The Midden Heap Project: Studies after Finnegans Wake

While writing Finnegans Wake, James Joyce said: “I am quite content to go down to posterity as a scissors and paste man for that seems to me a harsh but not unjust description.”

(Joyce, in a letter to George Antheil, 3 January 1931)

One way to approach Finnegans Wake is to view it as a vast recycling machine. Joyce used a broad range of sources to create a grand, collage-like book. He appropriated dozens of works of literature, sacred writings, historical accounts, jokes, family stories, myth and legend, popular songs, and children’s games. He quoted and, more often than not, intentionally misquoted his references.

Using Joyce’s aesthetics of quotation and pastiche, I am making a collage-per-page of the text and a series of artist’s books based on the collages. As a counterpoint to Joyce’s sources, the collages incorporate references to art history, cinema, and product advertising; my photographs of figures, locations, and objects; and, found paper ephemera, printmaking proofs and studio debris.

The project examines Joyce’s processes, focusing on his use of existing published material, his intuitive connections between sound and sense, his repeated reworking of the text; and then, applies these methods to the collages and artist’s books made in response to each page of the Wake.