“Writing is the painting of the voice.” – Voltaire


Recently some friends and I attended Art Basel, the world’s largest contemporary and modern art fair, held in Basel, Switzerland during the month of June. Although I’m not in the market for six-figure art, I love wandering the aisles, letting myself be amused and bewildered and often inspired in my writing. Here are a few of my favorite pieces among the big installation of Art Basel that I carry with me.


Haegue Yang’s installation “Sol Le Witt Upside Down” is made of over 500 venetian blinds placed upside down and divided into three sections. Her piece takes inspiration from Sol LeWitt, a pioneer of conceptual art. What it does for me is to push some of my pre-established boundaries regarding the novel. Venetian blinds as art material challenges my ideas about sentence structure, and – perhaps most exciting – the order in which the reader receives the story. This piece also challenges me: how can I take what’s been done before and create something entirely new?


Mike Kelley’s 50 part work on paper, “Reconstructed History,” sold during Art Basel for $1.5 million. The work uses fragments of aged schoolbooks, upon which Kelley graffitied with profanity and lewd scribbles. The result is something I could swear I saw in junior high, and of course the scribblings of penis/Empire State Tower makes me uncomfortable. However, textbook as a medium reminds me of one of my favorites – hymnal art by Native artists — and the political message behind the work (challenging traditional attitudes towards history) inspires me to push the boundaries of the novel or short store as a medium, as well as the genre divisions used by the literary world.


Finally, I had the great joy of witnessing a piece of performance art that I can’t stop talking about. “Make a Salad,” by Alison Knowles, was first performed in 1962. The performance at Art Basel involved three artists literally making a salad, with microphones inside their bowls, therefore amplifying the sounds of the vegetables hitting the sides of the bowls. At the end, the audience is served with salad to eat. Knowles has stated that the goal of the performance was to connect high art with daily life. Everybody, she has said, can enter into it by eating it. I love the goal of the piece and I love how it is simultaneously weird and ambitious, and it fires me up to write something awesome. Or something normal/weird.

What do you think of contemporary art? What mediums of art inspire you art and daily life? Leave a comment below.




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