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A Möbius strip is formed by twisting one end of a
rectangular strip of some kind of flexible material 180 degrees and attaching the two ends to make a one-sided, one-edged, unending circle in which the inside becomes the outside and vice versa. Language Möbius displays three strips, each nestled in its own covered compartment. In the center, the original and widest strip is printed with English and Korean words overlaying each other, illustrating the artist’s language fluctuation, and perhaps her language ambivalence. A second strip, a duplicate of the first, is cut longitudinally, doubling its length and thereby increasing the illegibility of the words. The final strip, cut and doubled in length again, is so thin and busily inter-looped within its compartment that there is little possibility of reading and comprehending the words. Thus the Möbius strip is an apt physical representation of the dual language tangle that swirls in Sims’ mind as she transforms her thinking from Korean to English.

The Möbius strip might also serve well as a metaphor for the winding, coded exchanges between Odysseus and Penelope. In The Odyssey, Homer describes Odysseus using the adjective “polytropos,” literally meaning “well-traveled,” but which was likely used metaphorically as well to mean “ever-turning.” Like a Möbius strip, Odysseus and Penelope’s dialogue loops around itself, giving the sensation of no starting or ending place, an ever-turning conversation.

In Calling Home Susan T. Viguers strikingly conveys this sense of ever-turning conversation by pairing what is said aloud with an interior voice that censors, contradicts or otherwise alters the spoken words. In this book the conversation between mother and daughter runs along two tracks, the literal voiced comments and the thought streams that follow immediately behind.

The spoken conversation shown here is ostensibly about a safe-enough subject – the college-age daughter’s pet cat.



But the subterranean “conversation” is all about anxieties: the mother’s fear for the daughter’s financial well-being; the daughter’s worry that her mother does not entirely trust her.

Viguers has devised a near-minimalist format to effectively relay the interconnectivity of spoken words and the thoughts behind them. What is actually said in this conversation is discreetly printed on a field featuring a pale image of a telephone pole and its crisscrossing lines. What is thought is on the page beneath and viewed through cutout windows. The cutout device, simple as it is, is a striking way to illustrate the duality of consciousness with thoughts continually flowing beneath even as we speak.

This duality of consciousness is abundantly expressed in the conversation between Odysseus and Penelope in which both parties, like Viguers’ mother and daughter, recognize the dangers of direct speech. Unlike Viguers, Homer offers no direct access to his characters’ covert conversation, no windows through which we can see into the minds of Odysseus and Penelope, and hence we are left to watch as their multiple riddles are slowly deciphered.

In the introduction to Eve of the Festival: Making Myth in Odyssey 19 Professor Levaniouk tells the reader that her book “is about the poetics of myth in a single Homeric conversation, the dialogue between Penelope and Odysseus…their first, longest and most enigmatic exchange of words.” Like this veiled and mysterious exchange, the artists’ books here both obscure and enhance their meanings through imaginative, complex and finely-crafted artistry.


Calling Home
Susan T. Viguers

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