Monday, August 2, 2010

Art For Art's Sake

The two men sat, staring at the table in front of them. On it lay two pieces of cardboard and two pens. To find such pristine materials was, in the minds of the men, a stroke of luck that could only be matched by winning the jackpot at a fancy Vegas casino.

They'd never been to Vegas - in fact, all of their knowledge of the city came from reruns of CSI they managed to see while loitering in laundromats. Even those scraps, though, were enough to confirm how they felt about their haul.

The wind picked up and rushed past their tent. The city had discovered the wire running from the street lamp to their encampment and had cut it off. The candle they were using wasn't very good for light and perfumed the tent with a sickly smell that apparently mimicked the breeze off the Alps. It might have been exact replication of the smell, but when it mingled with the aroma of unwashed men and the bucket they used to piss and shit...

The flame flickered and went out. One of the men got up and used their last match to relight it. They knew that it was time to create, to make their art. If they let this flame die, then they'd not have a chance until the sun came up tomorrow. By then, it might be too late.

The skinnier of the two men pulled the milk crate he was sitting on towards the table. He looked at the meager materials spread before him, but did not despair. Man had once painted on cave walls. Compared to that, the cardboard was a luxury.

He grasped the pen in his hand. Slowly he pulled off the cap, the chemical aroma of the permanent ink reaching his nose. The other smells faded away. It was just him and the pen.

But what to write? What to create?

Martin Luther's 95 Theses. Goya's Saturn Devouring His Son. Monet's Water Lilies. Van Gogh's Starry Night. St. Augustine's Confessions. These were the works he called forward in his mind for inspiration. But none of them were good enough.

He needed to create something personal, something that would bring forward the cultural moment in which he stood. Something that future generations would look back at and say, "Yes. I remember that time. This is how it was."

He hadn't realized his pen was moving until he glanced down. What he saw on the cardboard made him smile. He continued on, not guiding the pen as much as allowing it to move freely.

When he finished, the night was almost gone. Garbargemen had begun driving their trucks down the avenue. The other man in the tent came over. He had sat still as a rock throughout the entire process. He took a look at the message on the cardboard. Without a word, he grabbed the other pen and began to write on his own piece.

By the time both works were complete, it had been light for almost three hours. It was a gray, cloudy day. The two men looked at each other and nodded. They grabbed their art and began exiting the tent. It was time to show the world what they had created.

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