August 15th, 2012

The Table Post-Prompt

I was at an estate sale this morning. I go to these from time to time, always on the lookout for that odd thing, that strange piece no one wants except me and the person who has now passed on to a realm where they can’t take it with them. I particularly like things with a flavor of a bygone era (“vintage” being so overused and misapplied these days – or maybe I just don’t want to admit that items familiar to me in childhood are now considered vintage).

Here we all were, pawing through the detritus of someone’s life, looking for bargains all the while commenting on their taste as if we were rude guests at a dinner party where the hosts are in the kitchen. Sometimes, I just walk out, but sometimes I find a few things, usually small and odd things, that I feel compelled to have, even if their functional value is nil. I can’t help but think of all the stuff I have collected over the years, including my treasured finds from these estate sales, which will one day recycle into yet another estate sale, mine. I will be glad if someone finds a small box of small things and thinks, “This is coming home to live with me.”

That also got me thinking of Walter Mosley’s commentary about pocket art. He said we should each carry a piece of art with us, pocket-sized, to both fight against the malaise of everyday life but also to be both our own curator and critic, thus taking control of one part of the creative for ourselves and away from Critics and Curators who tell us what to think of art. He also talked about how your pocket museum might be a collection of strange little things that get you thinking: a seashell that evokes images of strange creatures, a leaf in red glory, anything. (My studio is chockful of these.) Then, he exhorted us then to pull out that piece of artwork and start a dialogue with someone, even strangers.

So, on to the prompt(s):

1) If your character had a pocket museum, what would be in it?

2) Children always have stuff in their pockets, sometimes apparently meaningless, but what would the things they carry around tell about them? Say a bloodied old bandage? A perfectly round quartz pebble? A charm from a favorite aunt? An ant?

3) What if your character was in an awkward situation, grasping for something to say or give someone and

The contents of one pocket museum

they put their hand in their pocket? What would they pull out? How would they present it?

4) I’ve made up some pocket museums in envelopes as visual prompts. (See picture.)

5) For the truly adventurous, consider this: Mr. Mosley’s words inspired Robert Harrington to create the Museum of Pocket Art: One exhibit is called All Business All the Time: all the art is on business cards. I am bringing some business cards today, and challenge you to write a short story or essay on them that we will staple together to make your own pocket book.

Side note: Also, you artists and writers, please consider this:

These are folks who recycle cigarette vending machines for a much more beautiful purpose: vending art at $5 a pop. Check out the gallery. Think about it joining in, either by submitting something (and I did see a handcrafted book amongst the offerings) or by going to the machine nearest you. Sadly, the one nearest me is about 600 miles away, but it sure got me thinking…

 Postscript: I’ve included some photos below of outcomes from the prompt, each using the business cards:

I too ended up with a short story – on 20 business cards front and back.  You can download it if you wish and make your own tiny book here:   I warn you, it’s setup to be printed on the front and back of a ten-card tear away set of business cards.  There are guidelines if you want to print this out yourself and cut along the lines.  There are 4 sheets, paired as follows:  bus card short story   Page 1 & 3 (1 is the front, 3 is the back), and  2 & 4 (2 is the front, 4 is the back).  Your printer will have its own logic in terms of printing front and back, but you’re only dealing with 2 sheets.  Each business card-sized page is numbered, so you can read it — but it’s a little wacky to follow if you don’t cut it out.  It’s a new voice for me, a departure from the usual.  Enjoy!

2 Responses to “Pocket Museum Prompt”

  1. Wow, those cigarette machines are amazing! And the art inside equally so. I am printing off the biz card story forthwith so I can read ’em in order. GREAT prompt.

  2. I LOVE this prompt!! And am sorry to have missed it live and in person. I am delighted to learn that Art Vending Machines exist, and am shocked that not one is set up in our artsy town of Santa Fe. This must be remedied a.s.a.p.