At the 1910 edition of the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, a messy, muddled painting of a sunset over the sea was exhibited. Titled Et le soleil s’endormit sur l’Adriatique (Sunset Over the Adriatic), the picture was presented by the artist Joachim-Raphaël Boronali from Genoa, and was said to be a part of the “Excessivist” movement. The Excessivist movement did not exist, and neither did Boronali. Both were the invention of writer and critic Roland Dorgelès. Dorgelès and a few friends attached a paintbrush to the tail of a donkey named Lolo, a mascot and entertainer of sorts kept at a Montmartre bar called Le Lapin Agile.
Traveling around Europe in the midst of all this, conducting dissertation research on the Czech interwar avant-garde and its relationship to other major artistic centers of that period, I could not but think about renewed border controls in the EU territory within the context of, and in comparison to, travel in the period between the two World Wars. At that time, Europeans (as well as travelers from further afield) enjoyed a newly open, post-war terrain. The physical movement of bodies, facilitated also by new and faster modes of travel, helped to open up an unprecedented level of exchange between artists and intellectuals of diverse backgrounds and languages. In that brief window of freedom of movement between the two World Wars, Paris was a hub of such traffic, and many visitors came from Prague.
* Jeremy Allan Hawkins *
This is Strasbourg cathedral’s 1000th year, the first stone in its foundation having been laid in September of 1015 CE, and as the city begins a year of celebrations, it seems appropriate to meditate. Its lengthy tenure has seen world shaking events come and go. The cathedral survived two world wars and even some of the ordinance exploded during them. It survived the French revolution and it survived the Protestant reformation, which in another universe might have scoured its façade of all ornament. These events, and so many more, have swept past like the river sweeps past the city center and its vestiges of long-departed industry. The longevity of the cathedral, with all it has outlasted, feels almost eternal.
‘by Jeremy Allan Hawkins’
In Alsatian, “Stockfeld” means something like “field recently reclaimed from the forest,” and it was the name of a rural satellite village six kilometers south of Strasbourg. At the turn of the twentieth century it was mostly agricultural, and relatively distant from urban life. It was here that the city planners decided to build 457 new housing units for the working class who were displaced by La Grande Percée, and to do so in the spirit of the Garden City Movement.
* Jeremy Allan Hawkins *
At the turn of the twentieth century, the increasingly poor living conditions in central Strasbourg were the subject of study by municipal housing associations. Inspectors discovered buildings in advanced stages of dilapidation, often with large groups of people living in small single rooms with chronic humidity problems. Many residents lived in housing with no windows or direct light of any kind. Outside, the streets were narrow and dirty, spotted with dung heaps and all kinds of garbage. At the time, journalists and surveyors were openly referring to the old city center as resembling a cesspit or an open sewer. The city leaders decided a radical action would need to be taken to address the problem.