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Pictures at an Exhibition in Your Soul

January 27, 2009 by Reader's Connection

Installations

If you´d like to look at reproductions of works by a famous artist, the library can probably help. Enter the artist´s name in your catalog search, and scroll through the titles of books that you retrieve.

But if you’d like to try something different, if you’d like to attend an exhibition that no one else has visited, because it has been mounted in your soul—and no reproductions have been made—we might be able to help you on that score, too.

Joe Bonomo, who will appear at IUPUI as a part of the Rufus and Louis Reiberg Reading Series on February 5th at 7:30 p.m., has written a book of prose poems called Installations. All but one of the poems begin with the words, A large, well-lit, white-walled room. You walk to a red line painted on the floor. A description of the art installation follows, sometimes filling less than a page and sometimes running for three pages.

I’m nervous about presenting one of the installations for you, here. I might choose the wrong one. Just as at any art show, some works will speak to you more than others; and different ones will register with different visits to the exhibition. I should probably announce that the installations can be troubling, that they raise unsettling questions of identity and perception. But what do you expect from works that have been mounted in your soul (or your psyche, to use the safer, more scientific-sounding word)?

Here goes:  

A large, well-lit, white-walled room. Your walk to a red line painted on the floor.

At the far left side of the room stands an easel. Propped on the easel is a writing pad. Hanging from the right end of the easel, on a cord, is a pencil. Hanging from the left end of the easel, on a cord, is a large pencil eraser.

At the installation’s opening, the writing pad was turned to a large white sheet, empty but for an elemental drawing of two telephone poles, one at each end of the sheet.

Spectators were encouraged to approach the easel and, with pencil, draw a line from one telephone pole to the next.

Or to erase a line.

You have arrived at the installation late, harried and fearing the closing hour.

From a distance, the sheet of paper looks as if someone has violently attacked it with lead. As you approach, you see a tangle of thick, black lines, some precise and taut, others crudely, thickly drawn and loping. The two telephone poles are nearly hidden in the turmoil. The paper is torn in places. The easel has been jostled from its original position. The pencil has been worn down to a nub.

The eraser hangs, untouched, on its cord. No one, you notice, has erased a line.

SweatSee you at the exhibition. Or no, come to think of it, I won’t. Hope you enjoy it.

If you’d like a more social experience, of course, you can attend Bonomo’s reading on February 5th. He’ll also be reading from his 2007 title, Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America’s Garage Band which is on order at the library.

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