Structured as an interview with a fictional visual artist, Kiefer’s (The Animals, 2015, etc.) novella explores the ambitions and limits of art.
In the middle of an illustrious career, installation artist Frank Poole conceives of his most ambitious project yet: an entire town built from the ground up in the remote desert and then sealed for eternity. Driven by a troubled childhood and an obsession with getting as close as humanly possible to stopping time, Frank agrees to let a single interviewer shadow him during the weeks of creation. A parallel tale quickly develops in the interview, however, about Frank’s young wife/manager, Caitlin, who discovers she's pregnant with their first child. What begins as a lyrical prose poem about the creative process quickly knots into a layered narrative about love, family, art, missed chances, and how we constantly write and rewrite the stories of our lives. The most poignant moments of this self-proclaimed kinoroman, or cinema novel, focus not on Frank as artist but on Frank as wounded human, as terrified father-to-be, and on Caitlin as the woman who gave up her own dreams to follow her husband. Kiefer’s prose is spare and beautiful; like Frank’s white, sealed landscapes, the blank space on the pages carries great weight. One must also wonder whether this serves as a sort of ars poetica for Kiefer, one in which he considers his role in creation, in trying to stop time with words. There is a point where the interviewer observes, “What does he see there but himself, in all those landscapes….Everything a mirror.” In this way, this little novella carries the highest ambition: to articulate how art exists outside of time and is, at once, the purest and most selfish pursuit of all.
A gorgeous, human commentary on the paradox of modern life and modern art.