Artist constructs Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from pulped Dan Brown books

British artist David Shrigley has said that George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is “really important” today while discussing his decision to create 1,000 new editions of the book.

His project Pulped Fiction has seen the 55-year-old launch limited edition copies of the 1949 dystopian novel, constructed from pulped second-hand copies of The Da Vinci Code.

The book store pop-up is taking place at an Oxfam charity shop in Swansea that made headlines in 2017 after it asked customers to stop donating copies of the Dan Brown thriller due to the amount they had been given.

David Shrigley’s Pulped Fiction installation
David Shrigley and Phil Broadhurst, from Oxfam, leaf through books as they chat about David’s Pulped Fiction installation in Swansea (Ben Birchall/PA)

Speaking on the significance of Orwell’s dystopian novel and why it forms part of the art project, Shrigley told the PA news agency: “I think it’s (the book) really important in that people in every sort of political climate project meaning onto it, and over the years it’s sort of meant different things to different people…

“I mean, George Orwell, I think, always intended it to be a warning, it wasn’t necessarily a parable of an existing state, but it was kind of a warning of what can happen when we don’t value our democracy.

“We don’t have to think too hard about the way that our current society is ordered to see some parallels.”

Shrigley said that the process of pulping the books to form something new was a “very direct reference” to the Ministry of Truth, the workplace of protagonist Winston Smith whose job involves rewriting historical documents.

The novel came out of copyright in 2021 and Shrigley cited this as the main reason behind his choice to use the book in his project.

David Shrigley’s Pulped Fiction installation
The Oxfam on Castle Street, Swansea, where David Shrigley’s Pulped Fiction installation is (Ben Birchall/PA)

The artist said that Pulped Fiction is “certainly not a piece of literary criticism” and mentioned that both of the books “presented themselves” to him “in different ways, for different reasons”.

He also said that a series of “strange coincidences” had linked the project to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The artist said: “The narrative of this project is one that sort of happened by accident…

“But there seem to be so many things that have happened in this project that are strange coincidences.”

David Shrigley’s Pulped Fiction installation
David Shrigley with his Pulped Fiction installation in Swansea (Ben Birchall/PA)

He explained: “Getting a book designer involved. It turned out that the book designer’s grandfather proofread the original Nineteen Eighty-Four and then his sister actually proofread this version of it.”

Shrigley added: “That was just one of many very strange coincidences, and sort of odd things that happened along the way.

“The paper mill we used burned down, for example, which was quite difficult to deal with.”

Some of the limited edition books will be available for sale at Oxfam Books & Music, Swansea, during the weekend starting October 28, with remaining copies sold online after the event.

Each book in the edition has been signed and numbered by Shrigley and fragments of the original novels remain on the paper.

David Shrigley’s Pulped Fiction installation
The rear dust jacket of David Shrigley’s version of George Orwell’s Ninteen Eighty-Four (Ben Birchall/PA)

Alongside the book, the artist is releasing a 40-minute documentary telling the story of how the project came to be and the hurdles his studio faced along the way, from Covid 19 lockdown to the now burned down papermill he had partnered with.

During the launch weekend there will be free hourly screenings of the documentary at Swansea’s Volcano Theatre.

David Shrigley: Pulped Fiction is taking place from October 28-29 at Oxfam Books and Music, Swansea, Wales.