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Posts Tagged ‘The Mark on the Wall’

Common reader Nell Toemen had a real “Woolf-week” in January by first traveling to Oslo, Norway, to visit the opening of Ane Thon Knutsen’s PhD. Exhibition, “The Mark on the Wall, and then traveling to London for Virginia Woolf’s Birthday Lecture by Stuart Clarke.

She shared her impression of Ane’s exhibit with Blogging Woolf. We are happy to include it as follows:

Nell’s first-hand impression of Ane’s exhibit

First there was some of her ‘Woolf-work’ in the Oslo National Academy of the Arts reflecting process, research, previous work and documentation). That same evening there was the official opening of the major installation of “The Mark on the Wall” in Kunstnernes Hus, an art institution in the centre of Oslo.

It was a surprise, this major installation, the result of Ane’s enormous work of typesetting and printing during last autumn as one could see on her website. It was really impressive: entering the room and wherever you looked words, words, punctuation marks and words.

Woolf’s first publication in Hogarth Press, the complete short story “The Mark on the Wall” handprinted on I don’t know how many papers, white and off-white, neatly arranged so as to fill all the walls. If you would walk the room in eleven rounds you would be able to read the whole story. Reading it this way is an absolutely different experience than reading the story in a book.

It was worth the journey.

Nell’s photos

Below are the photos Nell sent Blogging Woolf to help readers get a better idea of the installation’s impact.

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In 2017, Ane Thon Knutsen combined her love of Virginia Woolf and her love of typesetting with her project A Printing Press of One’s Own. The two came together in her hand-set volume by the same name, which she debuted at the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf at the University of Reading that June.

Now she’s at it again, this time with a massive installation titled “The Mark on the Wall,” which runs Jan. 22 – Jan. 27 at Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo.

The free exhibition is a part of Artistic Research Week 2019.

Ane’s project

In this practice based PhD. Ane Thon Knutsen reflects on how the material process of typesetting colours the way one thinks about words and the physical materials of literature, from within the practice of typesetting itself.

The results of this research will be presented as a massive installation, an adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s “The Mark on The Wall” (1917). “The Mark on the Wall” is the first story Woolf wrote whilst teaching her self to typeset. The prints will all appear in one installation, filling a huge room.

Knutsen’s adaptions of this short story represents a new way of reading Woolf as a typesetting author. Knutsen reflects on and lives out how thoughts materialize in the world, in a pendular process between the mind and the body. In this installation Knutsen is translating the story from the pages of the book to a room of one´s own.

Knutsen will also be showing previous adaptions of “The Mark on The Wall” simultaneously at Oslo National Academy of The Arts.

See a time-lapse video of the printing process

As Ane says, “This (time-lapse video) documents every minute of the three months it took me to reprint and translate “The Mark on the Wall” to 1828 A3 posters, setting it word by word with moveable type. The whole short story can be read on the door in the centre during two hours and 18 minutes.”

About Ane

Ane Thon Knutsen (b.1984) is a designer & artist living and working in Oslo, Norway. She specialized in letterpress printing and her artistic practice can be placed in-between graphic design, conceptual letterpress printing and performative presentations.

Ane is currently a PhD- candidate in Graphic Design at Oslo National Academy of The Arts. In the project A Printing Press of One´s Own, she is researching Virginia Woolf’s practice as a self taught typesetter and publisher through experimental graphic interpretations of the short story “The Mark on the Wall” (1917).

“The Mark on the Wall” installation in photos

Below are photos of her work on the exhibit that Ane shared with Blogging Woolf.

“900 massive meters of prints are up!” is the comment Ane included with this photo on her Facebook page on Jan. 18.

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Editor’s Note: This essay, written in March of this year, was contributed by Mine Özyurt Kılıç, a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Department of Comparative Literature at Harvard University and co-organizer of Harvard’s May 10 event, A Press of One’s Own: Celebrating 100 Years of Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s Hogarth Press. At Harvard, she currently investigates the connection between the ethical and aesthetic components of short fiction. Her research mostly focuses on contemporary British fiction with special interest in women’s writing. She is the author of the first book-length study on Maggie Gee’s fictionMaggie Gee: Writing the Condition-of-England Novel (Bloomsbury 2013). This academic celebration brings her back to her master’s thesis on the theme of failure in love in T. S. Eliot’s poetry as well as to her lectures on British Modernism.

The snail is a seal of the Hogarth Press, a signature of its focus on nature and the natural against the industrialized literary marketplace! Like this snail with its home on its back, The Hogarth married private and public life with a letterpress machine on a dining table. And that has made all the difference!

The snail that makes its appearance on the first publication of the Hogarth Press, “The Mark on the Wall” (1917), is the very emblem of the Woolfs’ mission. Like Schumacher’s claim for the economy “Small is Beautiful”, the Woolfs suggest that in “express[ing] the rapidity of life, the perpetual waste and repair”: Slow is beautiful!

This first Woolf story they publish can also be read as a fictional manifestation of Woolf’s ars poetica. The narrator first situates herself in the world understanding one truth about it– “what an airless, shallow, bald, prominent world it becomes! A world not to be lived in” — then discerns her calling in it:

I want to think quietly, calmly, spaciously, never to be interrupted, never to have to rise from my chair, to slip easily from one thing to another, without any sense of hostility, or obstacle. I want to sink deeper and deeper, away from the surface, with its hard separate facts.

This quiet, calm, spacious, and uninterrupted mode of deep thinking is the very engine behind Woolf’s Modernist texts that require a different mode of reading, a deliberately slow and effortful one that is like the movements of a crawling snail. The central motif in the story, also visually reproduced in Dora Carrington’s woodcut print to accompany the text, the snail is one of the many lives that the narrator feels committed to describe in detail.

[…] there are a million patient, watchful lives still for a tree, all over the world, in bedrooms, in ships, on the pavement, lining rooms, where men and women sit after tea, smoking cigarettes. It is full of peaceful thoughts, happy thoughts, this tree. I should like to take each one separately.

In a later Woolf story “Kew Gardens” (1919), the snail now becomes one of the central consciousnesses. A single figure among those visitors coming from different walks of life, it makes its way around the flowerbed, thinking whether it is better to move or not, drawing the reader’s attention to the minutiae of everyday life, to a moment of being, from a major to a minor key. As such, it becomes a sign of a special state of consciousness slow enough to attend to details, to the cotton wool of daily life, to moments of being, to epiphanies, to fragments shored against ruins, to marks on walls, flowers, images and smells that memory brings from distant times and places.

In the idiom of Woolf’s snail, the early Hogarth draws its readers’ attention to an eccentric, marginal and extraordinary vision that necessitates a reading slow enough to digest and savor millions of surrounding lives.

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Ozlem and her Work

Ozlem displaying her work at the “Mark on the Wall” exhibition

It has been almost one month since the 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, but I am still thinking about all of the great events and presentations from the conference.

One of the highlights from this year’s conference was the “Mark on the Wall” exhibition, which presented art work that was inspired by Virginia Woolf and her female contemporaries. Artists from around the world were represented, and I had the lucky opportunity to interview one of the artists whose work was selected for this exhibition.

Ozlem Habibe Mutaf Buyukarman is an assistant professor of graphic design at Yeditepe University in Turkey. After seeing her piece, “Do Not Call Me Anything IV” displayed at the “Mark on the Wall” exhibition, I asked her a few questions about her work:

In what ways do you think this piece connects with Virginia Woolf and/or the Modernist movement?

Ozlem: In my artwork “Do Not Call Me Anything IV”, you can see knee high stockings worn with trousers by a woman (who probably has a room of her own). The knee-high women’s stockings are a metaphorical expression of stepping forward. This is what modernist women writers and artists do I believe. Along with the stockings I placed labels/tags which stand for the prejudice against women. Thus, the name of the series is “Do Not Call Me Anything.” Also, in terms of style, this is not a decorative piece or an oil on canvas; it is based on experimental, instantaneous involvements of objects and textures presenting the drama of modern life with its consuming, exhausting and unstable condition. This differentiates it and makes it modern, I suppose.

“Do Not Call Me Anything IV”

Much of your work, including “Do Not Call Me Anything IV,” seems to put a focus on women’s clothing. In what ways does your work speak to and for women?

Ozlem: The clothing items are somehow the witnesses of our lives, our passions, our emotional commitments, the violence we faced to both physical and psychological in a modern, demanding world. They may symbolise the abandoned self or the avant-gardist… I present the aesthetics of personal items while documenting them, a moment of confrontation.

As a female artist, what kinds of struggles do you think that women artists face today?

Ozlem: Still many… women have to wear many hats at a time. And women writers or artists around the world are facing many struggles such as censorship, visibility and representational issues. Virginia Woolf inspired many women all around the world.

You can view Ozlem’s work and all of the exhibition selections in the “Mark on the Wall Online Catalogue”.

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art exhibit

Conference goers at The Mark on the Wall exhibit in Bloomsburg, Pa.

Artwork and the catalogue for the juried exhibition The Mark on the Wall, which was part of the the 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, is now available for sale.

The catalogue, which is available at cost through Blurb as a print-on-demand item, presents the work of 47 artists from as far away as Dubai. The price is $37.49, plus shipping. The art work available for sale is unframed and will be shipped directly to buyers on June 30, when the show closes.

Eighty percent of the proceeds from the sale of the artwork will go to the artist, with 20 percent going to the Bloomsburg University scholarship fund.

If you are interested in purchasing a piece of art, contact conference organizers at woolf2015@bloomu.edu before June 30. After that, all unsold work will be returned to the artists.

The artists’ work, inspired by Woolf and her female contemporaries, was chosen from among more than 400. Four awards were given at the juried exhibition. Co-Best of Show Awards went to Erika Lizée and Carolyn Sheehan. Honorable mentions went to Mischa Brown, Chieko Murasugiand Jacqueline Dee Parker. See the full list of exhibitors.

Mark on the Wall catalogue screenshot

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Here is some news via the Facebook page of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain:

The RateMyWords Virginia Woolf Competition has awarded first prize and £200 to Gabriella Patanè for her story “The Pawmark on the Page,” a tribute to Virginia Woolf. Here is her opening line:

‘Perhaps it was the end of September 1930 that Virginia Woolf first saw the pawmark on the page.’

Here’s the original from Woolf’s “The Mark on the Wall”:

‘Perhaps it was the middle of January in the present that I first looked up and saw the mark on the wall.’

According to the society, Gabriella’s story combines ‘The Mark on the Wall’ with Flush, featuring Pinker theFlush spaniel, the real-life model for Flush, given to Virginia by Vita Sackville-West. Virginia and Leonard are included in the story, and even Nelly gets a namecheck.

Read the full story.

RateMyWords also made a generous donation to the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain.

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Robert Stanley Martin offers a review of Virginia Woolf’s story “The Mark on the Wall” on his blog, Pol Culture. In it, he says Woolf builds on Wordsworth’s use of nature imagery, but that’s where the similarity ends.

Instead of looking outward, as Wordsworth does, Woolf looks inward, Martin argues. And he frames that difference in simple terms, as the difference in the world outlook of the Romantic versus the Modernist.

Verbivore, a blogger on Incurable Logophilia, says the story isn’t a story at all, but “a series of thoughts squeezed between the two tiny actions of a woman looking through her cigarette smoke at a blot on the wall” and a man announcing that he is going out to buy a newspaper. (You can also read Verbivore’s other Woolf posts: Woolf’s 1915 Diary and Initial thoughts on The Voyage Out.)

I, on the other hand, just finished reading Marguerite Duras’s The Ravishing of Lol Stein for a class I am teaching. As a result, I see a French connection with Woolf’s story.

The French connections

Let me explain. Duras’s 1964 novel has been called an anti-novel. That is similar to “The Mark on the Wall” being characterized as not “a story at all.” Lol Stein is a series of observations by an omniscient narrator squeezed between the two large actions of a young woman who is jilted by her fiancé and a man who observes her asleep in the rye field outside his hotel window.

But there is a major difference. Duras writes Lol Stein in a purposefully vague and low-energy, melancholic style. She never takes us inside Lol’s head. Woolf, on the other hand, rushes to reveal the thoughts of her main character as she contemplates the black mark on the wall in front of her.

All of which brings me to another French connection, one that has been flitting around the edges of my mind for years. I am talking about Alain Robbe-Grillet’s third and most famous novel Jealousy (1957).

In it, Robbe-Grillet presents five characters in a bungalow overlooking banana plantations. All is seen through the gaze of a faceless, voiceless narrator who counts and measures and minutely describes his surroundings. And in the midst of the story is a squashed centipede that has left a dark stain on a wall.

I just pulled out the yellowed paperback version I read for an undergrad class many years ago. After only a few moments of skimming, I hit on these lines:

  • “and the bare partition where a dark stain … stands out on the pale, dull, even paint” (62).
  • “On the light-colored paint of the partition opposite … a common Scutigera of average size . . . has appeared . . . the orientation of its body indicates a path which cuts across the panel diagonally: coming from the baseboard on the hallway side and heading toward the corner of the ceiling” (64).
  • “About a yard higher, the paint is marked with a dark shape, a tiny arc twisted into a question mark, blurred on one side” (65).
  • “On the bare wall, the traces of the squashed centipede are still perfectly visible. Nothing has been done to clean off the stain” (78).
  • “On the opposite wall, the centipede is there, in its tell-tale spot, right in the middle of the panel” (95).

And from “The Mark on the Wall”:

  • “The mark was a small round mark, black upon the white wall, about six or seven inches above the mantlepiece” (83).
  • “And yet the mark on the wall is not a hole at all. It may even be caused by some round black substance” (84)
  • “In certain lights that mark on the wall seems actually to project from the wall . . . I cannot be sure, but it seems to cast a perceptible shadow, suggesting that if I ran my finger down that strip of the wall it would, at a certain point, mount and descend a small tumulus” (86).
  • “I must jump up and see for myself what that mark on the wall really is — a nail, a rose-leaf, a crack in the wood?” (88)
  • “`All the same, I don’t see why we should have a snail on our wall.’ Ah, the mark on the wall! It was a snail” (89).

Marks on the wall by Woolf and Robbe-Grillet

Both Woolf and Robbe-Grillet use a spot on the wall as a visual marker to which they both return. However, Woolf shares the interior monologue of her narrator, while Robbe-Grillet does not.

Similarly, Woolf’s narrator uses the mark on the wall as an opportunity to conduct mental meanderings. Robbe-Grillet’s narrator uses the mark he observes to keep his mind anchored in objective reality. He does not wander into the subjective.

Robbe-Grillet, who pioneered the New Novel of the 20th century, said he was influenced by Woolf. That is clear when one studies what he believed about writing novels. Like Woolf, he decried the idea of using the novel to narrate a story or support a cause.

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