Visual Proust

February 27, 2009

Molly Springfield - Untitled (page 1)

Untitled (page 1)

Here’s a literary adaptation as innovative as the Dante Xbox game discussed on this blog a couple of days ago, although it will probably appeal less to 13-year-old boys.

In today’s San Francisco Chronicle,  Kenneth Baker attempts to describe artist Molly Springfield’s visual renderings of Marcel Proust, on exhibit now at the Steven Wolf Fine Arts Gallery in San Francisco through March 21 [scroll down]:

She set out to copy cipher-for-cipher photocopies of closely corresponding pages from the several English translations of Marcel Proust’s “À la recherche du temps perdu.”

Springfield’s ultimate concern may be the loss and gain of information that any translation, even a copy, involves. In drawing the photocopied book pages, she carefully rendered the “gutter” shadows created by the copy machine, the striations of the unexposed pages’ edges and the margins of seeming nothingness that surround the books splayed on the copier glass.

You can see the images and read a fascinating discussion of Springfield’s project at the gallery’s website.

Like Proust’s narrator, who begins In Search of Lost Time by musing, “I had gone on thinking while I was asleep about what I had been reading but these thoughts had taken a rather peculiar turn,” Springfield takes us through her transcription process to a twilight place where the comfortable solidity of meaning and location breaks down. This is enhanced by stylistic elements in the drawings themselves. They look empirical at first glance, but the nuances of value and abstraction produced by the quirks of the copier machine and the magic of the toner grant them a dark and mysterious air. The center of the drawing channels Lawrence Weiner, the margins Agnes Martin. Technology and the hand collaborate in odd ways.

As a book, Translation will be more than a catalogue of the drawings. The ostensible subject becomes Springfield’s claim that we consider her work a viable new translation of Proust. On the wall the drawings are viewed, in book form they are more likely to be read. As rewritten by Springfield, Proust’s familiar words should sound different and signify differently. The reader will have to sort out whether the action in the book takes place in the imaginary village of Combray, in Proust’s cork lined room, in Springfield’s well-lit studio, or the place in which they are reading it. Time is out of joint.

Sounds amazing. Lucky San Franciscans.

-ar

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