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Local Artists

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2012 by javedbabar

Sophie was given a month off after fainting in the old quarry. Why this had happened, she couldn’t say. She fainted maybe once a year, usually following a trauma such as a blood test, tooth extraction, or session of heavy drinking. Never just like that though, and her heart stopping was scary to think about.

Maybe the old quarry’s manager, Albert, had overreacted. Maybe her heart’s beating and her breathing were fine, and his old miner’s ears just couldn’t hear. He didn’t seem like the kind of guy to make a drama out of a crisis. It must really have happened.

Her dreams of every kind of art continued. Blue and gold paintings, violin solos, white-masked dancers, poetry, stories, dramas, sculptures, celebrations, parties, holy rituals.

Were these inspirations or delusions? She yearned to visit the old quarry, but was scared to. What if she fainted again?

During her month off, an answer came to her. The quarry was a place of pain, where Mother Earth had been butchered. Her body had, piece by piece, been ripped out and removed, and once the demand for rock was exhausted, the quarry was abandoned like an old crone.

Her vision had been one of endless life, pouring forth, unstoppable. What if this place of pain could become a place of healing? She continued working on her status report for the old quarry.

“Sophie, what a nice surprise,” said her CEO, seeing her back in the office.

“I have the report.”

“But you’ve only just got back. Don’t you need more time?”

Sophie said it was complete. She shared her vision of using the vast, bare walls, floors, ceilings, and pillars of the quarry as a projection area. Bringing the stone to life, like a miracle, and using it to show every kind of art.

“That sounds very interesting. Leave it with me. I will take a look.”

Sophie imagined that would be the last she would hear of the project, but a week later her CEO called her in again. “Good news, Sophie. Your plan has been approved, at least on a test basis. I had to put my name on it for the project to acquire traction, but we both know it’s yours really. As recognition of that you can manage the project.”

The quarry project was approved for community use only. Sophie contacted Eric Yahoo, Director of the Lucerne Arts Council, who asked for a week to fathom a plan. He responded with a fund-raising proposal including carefully costed lighting, logistics, security, production charges and vendors’ fees. The concept revolved around ten reconditioned slide projectors showing sixty images each per hour, filling the quarry with pictures.

Local artists offered their works freely, which were loosely fitted together into the It’s Mine! Festival, a humorous critique of materialistic existence. Their paintings, music, dance, poetry, stories, drama, sculpture, celebrations, parties and rituals were combined, creating an overwhelming spectacle.

A critic from the New City Sun christened these artists the Lucerne Set. He loved their clay figurines, urban tapestries, unmade beds, pickled watermelons, moose dung, monkey graffiti, blood heads, and twinned personae.

It was a diluted version of Sophie’s vision, and seeing it manifested made her cry. From this old quarry she had mined rich treasure.

Placemaker

Posted in Infinite City, Lucerne Village, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2012 by javedbabar

“This is the place,” said Bertie. “Just perfect. What do you think?”

Shama looked around the village car park. It didn’t seem anything special, just tarmac with some potted trees. “What do you mean?” he said.

“Look, I know you’re involved with the Botanical Garden; that’s a great place too. Lots of people walk around in there before and after work, but it’s a different kind of place. It’s enclosed and full of small trails…”

Shama waved at a girl he’d chatted to in the garden. She smiled and indicated she’d be in the coffee shop. He could join her there when he’d finished with Bertie. Why was this guy so keen to bring him here? wondered Shama; it was only a car park. He said, “I’m not really involved there yet. I’ve just signed up to study. That’s all.”

Bertie said, “What are you studying? Landscape gardening?”

“It’s called Extreme Gardening,” said Shama. “But what’s that got to do with this place?”

Bertie’s eyes lit up when he said place. “I think you understand the concept of place, but you’re not being open. The Botanical Garden is a natural space, but we also need a cultural space in the village. There’s the community centre, of course, but that’s a building, not a place for public interaction; it’s part of a design philosophy that separates civic functions, and caters to cars and shopping centres rather than people. We should be creating good public spaces that promote people’s happiness, and their health and well being. A building of any kind is a contrived environment; we should create open spaces.”

Shama saw a guy he’d played soccer with last week. It was just a kick around in the car park, avoiding passing vehicles, but they’d had a lot of fun. The guy shouted, “Wanna kick around later on?” Shama gave a thumbs up, then returned his attention to Bertie. “Sorry about that. What were we saying? Oh yes, open spaces. What do they have to do with me?”

“Look. You’ve come here from the inner city. You told me the police sirens and search helicopters drove you mad, and you craved peace and quiet. Well, here you have it. But don’t you miss all the social interactions? In the city there are too many people, that’s true, and the only way to retain your sanity is to ignore them. But here in the village, we see too few people. It can get lonely. I thought you would appreciate that and support my initiative.”

Shama said, “Well, what are you trying to achieve?” Some high school kids called out to him with a chorus of “Yo!”s. He’d joined in with their rapping last week, gaining instant street cred. He shouted back, “Ho!”

Bertie said, “The way to make a real place is to use the local community’s assets, to discover their inspiration and potential. This is an agricultural area. We should focus on food – its growing, tasting and trading. That would attract local people and increase their social encounters. It would get them out of the boxes they live, travel, and work in and immerse them in the real sights and sounds of Lucerne, plus enhance their thoughts and imaginations. In the five minutes we’ve been chatting, a number of people have greeted you already. If only we could create a focus here. It could be the crossing point of a vibrant community.”

It would be a good place, thought Shama. During his life of petty crime in the city, there were certain things he’d looked for – enclosed spaces, opaque barriers, and no windows and doors nearby; flat or dim lighting, hiding places, uncontrolled access points; high risk targets out of view. Lucerne’s car park had none of these things. It was open and free. It would be perfect for natural surveillance; citizens would keep an eye on each other, and the risk of being caught was high. There would be no temptation to return to his old ways. This was The Place, he thought.

Oxygen

Posted in Lucerne Village, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 5, 2012 by javedbabar

Adam and Lucy arrived at 9.30am to ensure a good spot at the front of the crowd. This was so exciting! Their first Canadia Day, in their first home together, in their new Village; somewhere where people actually knew each other, and made and grew things, and came together as a community. “The happiest, healthiest place in Canadia,” they’d heard it called.

Every resident of Lucerne was present. The street was filled with red and white balloons and flags. Red and white children chased each other through crowds, with silly spotted dogs running after them. It was a celebration of all that was good about this Village: happy children, uniformed and helmeted heroes, profitable, job-making businesses, lovers of cats, fish and, birds, First Nations singing and drumming, Seniors still rocking and rolling, the noble mayor-farmer and wise council, fifth-generation potato growers; those enthused by motorcycles and bicycles; and those who tinker with engines to make them roar like castrated dinosaurs.

Adam and Lucy cheered every float passing. They were confused however by the approach of an industrial fuel tank which caused the crowd to hush into reverential silence. Why had everybody gone quiet? Adam said, “They’re looking at us.”

“No they’re not,” said Lucy. “They’re looking at the fuel tank.”

“Well why are they looking?” Now people really were looking at them, as the only ones talking among the crowd of two-thousand. The sea of hush. They became self-conscious, looked at each other, and hushed too. As the tank drew closer, they saw that it was not borne on the back of a truck, but on the backs of people. A hundred of Lucerne’s residents carried it proudly.

Being new in town, they hadn’t heard the Story of Shirley. She was born to farmers in the Lucerne Valley, and her parents had both died in a horrific agricultural accident. Despite being “safe” in the house, noxious fumes affected her young lungs, which suffered irreversible damage and degeneration. They didn’t really fail, just fell apart gradually. She tried not to exert herself and stayed in the house as much as possible, but when she hit nineteen, like any young lady she wanted to get out. However her lungs couldn’t extract enough oxygen from the atmosphere and needed constant topping up, so she couldn’t go anywhere without an oxygen supply. A small water bottle sized container was adequate.

This proved to be an issue at the Lucerne Hotel, which had recently been fined for liquor licence infringements. The doorman had been instructed to be extra tough on customers. He said, “Sorry love, you can’t bring that in here.”

“Why not?” said Shirley.

“You can’t bring in bottles from outside. That’s the rules.”

“But it doesn’t have any liquid in it. It’s just oxygen.”

“Even if it doesn’t have any liquid, you can’t bring it in.” She could tell that the doorman was not being mean deliberately,  just following orders. “You could fill it with liquor and take it out.” He seemed relieved by his invented justification.

“Why would I do that?” Shirley said. “I could buy some from the bottle shop. It’s cheaper there. It even comes in its own handy bottle already.”

“Very funny,” said the doorman. “Ok, let’s just take a look at the bottle.” Shirley handed it over, and he twisted it open before she could stop him. He was surprised by its hiss, and peered inside and said, “Ok, you were right, it’s only air. I’ll let you take it in this time.”

Shirley teared up. It was impossible to enter now that her lifeline was gone. Her mother had taught her to not complain in life, and there was nobody alive to complain to. She returned home immediately.

Shirley’s lungs worsened and she needed more oxygen. A bar visit now was out of the question. She decided to visit the library, carrying a large Coke bottle sized oxygen container. But health and safety rules at municipal facilities forbade people to bring in unchecked containers. The security guard insisted that she open it up. Shirley cried at the hiss that once again forced her to go home.

Kind neighbours did her shopping, but sometimes she had to do it herself. As her lungs deteriorated, she wheeled around a bucket sized oxygen container. The grocery store guard repeated the all too familiar procedure. He said that Local Food Laws did not permit noxious gases near fresh produce. “But they sit in it for months in shipping containers,” she said. “This is just oxygen, you know, what we breathe.” He insisted on checking. She went home without food.

Eventually Shirley needed to push around a dustbin sized oxygen container. The coffee shop guard said its contents may ruin the roasting process. “But it’s oxygen,” she said. “Like the bubbles in froth.” But he needed to check this.

The Lucerne Hotel’s doorman found Shirley crying in the car park one day. She told him about her failing lungs and her need for ever-more oxygen. He sat with her for a while, and asked for her to accept his apology. The next week he went to visit her home. She now needed a twin bed sized oxygen container. He called six of his buddies and together they lifted it up and followed Shirley around town. Word got around quickly, and she was welcomed everywhere. New laws were passed. No smoking, no cell phones, and no electricity were to be live anywhere near her, as the risk of pressurized gas igniting was too great. The true measure of any society is how it treats its weakest members. Lucerne passed with honours. It became a quiet reflective town, where people listened to and helped others.

Adam and Lucy saw a weak, smiling girl walking before the industrial tank borne aloft by Lucerne’s citizens. When she raised her pathetic hand to wave, everybody began cheering. She seemed embarrassed, but also the proudest girl in the world.