1,000 Hours of Staring

Posted by @ 2:25 pm on October 21st, 2009
Tom Friedman, "1,000 Hours of Staring," Stare on paper (1992-97)

Tom Friedman, "1,000 Hours of Staring," Stare on paper (1992-97)

I like thinking about Tom Friedman‘s “1,000 Hours of Staring,” (its media literally “stare on paper”) and wonder if he actually stared at that piece of paper for 1000 hours over the course of five years. My guess is yes, due to his excessively compulsive style, and the honor he has earned as a devoted craftsman. But I wonder would it be the “same” if he hadn’t stared at it — if its meaning could be derived solely from its title and conceptual assertion.┬áThis invariably brings us to our notion of what is intrinsic, and whether art is an inherent entity or a vessel of mediated meanings.

I can’t help but think if writing is similar. It seems that it isn’t — that while you are free to stare at a blank ream of paper for 1000 hours, your publisher will only laugh. Jeff Koons can have his interns paint his ideas, John Cage can sit in front of a piano for 4 minutes and 33 seconds, but writers lack the auspices of conceptual absence. Even conceptual writing requires that slow painful aggregate of words, one at a time, making something from nothing. Every word is work. There is no short cut.

Sometimes I can’t believe that people still write. It’s almost crass, like nailing each letter into a forehead; but our limitless combination of 26 letters is an infinite miracle. Every word is a synapse. Look: butterfly — and there it flies. I love Tom Friedman, but I fuck words.