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.
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)
This work by Sarah Salway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.