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Artistic Transformation: Unwanted 'Da Vinci Code' Copies Reimagined into 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'

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"Turning Da Vinci into Orwell: Artist David Shrigley's Unique Tale of Transformation"

Editor’s This article was originally published by The Art Newspaper, an editorial partner of CNN Style.

In 2017, a charity-owned thrift store in Swansea, Wales, made a desperate plea for people to stop donating copies of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," as they were inundated with an average of one copy per day. This unusual predicament caught the attention of British artist David Shrigley, who embarked on a mission to collect as many unwanted copies as possible. Over six years, he amassed a staggering 6,000 books. The turning point came during the pandemic when Shrigley, inspired by the 70th anniversary of George Orwell's death, decided to pulp the copies and transform them into limited-edition versions of Orwell's classic, "Nineteen Eighty-Four."

This weekend, Shrigley's unique creations, part of the project he aptly named "Pulped Fiction," were exhibited in the very thrift store that inspired the endeavor. The black-and-white covers, displayed in rows from ceiling to floor, create a visually striking and somewhat dizzying effect. Shrigley humorously noted, "It’s like you’ve entered a totalitarian regime where there is no choice. This is the book, and you’re going to read it."

The genesis of Shrigley's idea was sparked by a re-reading of "Nineteen Eighty-Four" during the pandemic. With the book out of copyright, the artist saw an opportunity to creatively repurpose the surplus of "The Da Vinci Code" copies. Reflecting on the project, Shrigley recalled his initial encounter with Orwell's work as an art student in the 1980s and recognized its enduring relevance, especially in the context of contemporary society.

In Shrigley's eyes, the novel's exploration of the "subversion of language" holds particular significance in today's world. He emphasized the evolving nature of language, citing examples like the rebranding of genocide as "ethnic cleansing." Drawing parallels to current events, Shrigley remarked on the selective use of words in describing conflicts and wars. His interpretation of "Nineteen Eighty-Four" serves as a thought-provoking commentary on the manipulation of language and its resonance in the present socio-political climate.

"Artistic Alchemy: David Shrigley's 'Pulped Fiction' Transforms Unwanted Books into Orwellian Masterpieces"

David Shrigley's ambitious project, "Pulped Fiction," stands at the intersection of creativity, commentary, and resourcefulness. Inspired by a Swansea thrift store drowning in copies of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," Shrigley embarked on a six-year endeavor to collect 6,000 unwanted books. The twist? He pulped them and transformed them into limited-edition copies of George Orwell's timeless classic, "Nineteen Eighty-Four."

The genesis of this creative feat occurred during the pandemic when Shrigley revisited Orwell's dystopian masterpiece, celebrating its 70th anniversary and newfound public domain status. The resulting exhibition in the thrift store that inspired the project offers a visual spectacle of black-and-white covers, creating a captivating display that echoes the totalitarian themes of "Nineteen Eighty-Four."

Shrigley's interpretation goes beyond artistic transformation; it delves into the resonance of Orwell's work in contemporary society. Drawing parallels to Margaret Atwood's observations about "The Handmaid's Tale," Shrigley notes how the manipulation of language and the inversion of truths portrayed in Orwell's novel still echo in today's political landscape. Describing war as peace and the creation of enemies for societal manipulation, Shrigley emphasizes the enduring relevance of Orwell's masterpiece.

While "Pulped Fiction" is not intended as library criticism, Shrigley humorously characterizes "The Da Vinci Code" as a "holiday book about a fairly benign conspiracy," acknowledging its controversy. Speculating on Dan Brown's response, Shrigley notes the lack of a negative reaction and the absence of a cease-and-desist from Brown's representatives.

A collaborative effort involving Shrigley, his studio team, and graphic designer Fraser Muggeridge, "Pulped Fiction" is a conceptual marvel. With a self-funded budget "well into six figures," Shrigley sees this project as a personal exploration rather than a financial endeavor. The newly printed books are available for purchase in Swansea, with the first 250 copies priced at £495 ($600) and the remaining thousand at £795 ($963) on Shrigley's website.

As Shrigley aptly puts it, "I’m in a position in my life now where I can actually afford to take risks and do things that I want to do, even though they don’t necessarily really fit in my canon of work." "Pulped Fiction" not only transforms unwanted books but also becomes a testament to the power of conversations, shaping the narrative and progress of the artwork. In the intricate layers of this project, Shrigley showcases that art is not only about creation but the dynamic dialogue it initiates with the world around it.

In conclusion, David Shrigley's "Pulped Fiction" stands as a testament to artistic innovation, resourcefulness, and the enduring power of conversation. What began as a response to a charity thrift store's inundation with unwanted copies of "The Da Vinci Code" transformed into a conceptual masterpiece, with Shrigley repurposing 6,000 books into limited-edition copies of George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four."

Beyond the visual spectacle displayed in the thrift store exhibition, Shrigley's project becomes a thought-provoking commentary on the resonance of Orwell's work in today's society. Drawing parallels to Margaret Atwood's insights on "The Handmaid's Tale," Shrigley emphasizes the continued relevance of Orwell's exploration of language manipulation and the inversion of truths.

"Pulped Fiction" represents a collaborative effort that goes beyond traditional artistic boundaries. With a self-funded budget and a price tag "well into six figures," Shrigley's project is a personal exploration rather than a financial endeavor. The pricing strategy, with the first 250 copies available in Swansea at £495 ($600) and the remaining thousand at £795 ($963) on Shrigley's website, adds a layer of accessibility to this unique creation.

As Shrigley reflects on his ability to take risks and explore unconventional projects, "Pulped Fiction" becomes a testament to the dynamic relationship between art and the conversations it initiates. In the convergence of unwanted books, artistic vision, and societal commentary, Shrigley showcases the transformative potential of art and the ability to breathe new life into the discarded.

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