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Work / Publication

Emma King’s publication rewrites Orwell’s “1984” using Donald Trump’s tweets

“I’m interested in exploring the connection between how we understand a text and how it appears visually. Design acts as a language that infers meaning and authorship beyond the words themselves,” says graphic designer Emma King. A recent graduate of Central Saint Martins’ MA Graphic Communication Design course, Emma works with language as a material for creating abstract patterns and exploring the crossover between print and digital publishing.

In her recent project, 1984 by @realdonaldtrump, Emma took the first chapter of 1984 by George Orwell and re-wrote it using President Donald Trump’s tweets. After Donald Trump was inaugurated, dystopian fictions such as Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World shot up bestseller lists. “I found it interesting how people were looking to fictions to try and understand the current political situation, and drawing parallels between the Trump administration and the dystopian worlds in these books.”

The 150-page A3 landscape publication features the the text of 1984 centred down the pages in red, while the tweets read horizontally. The project stemmed from previous work looking at the shift in forms of publishing in the post-internet age: “I was interested in exploring how social media is an increasingly prominent form of publishing, and what the effect of this could have upon society and written culture.” 1984 by @realdonaldtrump highlights Trump’s use of Twitter to create a cult of personality and embodies the phenomenon of post-truth says Emma – “as long as people feel a connection to Trump’s messages, it doesn’t matter if they believe what he is saying to be fact.” In directly juxtaposing the two texts, Emma draws parallels between the themes of the novel and Trump’s rise to power, for example, one of Orwell’s famous neologisms is the “doublethink”, a method of believing something you know not to be true.

In order to collate the necessary tweets, Emma used www.trumptwitterarchive.com as a means to navigate Trump’s 30,000+ tweets. After considering using code she decided to do this manually as she “found that the process of selection was an important part of my research.” The project is currently presented as book but during her degree show Emma chose to exhibit the work as a 15-metre scroll that hinted and both the past and future of publishing – historically texts were inscribed on scrolls before the invention of codex, whereas now we all-too-often “scroll” on webpages. In the future Emma plans to continue and expand this project into the full novel. 1984 by @realdonaldtrump is an accomplished, conceptually sound project that exposes Trump’s behaviours on social media and his agenda of “alternative facts” that don’t need the support of traditional media — so long as his followers continue to believe what he tells them.

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Emma King: 1984 by @realdonaldtrump

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Emma King: 1984 by @realdonaldtrump

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Emma King: 1984 by @realdonaldtrump

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Emma King: 1984 by @realdonaldtrump

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Emma King: 1984 by @realdonaldtrump

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Emma King: 1984 by @realdonaldtrump

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Emma King: 1984 by @realdonaldtrump

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Emma King: 1984 by @realdonaldtrump