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Defamiliarization

Marilyn Mok

During the brainstorming section in Methods, I unconsciously wrote in Chinese, my professor pointed out that the words are beautiful. I stared at her, confused. To me, words are just words. She explained how to people who don’t know Chinese, Chinese calligraphy is a form of art. Ever since then, I have viewed words from a completely different perspective and grew interest in Chinese calligraphy after not learning it since elementary school.

To defamiliarize myself, I originally wanted to draw out the meanings of the different parts of a single Chinese word. However, I changed into drawing out from an image how I imagine the word with Chinese ink on rice paper. Because usually people explain the definition of words with words and Chinese characters can have many meanings, I was interested in trying to “translate” them in a different way--using images instead. There are 40 words in this series and they significantly represent the important moments and people of my life. The original word is on the left side; whereas, on the right side are the abstract forms that have the same strokes from the original words.

Defamiliarization is the process that I experienced in both this project and reality by making something familiar in a strange way to gain a new perspective of things. I hope both Eastern and Western viewers can appreciate calligraphy as a form of art and expression. Even if someone doesn’t understand the word, they can still appreciate the form and gain an abstract understanding of a different culture.

Artist Statement Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDh8vXz2swU