast. Liars stink, like mildew under a sink or mold on a chunk of cheddar cheese.
Honesty is nonexistent in today’s world. If you meet an honest person, hold on to them, because they are really worth something special. Honest people are rare, like clean bathrooms and unwrinkled paper. Honest people might as well be labeled antiques.
You are, without a doubt, a hypocrite, if you think you are not one.
On a Final Message:
Don’t trust me. I am unreliable and though I pretend to like you, at times you disgust me and make me cry and throw up and want to smash books out windows. Other times I laugh at you, mock you, and think you are so incredibly stupid. Sometimes, though these times are less common, I admire you and think you are a fine person, indeed. And the worst times – those are when I start to wonder if maybe you are really me.
There is this definite symbiotic relationship between image and words. They need each other and could not exist without the other. However the formation of both is interesting. The E-lit I chose illustrates this idea of visibility – the dependence of visual image on words and vice versa. This piece is entitled “The Sweet Old Etcetera” by Alison Clifford. In this work, we are first given a sentence that is formed sideways, as if it is reaching upwards toward the sky. Once you click on the sentence, four more branches of words reach upwards from the original branch. Therefore, we have a core of words with four outgrowths on top of it. If you click on one of the four upper branches, two smaller branches of words emerge from the top of that particular branch. You can click on the other three branches, and the same thing will happen. Now when you click on the whole image, the tree fades away and letters start falling from the sky. Looking at these falling letters floating through the sky of white, you see they form the word leaf. The letters no longer form full words, just like the leaves are no longer part of the entire tree. However, from these parts you can get a sense of the greater whole. You can tell the letters spell the words leaf, just like you know that a leaf at some point was a part of something larger and grander. If you click on the leaves, they gradually disappear and instead, we are presented once again with the image of the “word tree”, except now it is planted in a ground of words and letters. The leaves have fallen to create a floor of words. The cycle of life, and the cycle of words, is being epitomized.
In this E-lit, the visual screen is presented in black and white – the color of text on paper. The words, themselves, illustrate the visual image of a tree, of life, of leaves falling, of rebirth. However, this E-lit also uses these words, to form the literal image that they are trying to portray. The words are sculpted in a way to visually portray their meaning – they hint at growth, Spring, lightness, nature. This is making the audience chose whether the word came first, or the image, for we are being presented with both simultaneously. Did we read the word Spring and think of a tree growing, or did we see the tree growing and think of Spring?