This week I was asked to give a talk at work—well, for work, since I wasn’t going in, but I was broadcasting from my home work space, sort of like a video DJ, except I was mostly using PowerPoint to present a slideshow so, yeah, nothing like a video DJ. That’s probably just as well. I once helped out a friend at a radio station and stepped in to do an announcement for him when he ran to the bathroom. I did okay, reading from a script, but I got an inexplicably angry phone call from a woman who wanted to know if this was my first time on the air, and I did a funny voice and pretended to be someone else, but that’s another story.
Anyway I gave a short talk about the art at home challenge that I wrote about here last week, which is a way people are communicating with each other while in quarantine. And even though I didn’t have a lot of time that’s a message I wanted to get across: that all art is an act of communication. Creating art is a way of communicating and just looking at art can create communication. I know most art museums are quiet places where people stand around looking at paintings and sculptures in silence, or, if they talk, it’s in reverent whispers. And yet I’ve had conversations with complete strangers in museums. Once, at the Cleveland Museum of Art, I stopped to look at an exhibit being put together and started talking to a guy also looking at it. It turned out he was a member and a regular there, and he told me about some previous exhibits that had been in that same space. Another time, at the Cincinnati Art Museum, I was looking at a wall piece and I commented to the docent that it was so unlike the artist’s other works, which were bright, colorful, and jumbled.
“It’s amazing,” I said, “that the same artist would make a work that’s monochromatic, that’s so austere, almost utilitarian.”
And she said, “That’s a light switch.”
Anyway I took the picture of some messages written on a post several months ago and only found it again recently, as I was going through my pictures trying to find something, anything, I could say something about this week, and it reminded me that art can allow communication between people who will never meet, who will never know each other, but who will still connect in some way.