Artist-as-art

Last week, Southampton’s John Hansard Gallery ran Live Write Late, an event inviting people to come and write poems responding to BAS8 exhibits. As writing workshops tend to be, it was a rapid-fire affair as we moved round the exhibits, led by theatre-maker Anna Carr. This generated sheaves of ideas and fragments, some of which were sufficiently complete to be shared at the time; others required more work before being released into the wild. Here is an example of the latter, one that I produced from the prompt asking us to imagine ourselves at artworks in the exhibition:

If I were art

If I were art
I’d be interactive,
but not always –
like the shops of my childhood
I’m closed some days,
or only available by appointment.

Try next door.
Come back tomorrow.

I’d be self-referential but outreaching,
hopeful that viewers
would nod appreciatively
or stand with that special head-tilt
reserved for galleries
and other people’s bookshelves.

I would be tasteful.
I would challenge and offend.

When I spoke –
for life is performance,
and people do love a show –
the audience would take my words
more seriously than I do.

Signs would be placed saying
“Do Not Touch”,
but some would transgress,
probing,
to find me formed of probability
and nothing, made solid
only through their own exchange
of neurotransmitters,
and ion-driven sparks.

Everyone would be quiet,
though respectful whispering
would be permitted within reason.

My title, with a brief explanation
would be given
in neat black letters on the wall,
and I’d have
a little wire barrier at shin-height
so you’d know that I’m art.

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