Work in Progress No.1
Quotation of a letter from Reinhold Nasshan to a Collector:
My work attempts to bring Joyce's content and form into a new unified artifact which expresses the tension between itself and Joyce's original writing. This holds true for how I have responded to Portrait and Finnegans Wake – a project which is already completed. My work on Ulysses is still underway.
A few words about "Labyrinth":
The box itself can be thought of a a sort of prison, a cell from which the young Joyce needed to escape, as indeed he did. See the writing on the outer sides of the box. When Joyce left Dublin and Ireland he was going away from his immediate emotional roots and thus had to find new ones, a search for a new grounded sense of self which involved recognizing the labyrinthine relationship between Reality and Symbol. This what we find in Joyce's work as a whole.
Daedalus, that "cunning artificer", a mythical figure who constructed a labyrinth in which he was himself caught up, becomes Stephen in Joyce's work, so that Ulysses can be seen as a kind of textual labyrinth. My response to this determined the contents of the box/labyrinth: different sized blocks with white lines painted on one face – a redoubled labyrinth – and with the names of heroes from antiquity and more modem times on the other faces. In this way they embody my idea of Stephen Daedalus.
When "readers" take my labyrinth out of its box, they enter their own labyrinth, if only because they must confront Reality and Symbol. And they can then construct a new labyrinth themselves, as they can put the blocks back into the box in a variety of new ways, mixing different surfaces, for example. Also, the blocks can even be assembled outside the box in different ways as well. Now, these multiple possibilities correspond to Joyce's work, especially the Wake: a textual labyrinth full of byways, detours, wrong turnings, diversions, unexpected vistas and a multitude of possible intersections. Readers of such a text are forced to confront themselves, so that the labyrinth becomes a place of punishment, a symbol of the prison of existence, the place where we are condemned to undertake a journey, without knowing its destination.
You enter the labyrinth in search of the secret truth at its centre, but having found it, you then have to make your way back to the world outside.
In addition to the levels of meaning just outlined, the Labyrinth box also includes actual handwriting – external-internal-internal-external – which expresses my choice of those Joycean extracts which I feel are central to understanding his work: a sort of Ariadne's thread showing the way through the external world to the inner subjective world, a world hidden by the labyrinth, but which makes its appearance nevertheless to close the circle of understanding.
Why did I make a wooden box?
Daedalus' first offence against the gods, according to the myth, was (to please Pasiphae) that he constructed a wooden cow, in which she could conceal herself to enjoy unrestricted intercourse with a bull. Stephen refers to this in "Circe":
Queens lay with prize bulls. Remember Pasiphae for whose lust my grandoldgrossfather made the first confessionbox.
And on the first page of Portrait we find:
this moocow that was down along the road met a niceens little boy named baby tuckoo
So is it, more or less, with my "Labyrinth": only a small part of its meaning emerges through its form; much more depends on my subjective understanding. Nevertheless, I have to go on entering Joyce's labyrinth of meaning, though always keeping in mind his warning words, inscribed on the front of my own "Labyrinth":
"a leader afraid of his own authority, proud and sensitive and suspicious, battling against the squalor of his life and against the riot of his mind." (A Portrait)
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