Wolfgang Laib’s largest pollen art installation is on display at the Museum of Modern Art. On an elevated surface, the artist spread 18 jars of hazelnut pollen across a space measuring approximately 18 x 21 feet. Laib’s work is visible from most levels of the museum. Exit galleries displaying Renoir, Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Frank Lloyd Wright and you look down at a bright rectangle of yellow on a light grey concrete platform. People stand and stare at pollen that was spread with use of a sieve and a spoon. Laib’s work has been described as ‘challenging to classify’.
Shed Simove made publishing history by producing the first blank book to ever get into the top 50 on a bestseller chart. His book, “What Every Man Thinks About Apart from Sex” received worldwide attention. Big marks for a snappy title. For every writer who has agonized over reading multiple proofs of their work before publishing only to find a handful of typos in the first hundred pages, it doesn’t feel that Simove truly earned his stripes.
So what is art? Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close pushed the creative envelope. There are many blank pages that stand as the memoir of an elderly woman who wrote on a typewriter without a ribbon. He creates dialogue between characters with an elderly man who doesn’t speak except to hold up his hands where “yes” and “no” have been tattooed. Late in the book, there are pages of drawings of a man falling from a building that are to be ruffled through quickly to create action. Many found the non-writing segments distracting in an intense book about a New York City child searching for his father after September 11.
Art is in the creative mind. The challenge is finding a receptive audience. People do make their way to the atrium to see Laib’s work. Readers love and hate Foer’s experimentation because it feels right in a book that has a child protagonist and feels wrong in a book about a child protagonist obsessed with the horrific belief that his father did fall from one of the towers. No need to comment on Simove.
In the meantime filling blank pages is my daily work. If I didn’t have deadlines, what I wouldn’t give to be at MoMA when Laib’s installation is dismantled. Will that pollen be carefully swept back into bottles or will maintenance folks wear masks while vacuuming up the defunct artwork?