Artist Bonnie Patton creates an exhibit that discusses war, hope, and rebellion
Bonnie Patton’s 1984 Cranes installation showing in Harcourt House’s Art Incubator Gallery this week is a unique fusion of words and paper through the abstract human concept of hope.
“It became a conversation between George Orwell’s 1984 and Eleanor Coerr’s Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes,” Patton says. “They both talk about a sort of dystopia where there’s a theme of failure frequently and circumstances they had no control over that were set up by military decisions by the government.”
1984 is the story of a middle-aged man, Winston, who lives in a dystopian world of war and party control. Winston works at his totalitarian state’s ‘Ministry of Truth,’ which alters historical records to suit the needs of the government—the Party as they’re called in the book. At the time of the book the Party is also implementing a new language called “Newspeak,” which works to erase all concepts and words associated with rebellion.
An example of this is the party’s three main slogans in Orwell’s book: “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery,” and “Ignorance is Strength.”
Written after the Second World War, with experiences of the Spanish Civil War and London slums during the war fresh in his head, Orwell’s fatalistic novel is set in the aftermath of a massive world war, not unlike the wars he experienced. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is also set as an aftermath novel to the Second World War; telling the story of a innocently hopeful young girl in Japan after the nuclear bomb hits Hiroshima.
As an act of hope, Chizuko visits her sick friend Sadako in the hospital to tell her about a Japanese legend that promises good luck and health to the one who folds 1,000 paper cranes. What Sadako and her friend don’t know is that her sickness is leukemia caused by radiation exposure near ground zero.
Patton says the books not only recount themes of the past, but of our time now as well. She parallels the Harper administration’s inability to face reality and subsequent progress. Patton also refers to the Trump administration’s trademark method of twisting the facts to their own benefit.
“In 1984 there’s the whole concept of newspeak and doublethink—so in doublethink there’s the concept of holding two opposing beliefs and actually believing them both at the same time—which is something that we see in the news,” she says, “especially with, for example, deleting climate change.
“It’s that question of how hope fits into reality; but it’s still a fundamental concept of reality,” she adds.
In the end, whether it’s an innocent and naïve version of hope, or a more jaded and ambiguous version, both stories echo the human tendency toward it to face reality. The cranes in the exhibit are made of paper pages from 1984 as a metaphor of the hope shown in the two stories, but also of our own fragility.
“The paper itself it not really meant to be folded—sometimes when I open up the cranes the tops will tear,” Patton says. “They’re individually so fragile but because they’re in numbers, they’re a little bit stronger.”
Hope is also what brings us together to initiate change.
“Through numbers you can actually make a difference; you can vote; you can go to marches; as long as enough people are aware and talking change can happen.”
Thu., Dec. 7 – Sat. Dec. 20
1984 Paper Cranes by Bonnie Patton
Harcourt House Art Incubator Gallery