ABC book with Ana
Picture book project for my illustration class at university made in 2015. When I nonchalantly showed it to my friend Ana, she found a number of coincidental hidden meanings. I was immensely impressed and extremely flattered by the connections between image and word she made. We came back to the book again in 2017 and 2020 and she added or further elaborated on some pages. Here, I share her thoughts with you too, because I think it’s very beautiful how she interpreted it.
The book is free to interpretation, yet I want to share Ana’s impressions. Read the text on the images, whose original author is Mark Twain, think about it, interpret it your own way. Then read our comments. I give Ana context and she interprets each image. My text is marked with E and Ana’s with A.
In no alphabetical order.
E: The Apache is an American war helicopter designed to survive heavy attack and inflict massive damage. Apache is also the name of a group of culturally related Native American tribes in the Southwestern United States.
A: It is the funniest quote because, not only does it show how self-centered the Americans are, it implies that they take part in every war, no matter how far it is from the US. The fact that they named their fighting jet after a Native American Tribe reinforces the fact that they fetishize and romanticize war, doesn’t it? Considering that the settlers slaughtered the majority of the Native Americans, took their land and put the rest in reservations. Though I guess calling a strong weapon after an opponent refers some form of respect…
A: He finds the result humiliating to him and we see the crane sinking in shame.
E: The building on this illustration is referenced from a similar metal building appearing in Chage and Aska’s music video for their song “On Your Mark”. The video is directed by Hayao Miyazaki and hints at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant sarcophagus. I added the chimney characteristic to the original reactor building in hopes that people would make the connection.
A: Oh Chernobyl! Oh sh*t! That’s somewhere between cool and you may come up misunderstood because people won’t get the connection. But if you make something explaining your work it’s going to be really cool, because then:
1. one can see that you look up to Miyazaki and
2. it does have a message. If you connect this to Chernobyl, it is really great. It says ‘I am a God’s fool and all his works must be contemplated with respect’. It is actually really ironic: with respect. All human works must be contemplated with respect, including Chernobyl, even though it was one of the greatest disasters in human history. But it’s true.
And we are fools because we keep going back to nuclear energy even with all the environmental disasters that we’ve had. But if you think about it, the F can also stand for fear, because we use these nuclear disasters as a way to intimidate the nation on why we shouldn’t use nuclear energy.
It’s cool because you’re basically saying that these things which are very emotional should be contemplated. Like think about it rationally, kind of.
A: ‘It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have these three unspeakably precious things…’ and then you see illustrated these three precious things: freedom of speech — a broken helicopter (the helicopter symbolising flight i.e. freedom), freedom of conscience — another broken helicopter, and the prudence never to practice either — a car; which is also the only vehicle that travels on the ground and keeps us grounded. It really feels even more ironic, almost as if you were making fun of the quotes — at times. Because Twain is ironic, but with your illustrations it gets even more ironic. It’s kind of laughable. And it fits really well.
The car is kinda simple though. These look cool — much more detailed.
For this illustration personally I would choose the letter P because goodness of God seems to be important and I see why you chose G; it sounds much G very G, but these three precious things are actually more important and we have the prudence never to practise either.
E: The sign ☢️ symbolizes radioactivity and means to ‘stay out’. In his more controversial works Twain talks extensively about religion, the church and heaven. In his work “Letters from Earth” Twain describes Heaven as a place made of “diversions which man cares next to nothing about, here in the earth, yet is quite sure he will like them in heaven. It contains each and every imaginable thing that is repulsive to a man, and not a single thing he likes!”
A: Heaven is radioactive, you see. Not only is not somewhere you want to be, because it doesn’t choose “fairly” who goes in, but it also leaves an imprint on our psyche and how we think we need to act. You took the quote very far haha. I mean, meritocracy has its own downsides, like encroached hierarchies, and so it might not be fair, but at the time when Twain wrote it, it was the ideal of fairness.
A: Vast limits in itself is a paradox, an oxymoron, because you cannot have limits that are vast. But the way that it seems here, you have this vastness conveyed by the fact that you can see the sun — the horizon. At the same time you have an oil rig, which means this is our limit, because literally oil is limited. But if you go from a moral viewpoint, the fact that we are taking these resources from the earth and using them for ourselves we are consequently actually destroying the earth and ourselves. And K stands for knowledge — the knowledge that we have these vast limits. Some of the cranes look like K’s actually.
A: I like the fact that everything is blue in this one. It is interesting, connecting the letter to the color. As for the quote and the picture together, it seems like the platform is getting swayed by the sea, the same way that the human mind gets swayed by religion (and politics). It is almost implied that we cannot fight it; it makes us go crazy.
A: I think the letter fits very well here. First of all, the sheep are the main focus of the quote, and the picture shows train wagons, which necessarily follow one after the other. Seeing how the train is now out of function and in ruins, or at least the wagons, it shows that society didn’t function well, and that the train doesn’t run anymore. The picture shows, in my opinion, the result of us organizing society in the way that it is organized now.
E: The main idea behind this project was to focus on each of the things that directly or indirectly affect and destroy nature and peace. Cruelty to animals and abuse of animals for human needs was one of them.
A: The striking thing in this picture is the river, which is purple. And somehow the fact that it is an unnatural dark purple, almost crimson color, could be connected to cruelty, as an emotion that we think is bad and unnatural. It is a stretch haha, but the overall feel of the two match for me, in the sense that they both make me slightly uncomfortable.
E: Mark Twain was much against the Moral Sense — something only humans posses — because he believed that the ability to distinguish good from evil went hand in hand with the ability to do evil.
A: The moral and the immoral are well illustrated here in my opinion. First of all, there is the fact of leaving old cars in nature as waste, which makes you uncomfortable. Then there is the fact of opposition between nature and artificial, human-made machines, where most likely one would see nature as representing moral, and the cars representing the immoral.
But finally, there is a sense of some bitter acceptance in the quote, a conflict of feelings that I would connect to the immoral, like having a guilty pleasure or a vice. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes get that feeling of pleasure with a bit of guilt when watching ruins and old abandoned machines. And the quote mentions history too. I don’t know how to better explain it. But the fact that it is abandoned and overgrown, but that we can still get enjoyment from that is almost perverse, don’t you think?
A: This comment goes to letter B as well. I know that I said in the recording that some things don’t necessarily fit, but there is some beauty in that. The irony in this one comes out from the fact that the picture is very mundane, just a normal family house in the countryside. And yet the quote has a very mocking tone towards humans.
A: This is great. The picture shows the boat if Noah didn’t make it, and it was swept away in the storm, to rot away after the storm passed.
A: The helicopter looks like the head of a serpent. And the O looks like the apple.
A: This picture gives me the impression of an enlightening realization. The light is coming through the big open windows, so the mind is also open. The fact that “lying” is underlined is the (light) switch, and the realization is that we, humans, aren’t the higher animals. As we perceive and show ourselves to be. Not to mention that the comparison is a paltry race which is an animal metaphor for human behavior. Very interesting!
A: I remember this. You said it is a building from Chernobyl. With the quote it seems to imply that there is more to the nuclear disaster and nuclear energy, but we remember about it what was current at the time, even though values and form change over time. This is something that has to be kept in mind. Besides, there is more to that store (was it a store or a restaurant?) than just the fact that it was in Chernobyl, there were the people working there, what food it was serving, etc.
E: On top of the building it is written Pripyat (Припять) in Cyrillic.
A: Again, very nice fit. The picture shows a drawing board. And we are drawing…sustainable energy. The ideal of human society co-existing with nature and the picture itself is dreamy, the tall turbines among the clouds. The ironic part is that the quote starts with the same idealistic tone, but then crushes it completely. It clearly identifies it as an empty ideal.
A: What strikes me here is that the train is in the middle of the mountains? How did the train end up in ruins so far away from civilization? It is somewhat hard to register for me, but that is what reinforces the meaning of the quote of man as an unreasoning animal, how did we make it so that the train to randomly end up here? And if the picture makes no connection with the quote, even then the quote stands because you as an author are playing the unreasoning person. Very cool.
A: It is a disturbing picture, and the quote has a lot of bitterness when connected. Because we don’t just call animals dumb, we call them dumb and then use that as an excuse to dominate, to kill them for food and fur and skin. It is cruel as much as it is ignorant.
By Ana Horvatin