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August 23, 2011 / lornanakell

Alicia McLaren Exists: A Conceptual Book Project

THE DRIVER’S MANUAL (project manifesto)

Project Description
This project has four main components: written and published book, recorded story, book reading and art exhibition.

The book, Dark Reflections, is to be published as three limited edition artist books as well as several soft cover pulp-style books. The limited edition books will be square, hard bound books nestled in a larger fabric covered box. Inside the box, in addition to the book, will be approximately 10 original paintings – meant to accompany the text and represent work the protagonist created during her residency.

The story will also be turned into a recorded book with a hired actor doing the reading.

Alicia McLaren: Alicia (the protagonist) has been created, like Frankenstein’s monster, as an Internet presence. She has her own blog (http://aliciamclarenexists.tumblr.com/) and Facebook page. Be her friend!

The project will culminate in a book reading and art exhibition that Alicia will attend. Alicia, in practical terms, is only represented by a dark haired wig. Whenever she is slated to appear somewhere I will hire someone to act out her role and wear this wig.

The Story
Alicia McLaren, a NY based artist who is literally afraid of her own reflection, is accepted to a residency at the Mt. Gay Watercolor Society in Grenada, West Indies. In order to go, she must leave her rocky relationship with her long-term fiancé behind. Excited to finally visit the country where her long deceased father was born, Alicia believes she will find a sense of self that she was lacking before. Little does she know that on her visit she will face the ultimate power of the island, loosening her grip on reality and putting her life in the hands of a madman.

Intent of the written text

  1. The written story should operate as text, and be understood as a supernatural thriller in the form of a novella, modeled after other works in that genre of writing. Inspiration comes from the Giallo and classic horror fiction like the Shining.
  2. It is a work of fiction, in that all characters and events are fictitious.  Any content derived from my personal adventures relating to Grenada are only meant to enrich the telling of the story.  Personal adventures, as well as other people’s stories, photographs and books are used as research material to build the narrative fantasy.While comparisons may be drawn between my life and the main character’s, it is important to keep in mind that I am not the character written on the page.  Therefore certain events from my personal history dealing with Grenada are withheld and reserved for potential, future autobiographical works.
  3. The story is contrived in such a way as to be a memoir by the main character.  In doing so, I become a ghostwriter of sorts, and the notion of truth is twice removed. The intent is to explore the notion that the truth is not always as important in the telling of a “true story” as is the discovery of certain concepts that spark realizations in the story’s recipient.
  4. In this story I am not intent on exploiting the “other” in a Colonialist sense, but interested in exploring the ideas of altered states of being, dissociative disorder and the id, altered realities and the life after death.
  5. Another interest of mine in facilitating this project is to create a discourse around the topic of art as entertainment. I want to play with the notion of the cult of personality surrounding artists. I also want introduce into the project the idea that art should be a thing of enjoyment, and that it’s okay to make things that have mass appeal – like a pulp novel.
  6. The story is purposefully plot driven as the genre necessitates.  Although it is not a tragedy in the classical sense, I think the following applies.  Socrates on tragedy plot:

“A further argument is that if a man writes a series of speeches full of character and excellent in point of diction and thought, he will not achieve the proper function of tragedy nearly so well as a tragedy which, while inferior in these qualities, has a plot or arrangement of incidents. And furthermore, two of the most important elements in the emotional effect of tragedy, ‘reversals’ and ‘discoveries,’ are parts of the plot.”

The Artwork
The artwork is intended to act as a foil for the text. The geometric abstract paintings juxtaposed with the elaborate tale are meant to add to the “lie” of this whole project, furthering the notion of the “trickster.” In the story, Alicia believes, in a manic state of possession, that she has created a whole series of expressive, watercolors inspired by ancient archeological finds she has documented during a visit to a history museum on the island. But, after sending them to her gallery in NY she receives a call from the confused gallery owner who instead sees images of a solitary house – over and over again.

The actual paintings do explore the house as a theme, a main element in the text. The paintings inject a certain discomfort by adding a stark modernist element, devoid of emotion. The style and colors of the paintings are inspired by Josef Albers’s book Interaction of Color and his Homage to the Square series.

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