At first glance, pieces from artist Trong G. Nguyen’s Library series simply look like plastic bags filled with confetti. But given a closer look, and we see the confetti is in fact rice, with each grain bearing a word written in ink. In Nguyen's collection, each repository of rice makes up a spellbinding chapter from one of literature's greatest works.
The ambitious pieces are each a clear Mylar rectangular pouch, the size of the check out card from the public library. We can all recall those cards, which bore each particular book’s travel history, having stamps that sometimes spanned ages, and occasionally the names of the borrowers before us.
Nguyen’s pouches are date stamped, and also printed with the names of literary classics. Like a student’s reading list, books like Mark Twain’s “The Prince and the Pauper,” Charles Dickens “ A Tale of Two Cities,” and Voltaire’s “Candide” are all represented.
But instead of checkout cards inside of the pouches, each has a collection of bright white rice. Amazingly, Nguyen has copied chapters from the classics word for word- on the grains of rice. Using a very fine pointed technical pen, he writes one word on each grain, without the use of a magnifying glass. The chapters fill the pouch, jumbling together in chaos. Hung together in a grid, Nguyen transforms the grains into a make shift library of literary greats.
The artist first began the project by beginning to transcribe the entire text of Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” on individual grains of rice, and then placing the text rice into a giant hourglass. The words number close to 1.5 million, taking possibly years to complete, so Nguyen decided to do smaller versions while he plugs away at the Proust manuscript.