Thursday, September 10, 2009

This Object Is/Is Not Art


Just came back from Burning Man, and being a newbie I didn't have high expectations for anything other than people's fashions. Still, as a friend asked at 1 a.m. at the playa, "But is it art?" Specifically, we were looking at a miraculously wavering dotted line of blue lights, creating a gigantic wavering cursive across the night sky. Up close, it turned out a series of balloons had a teenie LED attached, and anyone could grab any of the line, and pull or gather it, making their own gigantic drawing that could best be appreciated from half a mile away. My sarcastic answer was that the balloon-lights would have to be about Death, or any other Topic, to be Art. But why all the capitals? Really, could the utter simplicity and mystery of the blue dotted line, and its status as an unambiguously participatory event, not be enough? If I had glimpsed it one night from afar, walking through Central Park, or perhaps if it was situated in front of the Biennial and well-coiffed UESiders had the chance to pull the balloons down Fifth Avenue, would it switch from a lower-case to an upper-case A?
Back at the playa, that great chunk of desert in which Burning Man happily played, the line of balloons brought six of us together, made us cross the darkness while guessing at how big the blue lights actually were, and what pulled them--the wind? Human hands? A machine? Those moments of wonder, along with the actual moment of discovery, capped by one of us giddily running into the darkness while pulling a chunk of the "drawing", created its own particular Art, and I am happy to report that as opposed to most of the summer shows in Chelsea, it stuck in my mind far longer.

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