Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A Bigger Table

When you have more than you need, build a bigger table - not a higher fence.

This is a maxim that I want to live by.  I've known several people whom I admire that live by this principle.  That always have room for more.  That welcome others in.  That understand that life was meant to be shared.

Don't get me wrong, they know how to retreat to solitude or small groups to recharge.  But generally, they recognize that much has been given to them, so they have much responsibility to share.

In that regard, I'd like to tell you a story of two artists that I recently learned.

Anish Kapoor and Stuart Semple

Sir Anish Kapoor is an Indian-born, British sculptor, whose work has received great recognition and honor.  Perhaps his most recognized works are the Cloud Gate (or the Bean) at Chicago's Millennium Park and ArcelorMittal Orbit in London, a work created for the 2012 Olympics.

In the art world, he's more known for the controversies surrounding him.  Like purchasing an exclusive license to Vantablack, thought to be the least reflective (or blackest black) material on Earth.  Formed by vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays, it is a very difficult form to work with, but produces the deepest color black imaginable.  And Kapoor has blocked off access to other artists.

Enter Stuart Semple.

Semple, a contemporary British artist and curator, known for his large scale canvases incorporating text and found imagery.  Semple tries to promote positivity in his artwork and believes in art being more accessible to patrons and creators.

Semple decided to fight Kapoor with PINK, the world’s pinkest paint.  Semple released the paint at a very affordable price to everyone except Kapoor.  Anyone can buy a 50g jar for $5.99.  Anyone who can sign an acknowledgement that they are no Anish Kapoor, in no way affiliated with Anish Kapoor, are not purchasing for Anish Kapoor, and that to the best of their knowledge, information, and belief, this paint will not make its way to Anish Kapoor.  With the hashtag, #sharetheblack.

Semple described Kapoor as the “kids at school who wouldn’t share their coloring pencils, but then they ended up on their own with no friends.  It’s cool, Anish can have his black.  But the rest of us will be playing with the rainbow!

It gets better.

Kapoor somehow managed to get ahold of PINK and took a picture of his middle finger dipped in PINK, with the caption “Up yours #pink,” posted on his Instagram.  Semple could not let that stand, so he created Diamond Dust which contains glass shards and came with a warning not to get glass shards on your fingers or hands.  He has also created Black 2.0 (and Black 3.0), a functional equivalent of Vantablack, that is less toxic for use and comes in an acrylic.  All products come with a prohibition against Kapoor.

I know this fight about colors and paint seems petty.  And it seems unconnected with the idea of a bigger table.  But Kapoor is the definition of a higher fence person.  He acquired the exclusive license to a material with a color he did not create, so he could be the only one to experiment with it.  He’s tried to expand his studio in Farmers Road, which would block the light and view from the back of his neighbors’ properties.  (The neighbors contacted Semple for help with this one, and he created Phase and Shift, two color changing pigments - still prohibited for Kapoor).  Kapoor even notoriously hated the nickname "The Bean" for his Cloud Gate sculpture, though he has claimed to come around to it.

Semple, on the other hand, started his response as a performance piece.  It was a stunt designed to draw attention to such anti-collaborative moves.  To provide an alternative available to all artists.  To drive home this point, with his new pigment LIT, the world's glowiest glow pigment, Semple includes language about providing "all artists*" with the asterisk pointing to language that states “Especially Anish Kapoor.  If you are Anish Kapoor, can prove you are associated with Anish Kapoor or to the best of your knowledge information and belief this substance is going to make it’s way into the hands of Anish Kapoor, your order will be free!  We want you to know how lovely it feels to #shareTheLight."  

Maybe it's just a generational thing.  Kapoor is 65 and Semple is 38.  A difference in the idea of building up for ones self and building up for their community.  

But, haven't we seen enough of where higher fences get us.  The last thing we need are businesses with more wealth, CEO's with higher salaries, a 1% that's even more exclusive.  

Perhaps, just perhaps, it's time we all start building bigger tables.

In big ways and in small ways.  To each do our part to take care of the people that are put in our circle.  To take whatever surplus we may have been given and spread it around.  Whether its money, or paint, or food.  

After all, no one likes to eat alone, or to approach a table filled with people, only to be told that despite the open chairs there is isn’t room for you.  

Let’s instead tell everyone to pull up a chair.

The mores the merrier.

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