Monday, November 24, 2014

Final Project. A Creative Project

When it was mentioned that we could do creative projects I immediately knew I wanted to do one with House of Leaves.  Now it took me a while to come up with exactly what I wanted to do, but I’ve finally settled on something. I’ve gone out and bought an extra copy of the book. Compared to the cost of other art projects I’ve done for school $21 is fairly cheap. What’s harder on me is probably the emotional value that books have for me, as I plan on doing something that I would not normally ever do to a book. Normally I wouldn’t even write in one. Heck, I’ve been complaining to my roommate that the copy I borrowed from him is full of his illegible notes. But this copy, I am going to tear apart. Deconstruct it in a sense. Turn this book into a non-book. Take the leaves from their home and play with them.
But why? What statement could this make? What is the purpose of this creative work? As I said, I knew I wanted to do something creative with House of Leaves. My initial thought was to draw. After all, this is the most wordy and least pictorial out of all of the books we’ve read. I thought maybe I’d illustrate a few scenes of The Navidson Record or perhaps just one really important scene. Perhaps I could take on one or two of the Exhibits at the end of the book, the instructions that Zampano left for a series of plates. But that all just seemed wrong for this book. Yes there are Sketches and Polaroids in Appendix II, but part of their importance is that there are so few of them. One of the big themes of the book is that Zampano is a blind man analyzing a film that does not exist. To me it would somehow seem against the spirit of the book to put it into blatant images. Even Appendix III, which seems to be full of artistic interpretations of the film and analysis, is titled by The Editors as “Contrary evidence.”
That, and the text is just so dense, so full of information and references that, were I to illustrate, I don’t think I could manage to fit everything in. I probably wouldn’t even be able to catch everything myself, let alone transfer it into image. This is a case where I think an adaptation would only lose information and not add anything of value. If I really wanted to capture the spirit of the book, I wouldn’t just copy from the source material, but literally use the material itself. I’d be using the source material as material for a project; that seems to play on the echoes that our one writing prompt touched on. And taking the book apart? Well, as was brought up, “leaves” can be defined as paper, and so a book would be like their home, a House of Leaves. A big part of the book was that the House was more of a non-house. The “window” footnote even listed a whole bunch of things in a normal hose that this House didn’t have.  So, why not mirror the House being a non-house by turning the Book into a non-book.
The people inhabiting the house were played with and destroyed in various ways, so I figure I would also do a variety of things to the paper. Yes I think I’ll leave much of it intact, but for the paper I plan to alter, I suppose I could categorize the alterations in three ways.
1.       Paper Folding, Origami: This idea came partly from Jimmy Corigan and the pages it has to cut out and put together three-dimensional pieces. Whether it is writing or images, things on paper are, for the most part, seen as two dimensional representations. So folding paper up into three dimensions plays with that expectation. The House itself does not follow normal 3-dimensional rules. It is bigger on the inside, doubles back on itself, and changes form as it pleases.
2.       Paper Cutting: perhaps the most destructive alteration to individual sheets of paper. The biggest reason I’m doing this one is to play with the negative space. The book already does this in ways like leaving a lot of blank space on pages or by blacking out squares. The negative space is important to the House, as it is this vast, empty form, a negative space itself. That, and the destructive nature of the House to the people inside matches the destruction to the words and leaves that cutting will inflict.
3.       Paper games: The sort of games that can be played with a pencil and paper. Writing over the pages in a similar way to how Zampano would often scribble over his own notes. The House exhibits something of a twisted playfulness in its actions. So why not play a little myself? That and many paper games such as hangman can combine words and images in order to play.
Now, there are a few specific examples of these things that already I know I want to do.
One would be to create a flexagon. They are a flat, folded model that can be further folded or “flexed” to reveal that they have more than two sides. They briefly captured the interests of a group of mathematicians, including the famous physicist Richard Feynman. They were popularized in a Martin Gardner article for the popular science magazine Scientific American. The idea that a flat thing can have more than two sides (most often either three or six) really plays with the dimensional folding even more so than most types of origami.
Gerdner, Martin. “Flexagons”.  Scientific American December 1956: 162-166. Web.  22 Nov, 2014.
Direct address of the pdf
Another specific that I want to do is a game called Exquisite Corpse. It is one that I actually played with my brothers as a kid before I knew its name or background. The variation that we played involved folding a paper into thirds and, without looking at each other’s works, one person would draw the head, another the torso, and the legs. The game was quite popular among surrealists, and there are variations to form both images as well as sentences from words (similar to a game it was based on, consequences, which I think I’ll also play). Anyway, I’d like to play this game over Jed’s death, partly due to the name of the game and partly due to its association with an art movement (although Dadaism and Surrealism are different movements, the latter developed out of the former) –unfortunately I have not been able to find an academic source on this yet. All of the links from this article are outdated or broken.
and the two surrealist manifestoes as primary sources is needed- provided online by the University of Alabama. The first one takes on a lot of the joking aspect of Dadaism and the second one outright mentions it
Breton, Andre. Surrealist Manifesto. Paris: 1924. University of Alabama Website. Web. 23 Nove, 2014.
Breton, Andre. Manifesto of Surrealism. Paris: 1930. University of Alabama Website. Web. 23 Nove, 2014.
One of the places I know I want to cut apart is a few pages at the beginning of the minotaur chapter. I have an exacto knife and a can of red spray paint. I’m going to cut the silhouette of a minotaur out of one page. Spray that page with the red so that it covers the once side, as well as a minotaur shape on the page behind it. I also want to take that cutout and use it as a stencil to spray around, leaving a negative of a minotaur. On pages where there is a lot of the red lettering, those words may even disappear from the paint, playing with the fact that those words have already gone through cycles of existence and erasure.
Most of the other games I have not quite thought specifically about them, but I do want to incorporate them.
There is a trick where you can cut a regular piece of paper in such a way that a full grown human could fit through it (possibly making this with Tom’s death). I’d like to make different pieces of “modular origami” wherein a piece is made up of many identical units. In fact, all the origami I want to make would be geometric rather than organic or living. I’d like to cut out a lot of rectangular shapes from the pages, perhaps the same cutout going through multiple pages like the window footnote.
I want to make a Mobius strip out of the k-footnote. ( )
I want to make a folded paper fortune teller (we called them cootie catchers as kids). ( )
I want to play SOS in the SOS chapter. ( )

Difficulties I have with this project: The writing aspect. I figure I will write an explanation of why I did what I did in a similar but more organized and complete manner to what I’m doing here. For the writing aspect then I’m having a little trouble with the finding of academic sources. Most of the things that I’m bringing sources in on are just for explanation or definitions of common knowledge subjects. Mostly instructions on the sorts of games you’d play with paper. I could site this book as well as Jimmy Corrigan as I mentioned it as inspiration, but I do seem to be having a ton of trouble finding some outside reading or academic source that can really back up my general idea.

Then there is the problem of turning this project in. We have been submitting essays online, but this project is largely non digital. I suppose I could take pictures and turn them in along with the written explanation of the destruction, but the only camera I have is a poor quality webcam and besides, it would miss out on the three dimensional and interactive aspects of the project.


  1. First I would like to say that I love the idea! I really think it captures what we talked about in class about the essence of a creative project. I really like the idea of the flexagon because I think it captures the house and almost makes it into a form people can understand; by making this flexagon you will be creating a sort of tangible version of the house for readers to wrap their heads around. It seems like you have already spent a good deal of time thinking about your project and it really seems like you enjoy and understand House of Leaves, but I do see where the written aspect could be a problem. One thing you could do is to create an argument (as we have always done) about the house and the mind or the psychology of the house and somehow use your project ideas to back up your claim. You also seem very interested in the Minotaur based on your comments here and in class, so perhaps you would want to delve deeper into that aspect of the story? Overall, I hope everything works out and I'm a bit upset that I may not get to see it finished! Good Luck!!

  2. This is great. Mostly I'm interested in seeing what you produce, and I think you have lots of good ideas, so my feedback will attempt to be short & focused.

    1. Don't feel obligated to do all of this. Narrowing your focus as you go is a fine idea.
    2. For turning it in, you probably want to turn it in physically. I'm not opposed to you photographing/filming it and turning that it in, but it sounds like physically handing it over to me might be best (or setting it up so I can see it?). This will cause some difficulty, but it won't be insurmountable - we'll just need to discuss how it will work.
    3. For the written component, I think you're on the right track. My simplistic instinct is to say that you're writing a essay (which itself might be dadaist or surrealist in inspiration - an essay which is not an essay) explaining the significance or at least the genesis of doing a dadaist/surrealist project using the book as a source of raw material for the non-book.
    4. I also think that sticking to sources about dadaism/surrealism is totally fine - you don't need academic sources beyond that.
    5. This sounds like a lot of work, but also a lot of fun and a great challenge. Keeping it under control so that you have something more or less finished to turn in will probably be the greatest challenge - so if you find that the physical/artistic project is unfinished or in some way unsatisfactory to you, don't let that bother you - just turn in what you've got along with an essay about your creative process or the meaning of the project.