New Category: Art Writing and an Introduction to Dewey Punk Pickles

Guy Rose, The Green Mirror (1911). This painting shows my quest for learning to look at art objects, as well as myself, from different angles and perspectives.

Sometimes I feel uncomfortable and threatened at art exhibitions and gallery openings. I feel like a poser, pretending to enjoy something I don’t understand.

“I didn’t study art,” I think to myself, “I don’t know what I am looking at.”

Other times, I feel downright rejected by an object, but don’t know why. I am looking and trying to figure it out, but I always fail. I feel anxious, looking around at other people who seem to know exactly what they are looking at.

“This sculpture doesn’t want me to understand it. It’s an asshole.”

Lately, the works of Lynne Tillman, The Complete Madame Realism and Other Stories inspired me. I have also been reading a lot of other writers, such as Bruno Latour, Kathy Acker, and Chris Kraus.

These writers have challenged the way I look at art objects and how I write about them. As a writer, my instinctive inclination is trying to understand something and to write about it. In my In the Shadow of the Middle Kingdom thread, I explain things through storytelling. However, this strategy doesn’t seem to work with art objects.

Instead of trying to understand them, I decided to do an experiment and just let it be. Instead of asking, what is this supposed to tell me, I pose new questions. What is this making me feel, and why? What’s around it? Who’s looking at it? How is it displayed?

Lynne Tillman, a fiction writer, was asked to review different art exhibitions and cultural events. She created a fictional character, Madame Realism, and sent her to these exhibitions and events. The result is a collection of dazzling, humorous fictional essays that chronicles American culture.

Taking a cue from Tillman, I’ve created a character, Dewey Punk Pickles. For those of you who know me personally, you know that Dewey is the name of my beloved feral cat that I picked up on the streets of Dubai ten years ago. In my stories though, she is a person–she has a part of my history and my sensibilities (she is a writer who used to be a librarian at an art and design university), but she also has feline characteristics, like she curls up and goes to sleep, she purrs, she hisses, she might be bitey with her words.

This thread is an experiment, in my attempt to write about art in a way that is accessible and fun. I would love to hear about what you think. My first post in this thread is where Dewey Punk Pickles goes to see the Cao Fei’s A hollow in a world too full at Tai Kwun, a cultural hub in Central, Hong Kong. Please leave a comment or message me if you want to have a conversation! You can chat with me via my Facebook page.

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