First things first a few corrections. The windows of the gallery aren’t frosted, the blinds were simply down. Huge difference! The stream of visitors to the show has been constant and contrary to my expectation it has been a very engaging time. But at least once a day I am baffled by a misunderstanding or misjudgement in a conversation which often leaves me wondering ‘Am I the weird one or are you?’
Here are some of those moments.
I put a large sign in the window ‘Artworks made from Dust and Ash’. Thought that was pretty succinct. Then a guy comes in…
“Hey, I saw your sign in the window, so do you like make that with spray paint?”
“Um no. I made it from ash and dust”
“Yeah I saw the sign”
He leaves. I reconsidered the wording of my sign, evaluate the conversation and conclude it’s you not me.
Around the corner of the gallery is a construction site and every day clusters of workman walk passed on the way to the deli. 90% of them stopped, watched and pointed. Now I’m sure that at least some of you are thinking they were looking at me and not the work, and I don’t think it would be too arrogant of me to confess I wondered the same thing. But one day Im in the back room and I see a few of them looking in the window pointing and talking so I hesitantly invite them to come inside to look, still slightly unsure if they’re about to try chat me up. But it turns out I am resistible and construction workers in New York like contemporary art. They also like swearing. A lot.
“We’ve been watching all week, and you’re really making that with dust?”
“F*@! Me! That’s f*#!ing awesome!”
“Hey Stevie. You hear that. She made it with dust”
“You’re s*#!ing me! That S*#!s dust. That’s F*#!ing amazing!”
And on it went every day. One of them would come in with a new bunch of guys to show them the exhibition.
“She made it with dust”
“Holy C*#!! Wow!”
I have never had so much positive praise via profanities, and certainly never in the lofty halls of academia have I ever heard a critique session compacted into the singularly expressive word that New Yorkers so love. It was quite a nice change to have such a gobsmacked excited audience and perhaps we are a little weird with our cautious wordiness. Conclusion its me not you.
Another day my friend M and I were sitting on the couch in the gallery talking through the possiblities for a performance at the closing reception, some type of walking talking circular cleaning action, when a guy walks in, doesn’t notice the work, comes up to us and asks
“Are you the work?” Not a completely foolish thing to ask in a contemporary art gallery, but no. We point to the work.
“Are you going to interact with it?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well you could walk around it like this”
He commences stomping around the artwork
“Or you could go the other way around”
He changes direction
“How long should I walk around it for?”
“Until you get bored of it I guess”
“You could stand on one side and wave”
He thanks us and leaves
Conclusion. He was definitely the crazy one. 100% no doubt. Accept for the fact that what he had done was very very close to what we had been contemplating doing for the performance, so guess that makes us crazy too.
“I really think this work is beautiful, I mean it really speaks to me. I really get it. You know you would love this video its exactly like your artwork” He hands me an iphone and plays me a youtube video of a toddler sitting in a kitchen sink full of water and playing with toys and a breast pump. Conclusion: It’s you, not me.
Trying to locate dust in this city of perpetual decay and construction was easy, but the ash was much harder. No bushfires, open fireplaces, or fires in general, and no cats in trees either which makes it doubly strange that I have to dodge a screaming speeding fire truck almost every day. There were two solution; the first option was to become a fire truck chaser but I might risk third degree burns and worse still I’d have to run down cobbled streets in high heels, the second option would necessitate me getting into an awkward conversation that would undoubtedly leave the proprietor perplexed and looking at me like I was crazy. I like where possible to keep my strangeness under a bushel but alas my long term commitment to avoid running resulted in me sitting on the subway carrying two gigantic cooking pots and locating the nearest wood fired pizza restaurant where my all out strangeness would be publicly displayed. Sheepishly, I approached the counter with my prepared speech and a folder of visuals to offer clarification as proof of sanity and authenticity.
“Excuse me” I start “I know this might sound like a strange request, but umm… could I please have some of your ash”
“Sure. You must be an artists”
“What? umm, yes, why?”
“I sometimes have photographers asking for ash, so I keep a bucketful aside”
God I love this city. Normality has fled to New Jersey with the receding tide of Hurricane Sandy and only the weird and wonderful remain. Please let me stay.