Frame narratives add a major layer of complexity to stories, but how does a portrayal of art within narrative change within the context of a frame narrative? This is something that has piqued my interest while reading Oryx and Crake as it creates peculiar and complicated meanings. Art is a recurring motif throughout Oryx and Crake and Margaret Atwood certainly has much to say on what art means to humanity. Atwood creates a sort of frame narrative during the subchapter “Vulturizing,” using Amanda Payne’s Vulture Sculptures to not only make a commentary on the uses of art but to show how this close future is dehumanizing humans.
To really explain what I mean about the art-within-art, we as readers have to look at the art within Oryx and Crake with the same analytical eye that we apply to art in general. Amanda Payne creates words out of the carcasses of dead animals and then photographs the vultures that come to feast off of the corpses in the words: pain, whom, guts, and love. The Vulture Sculpture project takes these words and “brought them to life… then it killed them,” (pg. 245). Within Jimmy and Amanda’s world, the meaning of these words are essentially dead as Corporations feed off the corpses of these words as a vulture would, but not before the rejuvenate the words through their propaganda. In this future there are drugs eradicating pain, language is less important, our internal workings can be grown to our needs in pigs, and that love is seemingly gone from the world. There is a lot going on within just this art series from a seemingly unimportant character. These four words are all aspects of the human experience: we all suffer pain, we all need language as social creatures, our bodies develop without the aid of another creature, and we all love (mostly). The work of corporations like AnooYoo, RejuvenEscense, and HealthWyzer are slowly erasing the humanity of humans according to Amanda Payne.
The Vulture Sculpture series serves as a character directly commentating on the state of the future through art, just as this novel is speculating on the future through art. The art within Atwood’s art not only shows how art can be utilized but also portrays a future that erases the human experience. Art is being utilized in this dystopian future, even if it is going ignored by the rest of the world.