Monday, September 4, 2006

Art != Guitar

Overheard conversation at the Vancouver International Airport:

A couple come out of the smoking room and drift past me, halting at the tall glass case displaying a steel cello that has gaps in its body through which gears can be seen.

They consider it carefully.

"That took some time, " says the guy.

He repeats himself.

"That took some time."

They squat to try and read the name on the artist's plate.

"Cory... Fenwick?"

"It's hard to read."

A little kid comes running over and points at the cello.

"What's that?"

The guy grins.

"It's art."

"No, it's not!" shouts the kid.

His parents call for him to return: "Marcus! Marcus!"

"Yeah," says the guy, "That's art."

"No, it's not! It's a guitar!"

The couple are momentarily stymied. The woman recovers first and tries another tack.

"No, no. It's a bass."

"A bass? What's a bass?"

"A stand-up bass."

"What's a bass?"

"Marcus! Come here!"

"It's a big guitar."

The kid nods, his suspicions confirmed, and he goes back to his folks.

"Marcus!"

"I was looking at the guitar!

I love how the kid completely resisted all efforts to introduce new information into his world, and forced the grownups to talk to him on his terms. A great lesson on how all of us need new information presented to us in the context of what we already understand, or else we just keep forcing the conversation back into our context, and how good we are at doing that. It's not art. It's not a bass. It's just a guitar.