Tuesday, September 06, 2005

on your hand his golden rings

I went to the Legion of Honor a few weeks back. For the record, I cannot say the name of this museum without immediately picturing a bunch of Superfriends flying out of it. It does not help that the museum perches atop a hill that overlooks the Golden Gate bridge. You can almost picture Wonder Woman's airplane coming in for a landing... well, except that you can't really picture it, since it's invisible.

There was an exhibit on Manuel Neri's work that had prompted the whole visit. Initially, I'd felt cheated. I thought I was going to see an overview of his collected works, and instead, the exhibition was in the tiniest room in the museum. The idea was to explore a specific facet of Neri's work- those instances where Neri collaborated with a writer. It's an interesting concept. Artists are always portrayed as so independent and free-spirited; how do they react when constraints are placed on them?

This reminds me of something I had heard about blogging- that blog writing is like writing without an editor, free-form and rambling. My writing certainly exemplifies this perfectly. Some people have enough of an internal editor to write well without imposed boundaries. But others react better to drawing such lines.

Neri's work made me think that constraints can be a matter of perspective. You could interpret the work he did in books as giving him structure. But what became quickly evident was that something was going on in the interface. He worked extensively with Julia Klimenko, a poet who wrote a book called She said: I tell you it doesn't hurt me. There is some sort of interplay happening between his art and hers. It's as though the energy of one art fueled the other and vice versa.

All of this came to mind when I read an article today on the collaboration between Nick Flynn and Josh Neufeld, and read a particularly heartbreaking comic/poem. I like the notion that everybody could win:
Flynn says of his collaboration with Neufeld, "It would have been almost impossible for me to explain to someone how the poem worked, but in order to create his response to the poem, Josh came to understand how I had put the poem together. That was satisfying for both of us." Flynn‘s reflections concur with Neufeld‘s concluding thought on the collaboration: "I found a more profound way to enter into the poem."
I know I'm in particularly weird (for me) territory right now. But I can't stop questioning why we have to be artists and fans? I mean... why does one person have to have the upper hand in a dynamic? How is that sustainable or even enjoyable? Why can't we, instead, be a poet and a painter?

See, this is where the editor would step in and write in dripping red ink, Wha?!? Don't quit your day job, kid. Indeed. I don't know- perhaps it's as simple as this: the idea of being bound together is far less appealing than the idea of being in a collaboration. The latter lends itself to the possibility of inspiration. Who couldn't use that?

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