Thursday, September 30, 2010

Carnival

from an imaginary visit to Lucerne, 2010.

I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t know what all these people are doing here. There is a giant float in the street, with bamboo walls and a palm frond roof. Inside the float are miniature human skulls, and the heads of roaring animals. The skull of a deer with huge antlers protrudes from the front of the float. No-one is on the float, and the driver is hidden somewhere below all the decoration. The float glides by, unmanned and somehow sinister. Yet the people standing around it are cheering, and hooting, and blowing plastic horns that make an ear-splitting noise. They are speaking a language that I can’t understand, so that even if I asked them what was going on, I wouldn’t be able to understand their answers. I wonder why I came here. I am starting to miss home, and the way that back there we respect the space between people even in the narrowest of streets.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Strange trio

from an imaginary visit to Lucerne, 2010.

There was man in chainmail which came down to his knees, covered his arms, and covered his head like a faceless balaclava. Over the chainmail he wore a red tunic with the design of a black shield on the front. He was accompanied by two women. One of them was a vampire, who was exposing her animal-like fangs and pretending to bite through the flesh of his neck. She wore a crushed red velvet dress with a high collar. The other woman wore a pink dress and a pink and white feather boa. On her head was a wide yellow hat made from foam. Her hat bore symbols in black writing that I couldn’t recognize. She was pressing her hand against the vampire woman’s chest in an effort to keep her away from the man. At the same time she was leaning towards the man with her lips pursed as if attempting to kiss him. The women started to tussle with each other, which seemed to please the man. He grinned as they reached around him and began to grab at each other’s clothes. As the woman in the yellow foam hat began to scream at the vampire woman, the man took his life-size fake sword, raised it into the air with both hands, and shouted: “I command you in the name of the King to stop!”

Friday, September 24, 2010

The red fireball

from an imaginary visit to Lucerne, 2010.

I saw the red fireball spinning in the black night air. I watched it for so long that when I closed my eyes I could still see traces of it, scored into the back of my eyelids like scratches on metal. I had just woken up and left the hotel in a dream-like state, not knowing yet whether I was awake or still asleep. The streets were already full of people even though it had just got dark. They all stood shoulder to shoulder watching the red fireball go round and round, trailing tails of flame as it spun. I felt afraid for the people standing near it, afraid that they would be burned and in running away from it start a stampede in the crowd. But no-one moved. Everyone stared without blinking at the red flame, which now had ceased spinning and instead appeared to be growing, like the film of a noiseless explosion running in extreme slow motion. The heads of the people furthest away from me and closest to the fireball made black silhouettes against the red. I realized that this is what medieval believers had in mind when they thought of the souls of sinners, huddled together in the dark abysses of hell while the scorching plumes of fiery brimstone bore down on them from above.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Arrival in Lucerne

from an imaginary visit to Lucerne, 2010.

We got here yesterday and checked into our hotel. The hotel is a little far from the centre of Lucerne, but the public transport system here is so good that you can get to the old town in about ten minutes. The man at the desk who checked us in was very friendly. Unlike in Prague, where the person at the front desk tossed the room key towards me so that I had no chance of catching it, and then when it fell to the floor and I picked it up, she didn’t say sorry or even acknowledge that she might have done something unfriendly. The people in this Swiss hotel seem really nice, by contrast. The room is basic, but clean. There are two small beds, and when we got there we just lay down and looked at the view of the mountains from the window for a while. We went out armed with a phrase-book to look for something to eat. We were so tired that we just went to a pizza place on the same street, where it turned out that they all spoke English, and so we were able to communicate even though our English is not so good.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Three map-fold books

I've just started a series of map-fold books, so-called because the paper folds and unfolds like one of those collapsible street maps that you can buy when you go to a major city like New York or London.

Each one starts with a print of a street map of central Lucerne, onto which I over-printed found images from the internet of people posing in front of Lucerne landmarks:

I then printed another layer of a found internet image of another Lucerne object, such as a tower, a street, or a bridge:

Finally, I printed some linocut images drawn from the alchemical investigations of Nikolas von Flue, who was a Swiss Catholic mystic associated with the city of Lucerne, and who designed the six-pointed image of the face of God that is instantly recognizable to Swiss people (or so I have read):