Friday, March 07, 2008

Artist's Negative Space

At MOMA they had a small collection of Allan McCollum's Shapes. He conceived this idea of being able to make a small work of art for each person in the world. The shapes are computer-generated and, quoting the MOMA info, "His system has the capacity to produce thirty-one billion shapes, far more than peak–population estimates for the mid–twenty–first century, when a decline is predicted to set in." A lot of them look like forgotten countries. I photographed this display with two interesting people. Two unique individuals partly in motion.

The conversation at my lunch on Wednesday wound around to an affliction (as I called it, not my companion) that my lunch buddy began suffering after being hit by a truck. (I think it was a truck, although a passenger truck, but he was walking.) He's 'lucky' I guess that the only apparent result manifested in a loss of smell and taste for some but not all things. (It seems like a big deal to me actually.) I had offered some of my pizza. After he ate it I asked, "Can you still taste garlic?"


"Well, lots of garlic. Have to gargle today!"

"Thanks. There is nothing like garlic breath at the gym!"

I started joking about someone spotting for him and being bowled over by garlic breath and letting him drop a weight on his chest.

But we got around to talking about this loss of sensation. He said one friend of his thought maybe the changes in his brain from the injury had actually fueled his writing. He said he felt music in a new way since the accident.

So is our art, the unique things we produce, the sum of our unique afflictions and not our unique abilities? When we are blocked, is our competence overwhelming us?

Is my bloggy writing entertaining? Are my shop window and museum pictures that don't require(willing) models or a particular adeptness with a camera beautiful to some? Art even? Am I working within the negative space of my limitations? Is that the only place we have? Do I blog because the form fits my mental restrictions? (My buddy is disinterested in writing anything but plays. Why?) If it's good (big question), is it good because of the things I cannot do as opposed to the things I can?

Did Allan McCollum come up with his mass-produced but one-of-a-kind works because of a particular affliction?

If I am creating anything in my bloggy space, it is definitely somewhat a product of shyness, attention deficit, fear of judgment, etc. And what are these things but infirmities?

Of course, when we explore artists who lost vision, musicians who lost hearing (or use of one hand) and writers who were unable to actually type or write or perhaps even say words, we find some great creations. In spite of? Because of?

As a last thought, and going back to the first in this series (Writer's Negative Space), memoirs need adversity. That must be true or would-be memoir writers wouldn't make some up! Do some of us lack enough pain to write certain things? Clearly not because they can be invented and convincingly so.


deb said...

Just taking a moment to cast my vote..HXXX NO. Adversity is definitely not required for a memoirist. If that were true after reading a couple we'd all be too depressed to read more!

I went to a reading last autumn where there were about 8 authors reading portions of their memoirs. Most depressing event I've been to in ages. What a welcome relief it was when two chose to read about either clever or uplifting events.

The world is grim enough without a memoirist feeling the need to relate more grudgery.

No need to be a starving artist nor a suffering writer.

Linda Ball said...

Well, that's uplifting to me. Maybe my charmed life can yield a memoir!

Thanks for the comment. Maybe people will flock to the Visible Woman saying to each other: "It's such fun! She isn't starving nor anorexic and she drinks without having a drinking problem and she stays married to the same man!"

deb said...

I actually commented to my mom that I thought you would be able to write a quite honest and delightful memoir. We need some hope!

Linda Ball said...

Books seem like so much trouble. Went to see Rob read at the Austin Barnes and Noble. Maybe I'll work on a hypertext memoir entirely online. Maybe I *AM* working on that!

deb said...

How about a life in highlights? A collection of short stories of ordinary events, touching moments, 'light bulbs','I should have seen it coming', and other memoirable escapades.

Okay, sort of like blogging.

I picked up Rob's book the day it came out. Read it in two days. I tried to think of one word that said it for me. I decided upon 'honest'. Then I read the back cover comments and 'honest' seemed to be over used. Oh well, at least I'm in good company! I do enjoy Rob's conversational style.

Linda Ball said...

I am always waiting for a good time to do this 'serious writing.' Like...after I take care of this or move that!

deb said...

Don't write.