heARTbeat: Trong G. Nguyen Writes on Rice in His Library Series

Column Artist Trong G. Nguyen transcribes Dickens and Twain onto grains of rice.

“I like to make people look hard and think — a lot.” Trong G. Nguyen

Trong G. Nguyen is an artist whose series Library, one might click by in the blink of the internet.  This particular body of work reads rather quietly, not leaning on color, bling or scale. Nguyen’s intent may be to have us read; quite a feat, when one realizes he is actually rewriting classic literature on grains of rice. 

To be exact, he takes entire texts and individual chapters of various books written word-for-word on those grains. Thus he produces his interpretation of the traditional library.

“I also like to make things that have the appearance of convention but are in fact far from it. Sort of similar to how I look Asian, but I’m not really at all,” says Nguyen, an artist and curator based in New York who is also Senior East Coast Editor at Artslant.  Nguyen also did a short stint on Bravo’s reality show, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist.  He was eliminated after presenting a series of white TV monitors with the words “I HATE REALITY TV!”

One can understand the sentiment, after all, his concept of reading Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities or Mark Twain’s, The Prince and the Pauper written on rice encased in clear, date-stamped Mylar pouches from the New York Public Library has it’s own basis in reality:

Several years ago, I decided to write the entirety of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time word for word on grains of rice – about 1.5 million words. I don’t remember how I initially thought of it. Maybe it was just something meditative to do. The intent is to house all the grains of my “translation” in a single, giant hourglass, where the rice kernels replace grains of sand. This project will take at least a few more years to complete. In the meantime, I decided to do smaller versions of this project by writing singular chapters or complete texts from shorter works, usually of books in my own library. A collector friend subsequently commissioned me to do the first chapters of his seven favorite books, and that’s how the projects evolved. I write using a very fine point technical pen, without a magnifying glass.

We await more.

Inspired by a post in AHAlife.  Images via Trong G. Nguyen.

Eco, trends, art, creativity and how they tumble through social media to shape culture fascinate EcoSalon columnist Dominique Pacheco. Her trends blog, mixingreality, speaks to these topics daily, and here at EcoSalon, she takes a weekly look at the intersection of eco and art. We call it heARTbeat.

Dominique Pacheco

Dominique Pacheco is the author of EcoSalon's weekly heARTbeat column.