Inspiration and Idleness

If I had to organize a self-help conference for artists Erwin Wurm would be the keynote speaker.  I doubt Erwin would be there.  Preferring the comfort of his own home, he would probably choose to attend the conference through a live video feed.  The topic of his lecture would be his motivational tour-de-force, the 2001 work “Instructions for Idleness.”  In this work, photographs with subtitles at the bottom of each frame depict the artist confronting creative dormancy.

Erwin Wurm, Instructions for Idleness, 2001 copyright Erwin Wurm

The deadline for this blog entry on “Inspiration” was last Friday.  All the sudden it was the weekend and I had nothing to write about.  The missed deadline was giving me anxiety, and it was gaining in momentum like an avalanche.  I spent much of Saturday hung-over and staring out my second story window onto 21st street.  My white Honda is parked there, right in front of my apartment, completely covered by snow.  For the second time this month I am confronted with the task of unburying it; the problem is that I don’t own a shovel.  Two weeks ago I borrowed one from a neighbor.  I’m not sure if it was the shovel or the weight of the task that made my hand blister, but the pinkish raw skin gave me pause.  I took the day to weigh my options, shovel now and risk even worse blistering or do nothing and hope the snow melts before alternate-side goes into effect.

Trying to find inspiration was like being stuck in a Chinese finger trap.  Athletes call it hitting the wall, writers call it block, and for artists such paralysis is idleness.  As with most poisons, the antidote is found within the thing that bit you.

Erwin Wurm, Instructions for Idleness, 2001, copyright Erwin Wurm

Wurm’s work, “Instructions for Idleness,” is installed in my kitchen in bastard form.  I cut the images freehand with a razor from his self-titled monograph, taped them to a board and put it in a frame.  As it hangs, I pass it whenever I go between my office and the bathroom.  Its place here is strategic.  It provides a necessary dose of reverse psychology.

Wurm's Instructions for Idleness in my kitchen

I started to write this entry on Sunday after a trip to the bathroom.  On the way back to the office I noticed Erwin on the wall advising to “express yourself through yawning.”  It was the quintessential Ah-Ha.  His humor had relieved my anxiety and given me enough clarity to begin.

The weather looks to be warmer this week, in the mid-forties.  This is good news for moral and the prospects of the snow melting, but a dire need for groceries has kept me debating whether or not to shovel.  I wondered what Erwin might do, what his car looks like.

Erwin Wurm's Fat Car, 2001

My car with snow

For now at least, I’ve decided to do nothing.

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