ART AND LITERATURE
Lydia Davis at Frieze Talks prompts James Thompson to compare the visual and the literary
The art fair as cultural event is pretty well established now. It makes sense to use the pretext of the weird art supermarket that forms the body of the fair as an excuse for a wider programme; it adds interest and tempers the slightly distasteful frenzy that makes it so difficult to actually see the art everyone's here for.
As part of this year's Frieze New York we have the opportunity to attend a reading and Q&A session with Lydia Davis. For those of you who aren't familiar with her, as well as being a well respected translator, she's also a writer of short, often tiny, stories that, despite their brevity, still manage to capture a very particular moment in the world or the web of interaction between people. She seems like a great choice for this event because, in the way her stories expand beyond themselves and seem to draw the world into their own space, it seems possible to draw parallels between her work and some of the best contemporary art. There is something artistic about her work.
However in the comparison between visual art and literature we're entering into a very murky world. The question I originally wanted to pose in this short article is how do we separate one from the other? What are the characteristics that make them different? It quickly became clear that this is too big a subject, and to be honest I should've known better having spent a couple of years studying this relationship. There are, however, a few observations worth making...