After six years, artist David Shrigley has fulfilled his project to gather 6,000 copies of The Da Vinci Code, which an Oxfam shop humorously (but earnestly) requested to stop receiving. These copies will now be repurposed into a new edition of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
This weekend, the Swansea charity shop that inspired the project will be displaying and selling copies of the new “Pulped Fiction” edition of the Orwell classic.
According to Shrigley, Nineteen Eighty-Four remains highly relevant.
According to him, George Orwell’s intention was always to issue a warning. It was not necessarily a depiction of a current state, but rather a cautionary tale about the consequences of neglecting democracy.
There are similarities that can be observed in how our society is structured without much effort.
Shrigley, regarded as one of the UK’s most consistently funny and perceptive visual artists, came up with the idea after seeing newspaper reports in 2017 about a charity shop pleading for no more copies of the wildly popular Dan Brown novel.
The Oxfam store in Swansea, located in south Wales, stacked numerous copies of the book and displayed a notice that stated: “While we appreciate donations of The Da Vinci Code, we would prefer to receive vinyl records instead! We are in need of more records to satisfy our customers and generate more funds for Oxfam.”
Shrigley observed it and began gathering multiple versions of the book.
He revisited Nineteen Eighty-Four after many years, having last read it as a student. He then discovered that 2020 marks 70 years since Orwell’s passing, which would result in his novels being free from copyright.
In a conversation with the Guardian in 2021, Shrigley revealed his mischievous plan: to obtain 5,000 copies of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and recycle them into paper. He then intends to use this paper to publish a new edition of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
I am able to complete this task because there is no longer any demand for purchasing The Da Vinci Code – people simply want to store it. This project serves as a reminder to “Wake up!” and realize that we are blindly heading towards a totalitarian government.
Shrigley clarified that his selection of the popular 2003 book was not meant to be a literary critique. He explained to the BBC that the book holds significance for many individuals and that it could have easily been replaced with another popular title, such as Fifty Shades of Grey.
He was intrigued by The Da Vinci Code’s abundance and also fascinated by the idea that we are conditioned to believe that books should not be discarded.
According to him, the story behind the project was unintentional, but there were several strange occurrences.
“He mentioned involving a book designer,” stated the speaker. “As it happened, the book designer’s grandfather proofread the initial version of Nineteen Eighty-Four and his sister proofread this particular version.”
“That was just one of numerous bizarre coincidences and peculiar occurrences that took place during our journey. One such event was the unexpected burning down of the paper mill we had been using, which posed a considerable challenge to overcome.”
1,250 copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four have been produced using the unwanted copies of The Da Vinci Code.
The first 250 customers in Swansea can purchase them for £495, while the remaining thousand will be available for £795 on Shrigley’s website.
In addition to the books, Shrigley will also be sharing a 30-minute film that chronicles the process and challenges that his studio encountered while working on the project. The documentary will be shown hourly for free at Swansea’s Volcano theatre during the launch weekend. Prior registration is necessary.