Eleanor Eleanor (1979- )
Paper and ink museum placards
Hanging Note: Each printed phrase is to appear
on its own placard in a font and with a paper style
that matches that of the museum in question.
Each placard is to be hung surreptitiously directly
under the regular placard of another person’s art
This is a copy of another art piece.
This art piece stands in for the hole.
The artist worked on this piece for ten years before
declaring it permanently unfinished.
The artist looped the film footage looped it and
looped and looped individual parts of the film
footage until it was much longer and much more
deeply boring until almost nothing of it was new.
Those wings are real.
Each one of those millions was made by
somebody’s actual hands.
People would steal the little pieces by walking
over them in heavy-tread shoes. The pieces
would stick like bits of gravel to their soles.
That little bird in the corner represents the spirit
That little bird in the corner represents nothing
it is an ordinary little bird.
Because guards never look at shoes.
Because museums want you to forget you have feet
at all, or anything but eye.
The left wing is original but, if you look closely,
the right wing is a copy of the left wing.
The artwork cracked all through on transit
back from a museum, to the artist’s delight.
The cracks became part of the art.
The artist declared the art piece finally finished.
Later an impromptu screening would lead to an
excess of boredom, which would lead to near riots.
The artist’s assistants made 290 others exactly
like this one (which was made by the artist), each
The artist’s assistant did all the painstaking coloring.
The artist had 1600 assistants for this art piece.
The artist made twenty-nine more like this one
but each on a different day or at a different time,
tracking the light from one hour to the next.
The artist was so far removed from the work at this
point, so given over to assistants, that his actual
hands never actually touched the actual art at all.
The other twenty-eight are scattered at museums
across the world no two together anywhere.
The artist was a genius with faces but evidently
struggled, if you look closely, with feet.
A smaller museum, many miles away, has an
empty pedestal and placard waiting for the return
of the stolen artwork near which you are currently
breathing in this far more famous museum.
Later, the artist would turn individual frames from
the film into gigantic plexiglass sculptures.
Later, the gigantic plexiglass sculptures were
somehow somewhere just altogether lost.
The crack starts small but opens wider and wider,
watch your step, opens until it covers the whole
hall, floor turned chasm, until it’s wide enough
for the whole idea of the museum to fall in.
And so the art piece exists somewhere in between the
museum here and the place in the landscape in the
photograph there where this dirt and these rocks were
originally dug up and where there’s now just a hole.
KATHRYN COWLES is the author of Maps and Transcripts of the Ordinary World (Milkweed Editions) and Eleanor, Eleanor, not your real name (Bear Star Press), which won the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize. Her poems and multimedia pieces have appeared in such places as Best American Experimental Writing, Boston Review, Diagram, and more. Her recent project won the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award for a manuscript in progress. She earned her Ph.D from the University of Utah and teaches English at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York, where she co-edits the Beyond Category section of Seneca Review. See more at kathryncowles.com.