Written by Malak Nour
Dear readers, welcome back to Art Bits! I was in London for a few weeks to attend an undergraduate summer course when the following took place: I was walking along Oxford Street on my way to get a new SIM card, and I saw two ladies – one who was giving out some sort of flyer, and another, with a camera in her hand. As I reached where they were standing, the lady handed me one of the flyers. I looked at the flyer, but was surprised to find that it was blank…there was nothing written on it! It was just a pink shimmery piece of paper with nothing on it, but something scribbled in small font, in pencil, on its edge. My first instinct was just not to bother, and continue walking. Thankfully, I didn’t, because the rest of this article is about what I was pleasantly surprised with when I decided to ask the lady “what is this?”
Her reply to my question was that this was part of an art project; the idea behind it is that we are usually given flyers, brochures, etc. that force upon us either products or ideologies, so this blank paper with nothing on it is a reminder to “make up my own mind”. I’ll let that sink in…
No need to say that I was instantly taken by the simplicity yet the immense creativity of the idea. A simple blank piece of paper managed to sum up the content of many lectures, academic articles, “sophisticated” conversations, and many other bulky and sometimes unintelligible pieces of writing or bits of speech. The fact that this was an “art” project is something that really stood out to me.
You see, this lady wasn’t giving out tickets to an art gallery, some poetry night, or a philosophical play, she just gave out a blank paper…yet, her message was louder and clearer than any of the things I mentioned. This is definitely not to say that these things are useless or unimportant, but it is to say that art doesn’t have to be confined to those mediums.
In previous Art Bits articles (especially: Art Bits: The Artidote; Art from Your Newsfeed), I kept on talking about how art can also be about the expression of one’s innermost feelings and sharing those with others; something which, I think, does apply in this case – I felt it myself. The lady and her team – if any – were passionate about a certain idea, they expressed it creatively by coming up with this piece of paper, then they shared their idea with others by handing the paper (or artwork) to people on Oxford street. Now, as one of the people who were handed this piece of paper, the idea that its creators wanted to pass on became perfectly clear to me, and I’m sure I probably won’t forget about it for a long period of time.
Had this lady stopped me on the street to talk to me about the hazards of not making decisions for myself, or had she given me a free ticket to a lecture with the same content, or had she given me a flyer even, I probably wouldn’t have been impacted as much as I was when she gave me her blank pink piece of paper. Good art has the power to communicate ideas in the subtlest yet strongest ways, so what would you shout out from the rooftops?
Do you remember any situation where an artwork has had a strong impact on you? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!