It was a treat to compose letters on the train

By: Alice (Ruo Ran) Wang, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, winner of the 2017 Stories from Abroad Scholarship.

I am sitting on the train heading to a small town in Germany called Kassel. The quinquennial contemporary art festival—documenta—is taking place there and as a budding art historian, it is imperative that I visit it during my artistic pilgrimage. After two weeks in Paris, I am looking forward to being in a smaller city. Big cities have their glamour and dynamics, but it is in the countryside that we find the space and air to breath.

Writing the draft of this entry on the train is a particular treat. Not only am I delighted to be composing it with a fountain pen that I had recently purchased in Paris, I have always considered the process of writing to a kind of travel itself. Thus to be able to have the mind wander as well as the body is a writerly dream.

I am looking forward to visiting Kassel. Paris, dare I say, is overrated. To be more specific, the virtuosity of some of the paintings in the Louvre and the Orsay museums are way over-hyped by art historians. Aside from being impressed by their physical monumentalities, I did not find them to be as impressive as the scholars made them to be. As they hung passively on the walls, they looked almost pathetic. I try to put myself in the mindsets of art historians and savor their brushworks, their colors, and their contexts, but I just cannot bring myself to feel passionate for them. A pang of existential crisis struck me as I sat there in disappointment: I came here searching of inspiration but have come up empty.

Fortunately, on my second to last day in Paris, I found myself inexplicably drawn to the art works at the Palais de Tokyo. The contemporary art gallery was exhibiting works that engaged with the sciences, creating a fascinating dualism that sparked intense curiosity. The show was an invaluable, life-affirming discovery. While I am unsure how to channel this inspiration, I will hold on to this point of interest and see where it leads me.

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