1984 Cranes by Freyja Patton

Freyja Patton
The Art Incubator Gallery . December 7 – January 20
Opening Reception: Thursday, December 7, from 7-10pm
Harcourt House Artist Run Centre, 3rd floor, 10215 – 112 St, Edmonton

The tradition of folding paper (origami) originates in Japan. In Japanese culture, the crane is a particularly mystical or holy creature as it is said to live a thousand years, and folding one paper crane equals one year of good luck. Folding a thousand paper cranes is called Senbazuru, and an ancient Japanese legend says that the Gods will grant a wish to anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes within a year.

This is the tradition that is referenced in the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Elenor Coerr. It was inspired by the true story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who developed leukemia from the atomic bombing at Hiroshima. Sadako became hospitalized at age 12, and began making a thousand paper cranes in the hopes of being granted better health. In the book, Sakado died before she completed the cranes, but the real Sadako did complete her thousand cranes and tried folding another thousand cranes when her wish did not come true.

Likewise, the book 1984 by George Orwell also deals with the concepts of hope and failure in a world scarred by military decision. It can be understood as either a story of hope or hopelessness depending on how you view the ideas and actions of the protagonist, Winston. As he rebels against the Party (Big Brother), does he believe in the Brotherhood and in Goldstein? Does he have genuine hope that the world will change even if he doesn’t live to see it? Or is he purely a hedonistic nihilist trying to excite himself with danger and intrigue in the face of social, intellectual, and emotional annihilation?

Making paper cranes out of 1984 highlights the comparison and contrast between 1984 and Sadako. Both books deal with a sense of futility in the face of very high stakes, and personal fear and failure to control one’s life. Both Winston and Sadako are affected by the aftermath of government and military choices, and both struggle to accept and amend their place in the damage. Winston’s intentions are adult and suspect, while Sadako’s intentions are simple and inspiring – yet both explore different meanings of the phrase “to live”. Though they each fail to change their circumstances and eventually succumb to their conditions. In their failure, they inspire those that witness their struggles to critically examine their own environment. So do these paper cranes. The paper they are made from is meant to be read; not just folded or pierced and strung. They tear easily and are extremely fragile and susceptible to changes in air currents. They each have structure, and strength in numbers, but their longevity is heavily dependent on the gentleness of the security in the gallery space.

Initially I had planned on making 1,984 cranes, to echo the title of the book they came from. Out of respect for the senbazuru tradition, and to highlight the project’s theme of inconclusively facing the fear of failure, I have elected to fold only 984 cranes. At this point, the magic wish will not be granted.



-George Orwell, 1984

Artist Biography

Freyja Patton is an American artist residing in Canada, whose focus is on language and art. Patton has a BFA from the University of Lethbridge (2011), and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta (online cohort).

Patton specializes in an informal and playful style of production, treating words and language as both material and inspiration with the intent to challenge and engage viewers in internal and external conversations. For Patton, writing and drawing are synonymous, and art is simply another way of synthesizing information and learning about the world around us.