From our brand-new summer issue, we are thrilled to bring you the English debut of Pedro Novoa’s “The Dive,” winner of Peru’s “Story of 1000 Words” contest. Novoa’s narrative talent and knack for spare but evocative description are in full display here, rendered beautifully into English by translator George Henson. To catalyze the transmission of his work across linguistic borders, we especially commissioned translations into 14 other languages (from Albanian and Bengali to Chinese), all of which you can read for free here.
You dive. As you descend you hear your Grandmother Hiromi: “Bring back the algae of the old ways.” The words float around your handmade mask like fish shedding scales of light. Your bet on modern medicine came up empty. The iodine tablets that your brother Yochan took to combat anemia had little effect; at most, they turned his cheeks pink for a few weeks.
Next came your training: aquatics, the progressive submersions, and, of course, the medical checkups to see if your body was responding. You needed to be sure: Mama Misuki had died precisely because she had underestimated science, because she put more trust in myth than in reality. To Grandmother, her daughter hadn’t died, she’d been called back to the sea. No one contradicted her. As was custom, no one cried during the wake. Only Papa Hideo sought refuge in the bathroom, where he broke tradition and burst into tears.
As the guest artist for Asymptote’s summer issue, Singaporean visual artist Robert Zhao Renhui contributed our cover image and illustrated 15 texts in the Fiction, Nonfiction, Drama, and Latin American Fiction Feature sections. I interview him about this experience, as well as the relationship between image and text in his art practice.
I’ve been following your trajectory for quite a few years, but it’s safe to say that the Asymptote summer issue is presenting your work to an audience that is largely unfamiliar with your practice. How would you explain your art, and the Institute of Critical Zoologists, to our readers?
I am interested in both photography and nature, so in my work, I use photography to investigate our dialogue with nature. The Institute of Critical Zoologists (ICZ) is an umbrella concept under which I create and present my work. The meaning of the ICZ takes shape with each of my projects and exhibitions, which create different realities and fictions.
Could you describe the process of creating/selecting images for this issue?
There was a tension between choosing images that were too literal a representation of the text, and pictures that encapsulated a very personal connection to the text that regular readers may not get. My guiding principle was that my images should be in a jazz-like dialogue with the text, and occasionally surprise the viewer. I submitted a few pictures for each essay, leaving it up to the journal to do the final selection. In some cases, I didn’t know what was chosen until the issue was published. READ MORE…