Friday, July 01, 2011

If it is everywhere, is it art?

kw: book reviews, fiction, art, artists

Rabbit, a former corporate "electroniker" turned street artist, labors to install something on the cornices of hundreds of buildings throughout the city, alone and in secret. Eve, a gold medal winner in biathlon, ponders a job in publicity while searching for her long-lost brother. A group calling themselves Poets seems determined to cover every surface with poster art. A creative, and dangerous, tension emerges between the Poets and other groups of artists who (gasp!) actually hope to profit from their artistic efforts. People in a theater hosting a child talent show are taken hostage by a man with a bomb and other weapons—does he think of his blockbuster bomb as a kind of art? His former "art" was official torture.

These are the major elements in The Blue Light Project by Timothy Taylor. It is hard to place the genre. I found it in the Mystery section, yet it seems to be Science Fiction. But the only sci-fi element is the invention of a smart phone that is in continual two-way communication with a data warehouse and its smart software which seeks to anticipate your wants and needs: One step toward an Orwellian population-monitoring scenario. And, perhaps, the Blue Light Project itself, intended to give the city an appearance of not being a city any longer.

I thought to trace the threads of narrative, but I don't want to fill this with spoilers. I have come close already. The persistence of quotes from 1984 emphasize the mind control theme, and I see the artists in contention with officialdom for control of the cultural direction. If I'm right, this is the author's main thrust, that Christo-scale artwork is needed to keep a measure of sanity and balance in an America that already appears almost post-Apocalyptic, in the absence of an Apocalypse.

Some art is made to last, and some is as ephemeral as the sugar-work atop a birthday cake. Urban art such as graffiti and posters is going to be tagged over or removed or destroyed in time, which leads to a cadre of collectors who pass by popular venues again and again, photographing whatever is there, whatever is new. The Blue Light Project is of such a scale that one needs to be hovering over the city to see it all, once it is triggered. How long is it supposed to last? Unknown.

The characterization and dialogue keep the story moving along. While there are bits of stream-of-consciousness, the action is paramount. When Rabbit runs through a railway tunnel, you feel it with him. The mob violence that erupts around the hostage venue is told from a few viewpoints, including one onlooker who dies, making it much more visceral than a narrator/god view. I was intrigued by a reporter's dissection of the crowd along the axes of Confrontation-Conciliation and Rationalist-Mystical (I'll have to dig into this bit of sociology). The safest way to solve a hostage crisis, however, is to sidestep all such distinctions in a creative way.

A novel like this sidesteps classification, as mentioned. I wonder if the proponents of any particular genre will take it in. The colophon indexes it with "Hostage negotiations" and "Psychological fiction". That is as good as any. It certainly got my psychology going!

1 comment:

Frank Zweegers said...

Interesting point of view..