THE SALON DES FOUS
FESTE: Well, God give them wisdom that have it; and those
that are fools, let them use their talents. Twelfth Night, I.v.307
We are the fools of the salon. Artist salons are as old as stone, at least as old as Wollstonecraft. They get musty. We are the fools of the salon, and we come to open curtains and beat rugs. We kick up dust and knock over the usual bibelots and tchotchkes of artistic critique. The salon des fous is not impeccably decorated, but it lets in fresh air. It is not for receiving polite society but for exchanging our society. Our members do not leave calling cards; they bring questions.
We clown through critique. Good fools never speak all mirth and no matter. They are the commentators, outside of society but speaking to it, provoking it with humor. Their behavior seems absurd, yet it obeys a logic that defies the daily illogic we follow without questioning. We are fools because we have been watching closely, and we have something to say. In a city and a century hell bent on dead-end work and making a bottom line, we have something to create.
We will not recreate the trauma ward salons, where work is a weakness to be exploited and she with the most barbs wins. Nor will we ape the apathetic, where any earnest appreciation or criticism is the urchin ignored until he is thrown out by the ear. The fool knows hierarchies well, and that is in order to overturn them. The emperor in new clothes is the fool’s easiest target. The fool also knows throwing off your clothes does not make you an emperor. We will bring down the emperors, and we will giggle at their nudity.
We are daft in the drawing room. The salon des fous is too serious to be serious. Founded on a day of reversal and absurdity, the salon is a refuge, the back room where the regulars let loose. In it, we gather outside academics, off the clock, past paychecks – we strike out from daily life to be our foolish selves. Our observations and questions may very well get sillier as the wine flows, but they also get braver. We gather as our foolhardy selves, brash enough to make art in a town of grinding wheels, and brazen enough to expose the eyes and belly of that work to a company of fellows. Fools are sharp-eyed but not cynical. They may be sharp-tongued but never for malice. We are daft enough to raise our standards but keep our levity, to indulge in seriousness with good humor. In our commitment to each other we may arrive at wisdom; we may simply have a good time. But we are fools, and as such we will use our talents