Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Emma Kay | Worldview

Emma Kay
London, UK: Bookworks, 1999
224 pp., 21 x 15 cm., softcover
Edition of 1500

In Worldview, Emma Kay recounts a history of the planet told entirely from unaided memory. It begins with the big bang, and ends with apocalyptic visions suggested by the then-imminent end of the millennium in 1999. The piece was first realized as a high-resolution ink-jet print (see below), with a typeface and layout designed by the artist. The spaces between the paragraphs indicate omitted material, their size related to the artist’s perception of her memory lapse. The large digital print (176 x 270.5 cm) was produced in an edition of three.

The content, presumably from half-remembered exam text books, period piece movies, novels and magazine articles, features major omissions and dodgy information, presented in a neutral tone. A sample paragraph:

Apes’ upper limbs were long and strong, and were known as arms. Their brains were much larger in relation to their upper body weight than the dinosaurs’ brains. About a million years ago apes were multiplying rapidly, they appeared all over the Earth in pockets. They lived in social groups, which were hierarchical. They were herbivores. Most lived in trees but some had begun to live on the ground. The apes had the biggest brain in relation to their body of all the creatures so far. Their brain continually evolved, and their social interaction grew more complex.

Worldview follows Kay's The Bible from Memory (1997), a 7,500 word single page retelling of the King James Bible and Shakespeare from Memory (1998). Like The Bible From Memory, Worldview tells a global history bookended with creation and destruction, and represents an attempt at classification which reveals the flaws inherent in all histories.

"When I am writing I always imagine myself in some kind of virtual computer environment and think of my memory works as hypertexts. The associative and cognitive links people make are the very ones which computers try to emulate, and even represent. Hypertext is an apparently objective attempt to impose order over chaos and to get to grips with vast resources, though its subjectivity is inescapable. It seemed to me to be interesting to represent this attempt visually."
- Emma Kay

The bound Bookworks edition, also from 1999, features the original text and the addition of an index (above, bottom). The cover map is drawn by the artist, also from memory.

Now out-of-print, the title is available for between $45 and $145, here.

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