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British interdisciplinary artist Jane Benson turns literary texts into art

By Park Yuna

Published : Nov. 14, 2023 - 09:06

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An installation view of An installation view of "Dodo Note..." at Gallery Shilla in Seoul (Courtesy of Gallery Shilla)

British interdisciplinary artist Jane Benson applies her systematic interventions into existing works of literature and art. She interprets, combines and collapses sentences from written works, which are then created into other forms of art.

At the exhibition “Dodo Note...” at Gallery Shilla in Seoul which closed Sunday, the artist unveiled new works that encompass several different forms of art -- from sculptures, sound, drawings and prints to installations.

Benson took sentences from essays by American author David Quammen and writing from the 18th-century philosopher Baron d’Holbach, re-creating them into her own visual and audible language.

"So Huge a Bigness (David Quammen) II" by Jane Benson (Courtesy of Gallery Shilla)

Quammen's essays, “The Song of the Dodo” and “The Coming Thing,” deal with extinction and evolution. She excavated Quammen’s texts, presenting handwritten reproductions of the pages with sections cut out to reveal what appears to be a code or new language.

“Two interpretations took place here. First, the artist chose the excerpts from literature, then she created works with her own translation,” said Gallery Shilla Director Lee Joon-yub.

Lee said the gallery plans to reinforce cooperation with international galleries such as joint exhibitions, taking advantage of the global attention the Korean art scene has received in recent years.

Benson read “System of Nature” during the pandemic lockdown and was struck by the relevance of Holbach's writing on humankind’s alienation from nature, according to the artist. She reconstructs the literary work by excising syllables of the musical scale -- do, re, mi, fa, soh, la, ti -- to reveal a found score embedded within, which was shown at Paula Cooper Gallery in Florida last year.

Born in England in 1973, Benson is based in New York City and is known for a politically immersive and research-based approach. She has taught art at Cornell University since 2011 and has been a visiting lecturer at Rutgers University, New Jersey, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Visitors view the exhibition Visitors view the exhibition "Dodo Note..." at Gallery Shilla in Seoul on Oct. 17. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald