Defined By Art
by zahra

He's not an actor or a painter or a singer.

He's just an artist who sticks his fingers in things and occasionally likes the result.

Only sometimes. Truthfully, Viggo is never satisfied.

He doesn't know any artist who ever is.

Once a movie is in the can, he can't really stop the process of time, but if wishes were real. Well. Some of his performances that are down on 70mm film aren't always as sharp as he'd like, and there are others that are softer than he remembers delivering them. If this were real life, all his second guesses would be too late.

The only paintings that are safe are the ones that are sold, and the only poems that are not re-written are the ones that are forgotten on the drive home.

He always tells himself to pull over and write the flashes down, but he never does. It's just this thing that he keeps meaning to do, like organizing his photographs of Henry into a proper order.

If nothing else, he does know that Henry is his favorite subject.

He doesn't have a favorite medium, but photography seems to be the one that he resorts to the most. The one that makes him feel the most calm. Steel and plastic in hands that have never known ennui, and the way that sometimes he can catch that perfect moment that otherwise would have passed him by.

But in all honesty, capturing the moment is at the heart of all Viggo's activities. It's always about accidents, revelations, concealment and hidden meanings.

All in the name of art.


I. Painter

He used to color with his left hand. And his right.

Viggo has vague memories of living in Honduras when he was smaller, and lying on the floor of the cocina with a coloring book and switching the crayon back and forth until his mother made him choose.

He chose right.

That hasn't always been the case.

Viggo's done some foolish things and said some things that he can never take back. Life is nothing like painting, where he can always dab on another layer. Life won't let him switch paints from oil to acrylic, or resort to a new canvas, so he's learned to adapt the best he can.

He does interviews now, and people ask him about his choices. They ask him about things he does and doesn't regret, and he's always reminded of painting. Monet made hundreds of copies of haystacks and still didn't think he had gotten it right, and to Viggo that seems to be the curse of humanity: the inability to get it right. Only that's what he finds so fascinating about art. It gives him the chance to go back and change things, when life doesn't.

So truthfully, Viggo doesn't understand how can anyone regret what's already done in a world where there's art. In his mind, the point of repentance is too late, and all anyone can do is move on and paint something else.

This isn't to say that he hasn't made mistakes. He knows he has, but he still has Henry and changing anything else in his life might negate the most amazing thing he's ever done. That wouldn't do at all.

So at night he goes into the garage, and he paints things the way he wants them to be. And the way they should be, and then he puts those canvases aside and starts others. At any given time there are about 100 canvases in the garage and none of them are done. None of them will ever be complete.

They're all possibilities, because to Viggo, painting is all about the potential.

All art is about seeing potential, because there is always some.

You just have to look hard enough.


II. Poet

Inspiration comes at the oddest times: when he's reading Don Quixote in Spanish, and he thinks of Dutch windmills. Or when he's driving home from the market and he spots a fruit vendor on the side of the road. In his dreams he's composed some of the most amazing verses ever, and these are the poems that he thinks will be the best.

Inevitably, however, they are the ones that never get written, because their inspiration is too inconvenient, and he swears he'll still remember them when he gets the time.

He never does.

But there are other poems as well. The ones that come when he's sitting alone and thinking of nothing, or when he's reading the newspaper and thinking of something completely unrelated to the poem he winds up writing about Halloween. There are phone conversations with Excene that have spawned books of poetry; and the other day he found Henry's soccer shirt from third grade.

He wound up writing sixteen different verses on a roll of paper towels. Lines and lines about sons and grass and dirty knees and sitting on the bench. Henry's getting into his teens now though, and maybe Viggo won't show them to him. He loves his son though, and sometimes he thinks he might love him too much.

So he writes, and says all the things that he doesn't always get to say.

Sometimes the poems don't work, and he'll keep at them until the paper is shredded, the eraser is nonexistent, and what once was going to be great is gone.

Other times the poems do work, and he'll leave them alone to be read and re-written later on.

No poem is perfect, just as no one person is perfect. Even his beloved son. But Viggo keeps writing and composing, perhaps in hopes that one day he'll be proven wrong.


III. Photographer

The first photograph Viggo ever took was a mistake.

His aunt was visiting with his family in Guatamala, and she had a Canon SII, made in 1955. He remembers that he tried to pick up the camera because he had just wanted to look through the little square of glass at the top. Only his fingers were grubby, and he put them on the lens because he didn't know better. He recollects that the camera was heavy, and he didn't quite know how to hold it right. So when his father tried to take it away, because how was Viggo to know that cameras were so costoso, his little fingers stuck to the shutter.

Viggo's first photograph was of the tips of his fingers, and he thinks of this as he watches Orlando manhandling his Hassleblad. Orlando exudes this sense of impatience and energy, but he's being extraordinarily careful with Viggo's camera, which can only be a good thing. In the time that Orlando is studying the camera, Viggo can study him. He has these long fingers with thin, short nails, and the entire piece is attached to very delicate-looking wrists. If Orlando were a sculpture, Viggo's not sure that he would be physically correct.

Orlando seems to be an extraordinary contradiction of body parts: broken bits and pieces, still managing to exude a sense of fragility that Viggo knows is a lie. He's watched Orlando move and ride, and jump from heights that would easily kill him.

Orlando does it all as though he doesn't care.

As though his life is just this careless thing that he can rewrite and repaint at will. And maybe it is. Maybe humans like Orlando are the real definition of art.

Maybe Viggo has been looking in the wrong place all along.


IV: Actor

Viggo told Orlando he never set out to be an actor, which is the truth.

What would have been the point of all those hours spent studying the potential heads of government for country where the wall eventually fell, if he wasn't going to do something with the degree? Not that he's ever been that driven to find the point of anything, it's only the journey that counts, but he could have saved himself a lot of time, and his parents a lot of money. Besides, Viggo's not prescient, how was he to know that Spanish would become an important commodity in the workplace?

He didn't. That's the beauty of the life he's lead; that he continues to lead, even while living in Wellington.

Viggo simply does things, and they don't necessarily have a plan.

He's has always been about moving and trying things out, that's what driving a truck in Denmark was about. After all, he never intended to work a nine-to-five either, so from a certain point of view acting has been this saving grace. It's allowed him to move and change, and recreate and become a soldier and a mobster and gangster. What other medium would allow him so much range? His acting has taught him a thoroughness that he doesn't necessarily find in his other disciplines, and perhaps he needs that more than anything else.

In his life he's left a lot of things unfinished.

If he doesn't finish a painting, a gallery won't close. If he doesn't finish a poem, who'll know? If he doesn't take a picture, it is only his loss, but if he falls down in a role, then it's there for the entire world to know and every time he sees himself on the screen, he'll know it as well.

Perhaps he does like acting the best, if only because of the way it can mangle truth and honesty and lies into something beautiful.

Viggo has learned this over almost two decades of acting, and looking back on it now, perhaps all his roads were going to lead him here. Perhaps every role has led him to this trailer, where he's getting read to go out into the rain and defend a castle that might as well be his. If Peter can refer to him as Aragorn for thirty minutes and have him not notice, then perhaps Viggo truly can call himself an artist. Because if the director believes, and he believes, then who's to say the entire world won't as well?

And isn't that what every artist wants, for someone else to believe in what they do?

Isn't this the exact moment in time that most artists spend their life looking for?

To be defined by their art.


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