Work of Art
Late last night, I was idly flipping through the channels on TV, looking for a rerun of The Office to watch while cleaning up after having friends over for dinner. To my total surprise and complete delight, Bravo was showing Work of Art, a reality show Joe and I discovered last year when it was in its first season. The object of the show is to discover the “next great artist” and it’s essentially a combination of the most eccentric, creative, weird, and wonderful reality show contestants on television. I mean, one of them is named The Sucklord this season. Not just a nickname, people. They all create art in different media–there are sculptors, street artists, painters, and photographers. They must compete against each other in various challenges–for example, last night’s episode saw the contestants creating a piece of work using pieces of kitschy “bad” art. The winner gets a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum, as well as $100,000. Simon de Pury is like the French version of Tim Gunn. Joe and I have adopted his catchphrase, “Be bold. Be brave. Be amazing,” into our daily lives.
More than being immensely entertaining and fun to watch, I think the show challenges our conception of what art is, and what it means not only to us, but to society as a whole. I may not think a photograph of a naked man with his terminally ill parents in the background is particularly pleasing to the eye, but I do think it’s thought-provoking and, at the very least, intriguing.
This afternoon, while browsing at The Strand on my lunch break, I came across Tree of Codes, Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest novel. It’s an interpretation of the book Street of Crocodiles. Foer cut out words and phrases to illicit an entirely new story. Every page in the book is a unique die-cut, which caused nearly every printer to balk and reject publication. However, one Belgian printer was up to the challenge, and Tree of Codes was born. As I flipped through the book (carefully), I marveled at the craftsmanship, the artistry, and the innovation. I was also, admittedly, a little confused as to how the narrative progressed, but I think that’s part of the fun of the book.
My point is, whether you think it’s a gimmick, pretension, or genius, it pushes the boundaries of what we think of as a “book” and what we think of as “art.”
What do you think? I’m eager to hear your thoughts!