Volumes of the three explorations of The Trial
Example of the inside first part of Gerichtshof
Josef K., a victim of psychological punishment
Law is closely related to desire in The Trial
Text disappears on the page exploring how meaning gets lost
Old photos create a naïve atmosphere that puts forward bureaucracy
Example spread of Verfahren Das, where the story is reversed
From A-Z the reader can access all words used by Kafka

Bookscapes, re-enacting Franz Kafka's “The Trial”

“It has been said that everything in the world exists only to end up in books, that our lives, history and knowledge are contained in and by books. Books are both a part and a product of human history and civilization, and the guardians and the protagonists of its continuity. They take their part in the world through their interaction with people — influencing and changing our world — which in turn may become the contents of future books. The participatory nature of the relationship between people and the book, and its anthropomorphic quality of having an inside, or inner (and so being capable of self-reflection) makes the book the frame for understanding an expression of the world, of which the book is an integral part, and for which it is the most potent metaphor.” [1]


THE CONTEXT: BOOKS AND SPACES

It is this participatory nature of the relationship between people and the book that was the focus of my project. It can be argued that the self-reflective capacity of the book to hold its own history and its substance within itself, makes it possible for the book to be a work of art and the book in art is always a “space” in which the qualities of the book, its tradition and history can be encountered.

This project dealt with books and space. The main questions I sought to answer were how a book, as a work and as a volume, allows us to engage with issues of space. How for example may a book induce real spatial experience? And, when can a space be read as a book? I looked at what might characterise the making of a book as a building and an articulated space.

Another major aim of this project was to investigate and create a response to traditional narrative structures where the reader/viewer experiences a beginning, middle and an end in that strict order. Through the project I wanted to “break the series of incidents that often involve the characters and encourage the reader to construct his own story” [2] so that in this way, the spectator is encouraged and enabled to be always in the present rather that wondering what will happen at the end.

I also played with the form of stories, using metaphors to give the text a new critical trajectory. “Alongside the many ways in which a book can be structured are the many ways in which it can be read” [3] The context of a story was an essential element in this project too: the aesthetics of it and the way ideas are treated.

The different stages gone through to explore these ideas and the experiments carried out to answer my questions were crucial to achieve the ultimate aim of the creation of a new language based around a whole approach to the reading of fiction with particular reference to the work of Franz Kafka. It first of all set the project in context.


THE PROJECT: KAFKA AND THE WAYS OF INQUIRY

Franz Kafka’s work has always been of special relevance in modern writing arousing wide critical interest. His extraordinary intelligence and his general understanding of society’s problems makes his work as relevant today as it was in his own time. My project involves producing three design practice interpretations of one of Kafka’s best known works ‘The Trial’.

Taking into account the ideas mentioned above, the three books transform Franz Kafka’s story, ‘The Trial’, from the traditional narrative into innovative ways of conceiving the story. Ways of reading, form and narrative have been explored in order to provide a critical approach to this story, giving the reader the opportunity to participate closely in the essence of this ‘trial’. The spiritual nature of the human being, existentialism, bureaucracy, guilt and totalitarianism are some of the ideas found in this book.


BOOK 1: GERICHTSHOF

For this work, I was interested in providing a context and a new frame for the book’s content. I wanted the text to remain organised in the original form and basically reformulate the knowledge and ideas contained in it. The idea of ‘Gerichtshof’ is to refresh and dramatize one’s reading of the text, while at the same time remind the reader the complexities and absurdities of Kafka’s cultural world.

The book contains sequences of darkness with interruptions of colour that represent the chaos of the book. In this case, I built up the book from the interplay between thematic elements, texts and photographs interacting them with possibilities for form until the relationship worked out.


BOOK 2: WIE EIN HUND

In this case, I tried to conceptualise the role of the characters in the book space and how their influence is crucial for understanding the action. I wanted to question the spatial nature of the book as a volume and show how the ‘autonomous space-time sequence’ of the book is relegated while characters determine the base of it.

As a result, the whole of the book has been laser cut with the sentence “Wie ein hund” (like a dog) pronounced by Josef K. in the end of the book. The fact all the pages have been cut reinforces the continuity of the idea and make possible a higher level of significance.


BOOK 3: VERFAHREN DAS

“The Trial” was never finished and Kafka wrote in his will that it was to be destroyed. After his death, his friend Max Brod went against Kafka’s wishes and edited “The Trial” into what he felt was a coherent novel and had it published it posthumously. Kafka’s system of ordering chapters was often unclear, even nonexistent; it was Brod who arranged it in the form with which we are familiar.
“… as a result Brod placed the God-shaped hole at the end” [4]

Secondly, the title of this book as “The Trial” has lost significance in its translation from the original in German. Kafka used the term “Der Prozess” interchangeably with “Das Verfahren” both having more than one connotation, “…it’s is also an entaglement or even a muddle” [5] Kafka wanted to identify ‘trial’ as a verbal process.

Based on a critical response to these ideas, I produced this book which consists of the “The Trial” story totally reversed.


CONCLUSION

Working with Kafka’s “The Trial” placed me in a critical position which in turn enabled me to produce critical material. In this respect I covered an important intention of this project which was to allow the reader to take an active role being asked to dismantle the ideas contained in ‘The Trial’. All this encouraged me to continue exploring different narrative styles among fiction writers and explore them in terms of plot structures and meanings. This project has proved a stimulating and invaluable starting point.


NOTES

[1] Ian Hunt & Jane Rolo, “Bookworks”, Bookworks, London, 1993.
[2] Maria Fusco, interview on “Textual Spaces”, at Barlett School of Architecture, London, 14 November 2005.
[3] Katherine Gillieson, “The book abstracted: A meditation and two bibliographies”, Dot Dot Dot, New York, 2008.
[4] Roy Pascal, “Kafka’s Narrators: A study of his stories and sketches”, Cambridge University Press, 1982.
[5] Ibidem.


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