On being notorious

17 November 2010

We’re a bit notorious! I had no idea until yesterday. Yesterday was a big day for Lucy. It is the time of year for the annual St Martins Procession, a well-loved tradition in Germany. Once it gets dark, the children gather for a procession carrying their candle – lit lantern (the modern child of the safety conscious parent might also carry an LED-lit lantern) . This year’s lantern model for Lucy happened to be a fluffy goose :

This pretty little thing came into being last Wednesday. And yesterday I finalized ‘project goose’ by making a lantern stick and and attaching a little torch. I found using a real candle too dangerous: It was very windy yesterday and the goose was not a fat one, it would have caught fire VERY easily. I just did not want to take the risk, and installed a little torch for lighting it up, instead of fitting it with a real candle. Lucy complained, but I think it would have been much more traumatic for her to see the goose go up in flames and watching its transformation into a tiny heap of ash within a matter of minutes. (Having said that, Linus would love that kind of thing… 🙂 ).

But why are we notorious? It’s so simple, it’s just because we cycle-skate to school on a regular basis. I never thought that this would be noticed so much, but yesterday one mum said that her husband asked about the woman and the girl who always come skating past the metro station  Debourg about  20 minutes to 9 in the morning. I don’t  know this man, I haven’t noticed him, but obviously he knows us quite well. Then another woman I had never seen in my life asked me whether I was the one who….skating… daughter… SPEEDING…  and yes, I admitted to it. I have to say, I picked up the criticism in this woman’s voice when she started talking about zooming/ speeding … but what can I say? We’re often terribly late. That’s my excuse for being fast. But while we may be kind of fast,  I am also extremely focussed when cycling with Lucy in tow, watching who is about to cross our path. That’s probably why I don’t notice that I am always passing the same people. But it doesn’t end here. I heard from another mum on Monday, when we had a terrible downpour of rain that lasted throughout most of the day, that her son had said he felt really sorry for Lucy in this weather, because her mum would always take her to school with the bike. He obviously thought that as a good German mother, I do not allow for bad-weather exceptions to my rules. Bless the boy, but in fact Lucy went by metro on Monday. I do make exceptions in bad weather conditions, but if we had water skies for Lucy, …. now there’s a thought… 🙂

But there are obviously people in the Lyon area who are much more notorious than me and Lucy. For example an sculptor called Thierry Ehrmann. In 1999, this man founded an art project in a beautiful little village just outside Lyon. In a nutshell, the village is pretty, the project, which is called 999 Demeure du Chaos, is disturbing. It stands in stark contrast to its surroundings. The aim of this project is

“…to mix one part exhibition, one part artwork and one part action to create a melting pot of crossbred energies.” (This is a quote from the webpage)

What can I say? I expected something exciting like Banksy‘s exhibition — Banksy vs Bristol museum—  which we visited last year. Where Banksy managed to make us laugh with his criticism of  society, the Demeure du Chaos at the best makes you depressed about the state of the world. Let me just share some photos I took with you…

Amongst all the images of destruction, decay and dead bodies, this provided some comic relief…

I don’t want to add any more depressing pictures to this post. I know the world is in a bad state, but really, concentrating all the ugliness of the world into such a confined space certainly does not motivate people to want to make an effort to change anything? Am I too used to light entertainment? Have I read to many self-help books? I don’t know, but I am convinced that when showing the general public how bad things are, artists could also point out paths to possible solutions, particularly if they are such left wingers or communists as the artists who contributed to this project. I think it’s a bit too easy to just highlight what’s going wrong, because, for goodness sake, we live in the age of the internet and most people will be pretty aware of things that are going on just via the daily news digest. Is it therefore necessary to produce works of art dealing with, for example,  the topic of the deep sea drilling in the Golf of Mexico, when we have all been reading about it for months? Wouldn’t it be a bit more sophisticated to move beyond pointing a finger at governments, politicians and major companies and just dig a little bit deeper? We will all have to carry on living with and in the world we have created for ourselves, so I think a bit of creative and constructive input on how to improve things might not do any harm

I will calm down now, but this exhibition was pretty much a disappointment for me. The project’s founder is notorious, the people who live in this quiet and  beautiful little village have been trying to get rid of him for years. His art project attracts about 120000 visitors every year. In a way I am glad we went, because I have at least learned how NOT to motivate people :). I will finish this post with a photo of the prettiest ‘work of art ‘(?) I saw that day. It’s a picture painted on a table outside a café in the village. Aren’t these monsters wonderful?


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