Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What have you got in that shopping trolley???

Well, will you look at this. It's an exhibition on wheels! Another use for a shopping trolley.

Here are some of the pieces Anne Kelly and I have been working on. They're based on the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon.

There are eleven at the moment, but we're planning more.

Here's the official blurb about the project:

The Pillow Book Project – Anne Kelly and Sarah Salway

What is The Pillow Book?

Written in the eleventh century by a Japanese Court gentlewoman, Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book* is a scrapbook of lists, poems and reflections. Sei Shonagon’s observations range from the funny – (in a section, Things that Create the Appearance of Deep Emotion, she puts simply, “Plucking your eyebrows”) – to the poignant – (in Rare Things, we find, “A son-in-law who’s praised by his wife’s father. Likewise, a wife who’s loved by her mother-in-law.”) There are sections on Japanese Court Dress, lists of flowering plants, birds, mountain ranges. All of which add up to form a picture of what a certain section of Japanese life was like in the Heian period.

Why we liked it

Although the form is fragmentary, it’s easy to gain an idea of Sei Shonagon’s character through her intensely personal, and sometimes dogmatic, choices. We found ourselves thinking what we might put under certain of her sections – what makes us alarmed, or close our eyes with happiness, for instance? This became a challenge to write our own lists for today. Although our lives couldn’t be more different from Sei Shonagon’s, doing this project made us pause a little and look, with curiosity, both within and without, at what’s important. It was a reminder how effectively the ‘small’ can be used to tell the bigger picture. The use of fragments also fitted in with the magpie tendencies we both have in our creative process.

How we did it

To begin with, we sat together and worked out which section headings appealed to us. Then Sarah made lists and lists of what she felt suited each section – stories, images, thoughts, sometimes just words. Meanwhile, Anne worked on what different background colours she wanted to use. Then we came together again. Sarah cut and changed her words, and Anne found images, shapes and textures that fitted both literally and metaphorically with the emotion and atmosphere we decided together that we wanted to create.

Now what?

Just as we wrote on from Sei Shonagon’s orginal lists, we don’t believe our own Pillow Book will ever be finished. So we’d like to invite you now to add your own ideas. Just what does The Eight Month summon up for you, for example, or what things do you feel should be plump? Please fill in a card so we can incorporate some of your thoughts. Or give us a whole new section. We look forward to the challenge!

(* The Pillow Book, Sei Shonagon, (translated by Meredith McKinney), Penguin Classics)


Kathryn's Daily Writing Workout said...

Cushions should be plump: inviting, cared for, fresh, comforting, homely, well-rounded, deep, self-contained by good seams and a warm, autumnal colour. Or is that me I'm describing?!

Leatherdykeuk said...

What a fun project. Good luck with it.

Nik's Blog said...

That looks terrific. Love it, Sarah, love it.


Douglas Bruton said...

The eighth Month:

The time of my father's birthday and after him my middle son's. My father gone but his birthday still in my head... and my son away from home and a space in the eighth month that belongs to just him.

Nik's Blog said...

Sorry Sarah, but you've been tagged...


jem said...

I've liked the idea of the Pillow Book since watching the Peter Greenaway film based on the idea. I confess I haven't read the actual book.

I'm loving what you've done with it, and I was just commenting to Clare Grant earlier that I can't resist listing.

I need to get a look at that book and then share something with you. I hope you're in no hurry though ...

Sarah Salway said...

Great thanks all, sorry not to have come back before. I've been away - see current post!
Kathryn, cushions will go in the plump section. You are reserved for pirates (even if you were plump, which you are not!)
Thanks leatherdyke, I'll keep you posted, and Nik too. Sorry not to have got round to the meme.
Great Douglas - that's lovely, and moving. I've been thinking a lot about space recently. Your comment tied into this.
Will look forward to hearing from you, Jem.

Nik's Blog said...

Tis very optional, is the meme, Sarah. Really, don't worry.


sexy said...