It was the third week or so since the museum had re-opened, for as you may know, we had to close down for several months last fall due to a problem with people touching the work. We had an influx of visitors who liked to feel the texture of the paint or the slopes of the sculptures and we were not equipped to deal with them.
from “Viewer, Violator” by Aimee Bender
Aimee Bender (author of The Color Master and The Girl in the Flammable Skirt) is a subversive writer. While she’s entertaining us with a short story told from the perspective of a museum docent leading a group of restless visitors through a gallery, she manages to sneak in a very telling message about a viewer’s relationship to art--both visual and tactile. Do you like to touch, or do you like to watch? “Viewer, Violator” begins with a chatty narration about keeping your hands to yourself while on the museum tour, but then detours into a story, told from the narrator’s perspective, about the head of the museum who receives a mysterious canvas from a benefactor. Lines and splashes of paint seem to appear out of nowhere on the painting until finally the museum director thinks she’s going mad and keeps up a 24-hour surveillance on the painting in order to catch whoever is tampering with it. In the end, Bender makes a compelling point about how art is truly in the eye of the beholder.
Watchlist: 32 Short Stories by Persons of Interest, edited by Bryan Hurt, will be published by O/R Books on May 21. The “persons of interest” contributing short stories to the anthology include Etgar Keret, Robert Coover, Aimee Bender, Jim Shepard, Alissa Nutting, Charles Yu, Cory Doctorow, David Abrams, Randa Jarrar, Katherine Karlin, Miracle Jones, Mark Irwin, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Dale Peck, Bonnie Nadzam, Lucy Corin, Chika Unigwe, Paul Di Filippo, Lincoln Michel, Dana Johnson, Mark Chiusano, Juan Pablo Villalobos, Chanelle Benz, Sean Bernard, Kelly Luce, Zhang Ran, Miles Klee, Carmen Maria Machado, Steven Hayward, Deji Bryce Olukotun, Alexis Landau and Bryan Hurt.