ran the river, ran the river

It was about the middle of the month of February when Vendale and Obenreizer set forth on their expedition.  The winter being a hard one, the time was bad for travellers. So bad was it that these two travellers, coming to Strasbourg, found its great inns almost empty. And even the few people they did encounter in that city, who had started from England or from Paris on business journeys towards the interior of Switzerland, were turning back.
Many of the railroads in Switzerland that tourists pass easily enough now, were almost or quite impracticable then. Some were not begun; more were not completed. On such as were open, there were still large gaps of old road where communication in the winter season was often stopped; on others, there were weak points where the new work was not safe, either under conditions of severe frost, or of rapid thaw.  The running of trains on this last class was not to be counted on in the worst time of the year, was contingent upon weather, or was wholly abandoned through the months considered the most dangerous.
At Strasbourg there were more travellers’ stories afloat, respecting the difficulties of the way further on, than there were travellers to relate them. Many of these tales were as wild as usual; but the more modestly marvellous did derive some colour from the circumstance that people were indisputably turning back. However, as the road to Basle was open, Vendale’s resolution to push on was in no wise disturbed. Obenreizer’s resolution was necessarily Vendale’s, seeing that he stood at bay thus desperately: He must be ruined, or must destroy the evidence that Vendale carried about him, even if he destroyed Vendale with it.
The state of mind of each of these two fellow-travellers towards the other was this. Obenreizer, encircled by impending ruin through Vendale’s quickness of action, and seeing the circle narrowed every hour by Vendale’s energy, hated him with the animosity of a fierce cunning lower animal. He had always had instinctive movements in his breast against him; perhaps, because of that old sore of gentleman and peasant; perhaps, because of the openness of his nature, perhaps, because of his better looks; perhaps, because of his success with Marguerite; perhaps, on all those grounds, the two last not the least. And now he saw in him, besides, the hunter who was tracking him down. Vendale, on the other hand, always contending generously against his first vague mistrust, now felt bound to contend against it more than ever: reminding himself, “He is Marguerite’s guardian. We are on perfectly friendly terms; he is my companion of his own proposal, and can have no interested motive in sharing this undesirable journey.” To which pleas in behalf of Obenreizer, chance added one consideration more, when they came to Basle after a journey of more than twice the average duration.
They had had a late dinner, and were alone in an inn room there, overhanging the Rhine: at that place rapid and deep, swollen and loud. Vendale lounged upon a couch, and Obenreizer walked to and fro: now, stopping at the window, looking at the crooked reflection of the town lights in the dark water (and peradventure thinking, “If I could fling him into it!”); now, resuming his walk with his eyes upon the floor.
“Where shall I rob him, if I can?  Where shall I murder him, if I must?” So, as he paced the room, ran the river, ran the river, ran the river.
The burden seemed to him, at last, to be growing so plain, that he stopped; thinking it as well to suggest another burden to his companion.
“The Rhine sounds to-night,” he said with a smile, “like the old waterfall at home. That waterfall which my mother showed to travellers (I told you of it once). The sound of it changed with the weather, as does the sound of all falling waters and flowing waters. When I was pupil of the watchmaker, I remembered it as sometimes saying to me for whole days, ‘Who are you, my little wretch? Who are you, my little wretch?’ I remembered it as saying, other times, when its sound was hollow, and storm was coming up the Pass: ‘Boom, boom, boom. Beat him, beat him, beat him.’ Like my mother enraged — if she was my mother.” (…)

When they had hurriedly refreshed and changed, they went together to the house of business of Defresnier and Company. There they found the letter which the wine-carrier had described, enclosing the tests and comparisons of handwriting essential to the discovery of the Forger. Vendale’s determination to press forward, without resting, being already taken, the only question to delay them was by what Pass could they cross the Alps? Respecting the state of the two Passes of the St. Gotthard and the Simplon, the guides and mule-drivers differed greatly; and both passes were still far enough off, to prevent the travellers from having the benefit of any recent experience of either. Besides which, they well knew that a fall of snow might altogether change the described conditions in a single hour, even if they were correctly stated. But, on the whole, the Simplon appearing to be the hopefuller route, Vendale decided to take it.  Obenreizer bore little or no part in the discussion, and scarcely spoke.
To Geneva, to Lausanne, along the level margin of the lake to Vevay, so into the winding valley between the spurs of the mountains, and into the valley of the Rhone. The sound of the carriage-wheels, as they rattled on, through the day, through the night, became as the wheels of a great clock, recording the hours. No change of weather varied the journey, after it had hardened into a sullen frost. In a sombre-yellow sky, they saw the Alpine ranges; and they saw enough of snow on nearer and much lower hill-tops and hill-sides, to sully, by contrast, the purity of lake, torrent, and waterfall, and make the villages look discoloured and dirty. But no snow fell, nor was there any snow-drift on the road. The stalking along the valley of more or less of white mist, changing on their hair and dress into icicles, was the only variety between them and the gloomy sky. And still by day, and still by night, the wheels. And still they rolled, in the hearing of one of them, to the burden, altered from the burden of the Rhine: “The time is gone for robbing him alive, and I must murder him.”

(Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins: No Thoroughfare, Act III: In the valley. 1867)

Neue Rheinmetropole, neue Rheinlänge

Das Monatsende bringt essentielle Meldungen zur rheinischen Existenz: nicht nur, daß die Länge des Rheins wegen eines Zahlendrehers bisher öffentlich meist falsch mit 1320 statt mit richtig 1230 Kilometern angegeben wird, wie der Kölner Biologie-Professor Bruno Kremer laut gestrigen Zeitungsmeldungen per eigenen Vermessungen herausgefunden haben will, nein, es existiert sogar recht unvermittelt eine neue Rheinmetropole, wenn auch zunächst nur für einen Monat, wie der folgenden Ankündigung (merci erneut an Roland Bergère) entnommen werden kann:

Ecole Regionale des Beaux-Arts in Besançon: Copacabana doesn’t exist! About the existence of the Rhin Rhône territory

If there is a place where human utopia has been achieved, that place is Copacabana. It is decadence in the poetic sense. The decadence in Copacabana works as a curtain, a protection for everything which happens within. Copacabana doesn’t have a centre, nor links with golden youth… It is a sort of oasis for all kinds of… Copacabana is wonderful. It is a wonderful town. Copacabana doesn’t exist!

This exhibition is the result of work carried out in a workshop of research at the ERBA. It was initiated by Philippe Terrier-Hermann and carried out jointly by students and two artists in residence, Ariane Bosshard, graphic artist, and Maxime Brygo, photographer. The question of creating a Rhône-Rhine agglomeration, utopian conurbation of two million inhabitants, stretching in an arc from Le Creusot to Bâle, including especially Dijon, Besançon and Mulhouse, has been the driving force of this workshop based on the question of how the territory can be represented. Indeed, isn’t this territory for now a mere mental representation? Will not this new entity measuring more than 300 Km in length, with an efficient high speed train network as backbone, exist only for an elite or a limited circle of informed civil servants and elected officials? Does the development scheme take into account all the essential aspirations of the inhabitants in all their diversity? Is grouping of competences in order to establish centres of excellence to exist on an international level compatible with the necessity to preserve social benefits and access to culture. Where are the centre and the boundaries of an agglomeration? How do we represent a new metropolis made up of diverse cities, each having their own specific identity, equally historically as mythically? We have tried to reply to these questions both together and individually and present our diverse research here. Maxime Brygo, in his photographic work attempting to represent this agglomeration has searched for images meaningfully illustrating history and symbols. He questions the subject of identification with a territory, its history and its potential monuments. Two notes, one official, the other descriptive are given to each of these pictures. In this way, Maxime Brygo offers us the chance to dare to assume the position of judge between the image and its potential interpretations; he leaves the images to float in an undefined status. With this body of work, Maxime Brygo asserts that this territory exists in its capacity to link these stories and their representations. As an accompaniment to this research, Ariane Bosshard has reflected on the traceability of this mental territory and on the good way of realizing a book about such a myth. So, she has conceived a black book, a book to elaborate mentally only from what is given to us: the oral description of the pictures. Thus she also plays with the zones of mental construction existing between words and images.

Artists’ representation of a territory stimulates possibilities and their perception of these possibilities is potentially utopian. Though attempting to activate a deliberately real territory, artists, through their visions have potentialities for turning them into Utopia (Nicolas Moulin, Bernard Voïta, Edwin Zwakman…). Either by the use of shifting, altering shapes, framing, darkening, … or any odd vision, the works shown here transform our perception of the world and lead us to look at it in another way. Gabor Osz shows a photograph of a beach, normally a place for leisure, in a warlike vision, having converted a bunker into a camera obscura. The virgin Namibian landscape by Balthasar Burkhard offers possibilities. David Renaud and Philippe Terrier-Hermann present maps which, though realistic, are made unusual by their own point of views. Ayako Yoshimura depicts a new territory, between utopia and heterotopy : a hyper megalopolis combining Tokyo, Shanghai, São Paulo, Chicago, New York and Yokohama; Marie-José Burki presents a scan of the Genevan suburbs. A manure heap by Philippe Gronon plays as a counterpoint to three cliché-like landscape paintings by Lisa Milroy. Sébastian Diaz-Morales’ movie takes us into unknown and unidentified areas, though real. Simon Faithfull’s video showing an abandoned fishing station in the Falkland Islands inhabited again by the native population as well as Neal Beggs’ performance about appropriating public spaces suggest an opportunity for hope. Delphine Bedel has travelled the mythical Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles, Gérard Collin-Thiébaud has wandered through Corsica and Valérie Jouve has approached Munster by river, rail and road. With ‘Celebration’, Quirine Racké and Helena Muskens present a town built in 1996 by Disney, which is how a capitalistic firm has seized the concept of Utopia…

Innovation may bring some practical applications contributing to activate some concepts of utopia in its desire of a better ‘living together’ but it ought to be done in respect of community ideals specific to its genesis. Should utopia be applied thanks to innovations only available for an elite, it would result again in a dead end, in the same way as the one which led to the dismantling of the housing schemes buildings of the 60′s and 70′s.

Putting in place utopias based on innovation should benefit to everybody, far from the law-and-order drifts of gated communities or other barrio cerrados. These walled residential areas started in the USA, are developing from Buenos Aires to Cape Town and show a worrying rise in Europe. This fantasized Rhine-Rhône metropolis, in which it would take 20 minutes for a Besançon resident to attend an opera in Dijon or for a Belfort inhabitant to be in Mulhouse thanks to high speed trains is surely a pleasing idea, but on the condition that access to the trains should not be challenged by an elitist commercial policy which would again result in a new failure for Utopia. At least, this is the message which seems to be expressed by the artists and their ‘territorial’ visions!

«Today, the world is too dangerous for anything less than utopia» Richard Buckminster Fuller

Opening: Jan 28th from 8pm to midnight
From 28th January to 26th February 2010: Open from Monday to Friday from 2pm to 7pm (closed from 6th to 23rd February)