notes from an urban hibernation

Paris : Simon Cutts & Erica Van Horn

A Homemade Museum


We read the listing and we saw that the exhibition was about to end. There was no time to waste. We set off after lunch and walked uphill.  We walked uphill for a long time.  We walked through Chinese and African shopping areas. Everywhere was busy.  We continued uphill and with a few turns we arrived at the small exhibition space which was crowded with objects.

Very few of the objects in the exhibition space had much to do with Arthur Rimbaud.  The real subject seemed to be the Yemen, and specifically Aden.  Rimbaud did indeed spend time in Aden and there was a large effort to repeat his name often in the labeling of the displays.  The display labels were printed in black bold type on bright yellow paper.  Each label was laminated and cut out without any use of a straight edge. Quotes from Rimbaud’s own writings were also on the walls.  These quotes were printed in an italic on pale pink paper.  They were laminated too, and were also cut out without the use of a straight edge.  Most of the displays were behind glass or in frames or in vitrines.  There were numerous labels asking that viewers neither lean upon nor touch the displays.  All of the cases looked shaky.

One case held some copies of books by Rimbaud and another held photocopies of a letter he had written. We saw things in one vitrine which were on a golden plate.  These were fragments of ceramic and glass which had been found on the site of the Maison Rimbaud. Another plate held coffee beans found in the walls of the Maison Rimbaud.  There was a low stool, carved out of a single piece of wood and decorated with bottle caps pressed into its seat. There were pieces of architectural detail, both wooden and stone.  These things had nothing to do with Maison Rimbaud nor with Arthur himself.  There was a long divan covered with rugs and cushions. There were worn sandals, postcards, and a great many faded photographs of Aden, its buildings and its residents, and of the surrounding countryside. There were keys and maps and license plates.  Some of the license plates were square and some were long and narrow.  They were bright green with raised white letters and numbers.  I think the same information was repeated on each plate, once in Roman letters and once in Arabic. Some of the objects were interesting and some were just junk that was not interesting except for the fact that they were being presented as if they were interesting.

In the centre of the exhibition space, there was a small round table with two chairs. On the table was a thermos flask of tea.  There were little cups with no handles.  We were invited to help ourselves to the sweet tea.  If we, or anyone else,  had sat down in the chairs, all movement through the room would have been halted.  There would have been no room to move along the displays.  The room was too narrow and too full for any sitting.

The concrete floor of the room had once been painted a dark red.  More recently it was painted a drab mustard yellow. The second paint job had perhaps not been prepared for correctly.  The yellow was chipped.  The red paint appeared as polka dots throughout the room. The polka dots were quite even in size.  Each one was between one and two inches in diameter.  The dotted floor made a busy pattern throughout the busy room.

The man in charge of the space discussed Rimbaud and Aden with anyone who had a question.  He had written a booklet which was available in both English and French.  He had once made a painting of the Maison Rimbaud which was later printed as a postage stamp.  There were other pictures which I think he had done himself, but they were each simply labelled as “A sketch by one of our special artists.”  EVH



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This entry was posted on December 29, 2013 by .
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