Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What happens when you leave a typewriter in a room...

"Tell me a Story" installation view
Late May 2011
Sylvia Kania Gallery
   A month or so ago, I put up an installation at the Sylvia Kania Gallery in Portland entitled, "Tell me a story." This installation was part of a show there called "Textual Healing."  The show title was originally meant as a pun on the song "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye.  When the show was conceived, the gallery had slightly different sensibilities.  The idea of word taint punch in Batman type lettering painted in the windows was to be the highlight of the show.  Things change as they quite frequently do.  Instead of the light hearted, tongue in cheek show that was envisioned in the winter months, this show was slightly tormented.  In addition to "Tell me a Story," I also showed a piece called "Teaching Mortality to Fish," which involved goldfish, tubs of water and the threat of electrocution.  But more on that perhaps another time.
Moving on to storytelling and criticism and the creation of art despite and in the absence of praise...

Electric Typewriter and Antique Oak Drop Leaf Side Table
I have an electric typewriter that I purchased as a teaching tool for my preschool in Seattle. As a tool/toy children would spend hours hunting and picking out the letters for their stories. The letters they pressed on the keys appeared on the sheet of paper above with a click.  This was a marvel to children raised with computers and printers and web enabled devices.  They had to press the keys and often the keys would misfire or get tangled or the ink on the ribbon would give out.  But the sensation of having their story appear on paper as they typed it dazzled my young students.  They would take the sheets out of the typewriter and then begin to draw pictures and images below and around the text.  When the children presented these wonders to their parental units kudos and praise would abound.  

Unfortunately, the world is not made up of highly engaged parents who see the kernels of genius in little bits of paper. 

Blank Paper
What has always struck me as odd is how when people go to an exhibit- any exhibit: the zoo, the aquarium, the library, the movies, or an art gallery for some examples- more than often they are looking for the big guns, the wow  factor, the in your face this is fucking amazing experience.  They want to see the lions ripping apart their leg of horse flesh or the big explosions in the latest block buster or the most recent book burning in a conservative neighborhood's library. 
Often the most wonderful parts of the exhibit is the most nuanced bit, the quiet stuff.  The stuff you only see if you pay attention and focus.
Watching patrons at the gallery during Art Walks forces me often to bit my tongue.  Unaware that they are being observed, gallery goers often will make comments that expose their ignorance.  Yes, perhaps this is unfair.  But it is a public space (kind of as it is a gallery but not really) so people should perhaps be on guard that someone is listening in on their conversations.  The most annoying comments are the ones in which patrons say they could do that at home. 
(Well, perhaps they could.  But they didn't put it in the gallery.  And it isn't here now.  Is it now?  So bugger off.)


Yes, art is a very subjective thing.  What appeals to some might not appeal to others.  I get this.  And sometimes the art that is shown in a place could very well be crap.  And an artist needs to have thick skin if she is going to offer up work to the viewing public. Conversely, there is a measure of literacy that we the viewing public NEED to acquire when we go to an exhibit.
We need to ask ourselves why we are going to the exhibit?  What do we hope to accomplish by walking in?  From what perspective is the curator and the artist attempting to push our focus?  Why is this exhibit here? 

And who is watching us watching the exhibit (the art (the book burning (the animals in the zoo)))?

The stories that people typed on my typewriter ranged from stupid to sweet to self-absorbed to beautiful to modes of communication (my daughter visited the gallery with her class once and wrote "Hi MOM! It's Adele!")  Some people put their trash (wine and glasses wrappers) in the submission bin.  Regardless, the most of the stories were lovely.  Perhaps I will share them with you sometime.  And perhaps not.

The long and short of is...Thank you to those who played and participated and looked, really looked.

You will keep us all safe.

1 comment:

  1. i like this idea. I would have liked to have seen it and read some of the submissions. :)