Peer Review by yapyapxy (Singapore)

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The Box

By: Angelina Nguyen

Here is a box. 

It is not much of a box. 

Just a box.

Little do you know of it but here it is.

Amongst another one hundred boxes. 

Today is Selection Day. These boxes were turned into artworks. 

Many box makers had come and go from the competition: painters, sculptors, drawers and architects. 

On each square table, there was a box. Within each box, materials were provided. 

The artists had three days to turn their box into something wonderful.

And in the midst of all of them, a young artist, only small and without experience, stood clueless of what to do. 

Over the last few years, he had watched many great boxes rejected because they did not look pretty enough. 

Others were criticised for being too abstract, lacking technique.

One of the boxes was even torn apart by the Connoisseur. Nobody saw him, for he only showed up when he was offended by a poor attempt of art. 

The young artist had looked at the options he was given; universal paint that could change into any colour if you wished for it, a universal pencil that could adjust its thickness, grip and lead quality to your fitting, a universal tool kit with any tools a designer could desire.

The young artist was stumped. He did not seem to like any of them and had a quick glance at the other candidates.

Everyone was working hard. The cardboard had no longer been visible at all in most of them. They worked really quickly and skilfully.

The young artist was annoyed at his box. Why could others make something out of it, and not him? 

And then, an idea came to him.

"Why think outside of the box," the young artist said, "when the box is the thing we think about?"

"Why create art out of nothing, when nothing can be art?"

The young artist decided to pack up his paints, neatly put away his tools. He brushed his table clean and placed the box in the centre. He covered it with the glass display box and stood back from the table. 

The clock's little hand struck 12 and everyone else followed suit.

At that instance, the Connoisseur stepped in from the grand entrance. He wore a black suit with a red tie. His hair was tied up in a bun and his face was fully revealed.

And he did not look impressed.

"There will be no judgements today. I have witnessed a breach of decorum in this room."

The artists looked confused. One architect raised her hand.

"What is a breach of decorum?"

The Connoisseur glared at her and she immediately shied away. 

"It is when something is violated. It is when something is unconventional. Nobody likes different."

He turns to the young artist and demands an explanation.

"This is just the same box you were given."

"You said you did not like different," the young artist replied, "and yes it it different. But is it not the same as well?"

The Connoisseur stood back in shock.

"Is this not what art is? I am not a painter or sculptor or architect or drawer," the young artist states, "I am an artist. I am different, and I am the same as everyone else in this room.

This box is my artwork because it is me."

All the other artists had been staring in awe at him. They realised something new- art was not just about how beautiful something looked, but what it stood for.

The Connoisseur walked out of the room, quickly whispering in the ear of one of the judges.

The judge stood up and announced,

"The winner of Selection Day is Marianne Farika."

Everyone applauded for her box with its sequins and elaborate line drawings before glancing back at the young artist's box. 

Just a box. 

It is not much of a box. 

But it was a box. And it was inspiring, for it had managed to survive. 

The young artist smiled and decided that he had won something better- the freedom to continue being an artist. 


Peer Review

I loved how the story changes its focus from a simple, seemingly insignificant box to the motivation and inherent value of art - even though it may a deep idea, it also highlights the importance for children to begin appreciating art.

The message of the story is very clear. Perhaps more descriptions about the details of the box - how big it is, what colour or material the box is made up of - will aid the visualisation of a box on a table, unless there will be illustrations accompanying your piece.

I love how you linked a compelling, timeless (yet controversial) idea via the medium of a children's story with a mere box. To me, that mirrors the intended effect of The Little Prince (which, if I recall correctly, is one of your favourites?) about truths and simple yet significant ideas. Reading your piece inspires me to want to try exploring the less comfortable but nonetheless important ideas in different mediums - maybe even the least expected ones! ;-)

Reviewer Comments

I truly enjoyed the idea and theme of this piece. It taught me that no idea is too complex to be broken down into simpler parts, even "what is art?" or "is there value in being an artist?" (of course!)

A suggestion would be to relook at the tenses and see if they can somehow better help bring across the idea you wish to convey. Maybe they can be arranged or edited differently to lend fluidity to the transition of the different scenes, or even to link them together.

I felt like the plot twist was somewhat too quickly introduced and hence predictable; perhaps you can describe the young artist toying with different ideas before he settles on the final one - but of course, this is entirely up to you!

I can see this being shortlisted as one of the winning entries xD and I wish you all the best in the competition! Happy writing ~