Re-working ‘The 48 Laws of Power’

Re-working ‘The 48 Laws of Power’

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photo showing covers of Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power - a book I am re-working in the studio as an artwork

One of the books I made a labyrinth from in the ‘There are no Shortcuts’ series was Robert Green’s ‘The 48 Laws of Power’, a book I really loved working with, as it’s witty and deep and fascinating. Endlessly fascinating as it turns out. Re-working.

In the process of turning over 400 pages of this chunky book into a single page you could ‘read’ as an artwork, I attempted to show the most important or relevant phrases and words throughout the book, so that the resulting piece was a distillation of the whole – a condensed version of the original. There was so much good material though, that it actually turned out to fill two 6ft square ‘pages’, rather than one.

Concise Edition Out Now

So, when I saw recently that a whole new selection of Robert Greene’s books are actually being published in condensed form, and that one of the new titles is The 48 Laws of Power – Concise Edition’, it made me smile – last year I made those two huge artworks from the pages of the original book, even though I’d condensed it or edited it down by at least 50% (one side is facing you, while the other side faces the wall). Now Robert Greene’s publishers have done the same thing in many ways – re-working the original and editing it down so it fits in your handbag as well as on a bookshelf.

And of course, I couldn’t just ignore this beautiful mini-version of the book I had spent at least 4 weeks reading and re-reading in the process of distilling it into an artwork. So, I just had to make a single – or double – page spread out of this one too.

Curioser and Curioser

And, having made the decision to begin once more this lengthy and demanding process, one which I know would require many more patient days simply working with the pages and re-working the 48 Laws themselves many more times, but in a unique way, because everything had changed, my head started buzzing with questions…

Shape, size, words, patterns

  • How big or small will these Concise Edition labyrinths need to be?
  • How will it scale?
  • Did I pick out the ‘right’ essential sentences originally?
  • How close will my edit be to theirs?
  • How much more distilled can the book get?
  • What will we be left with?
  • When they are finished, how will the large version and the concise version compare?
  • Which patterns or elements will stand out in both versions?
  • Will the smaller ones actually have more impact on the wall than the huge ones?

Experience, meanings, feelings

  • What feelings will the smaller versions provoke?
  • How will these differ from the experience of viewing the original, wall-size versions?
  • Are they more, or less, ‘readable’, like the books?
  • Do they work in their own right, independently as new objects, or are they ‘versions’ of the books?

Re-Create (yourself – Law 25)…

  • Will seeing any of these pieces inspire people to go out and buy their own copy of the book/s?
  • What would Robert Greene make of these? (!)

Questions of course that I had no idea of any of the answers, which is why I did this all over again, the same way as before, but differently.

Here’s a timelapse video of how I started to get the measure of this new, smaller version… i.e. carefully dissecting it and then carefully re-constructing it using a classic labyrinth pattern (the same 3-path meander that I used for the original larger version).

Re-creating The 48 Laws of Power

The resulting artworks are here:

The 48 Laws of Power (concise edition): 1-25

The 48 Laws of Power (concise edition): 26-48

The 48 Laws of Power: 1-25


Re-working ‘The 48 Laws of Power’ was last modified: July 23rd, 2020 by Michelle Rumney

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