Saturday 15 September 2012

Clair De Lune, A story 'Made In Athens' #3

[Clair de Lune, model and photograph by draftworks*architects] 

The third story of Athens, Northwest Passage is about Hippothontis, a tribe that believes it originates from the night sky. This is why they know everything about the night sky, all the stars and the constellations, with the slightest scientific detail. They however mix scientific knowledge with fables, myths and imagination and they can’t actually distinguish astronomy from astrology, or even sometimes reality from fiction. The most magnificent of Hippothontis inventions is the Planisphere. This is a structure that, like an inversed planetarium on which the night sky is engraved, covers the inner patios of their blocks. The Hippothontis people orientate their daily life according to this structure. Their friendships, the flat they live on, more or less significant moments in their life are linked with the view of the structure. At the end of each month, when the moon is full, the structure is lit from below and all the stars of the night sky glow in their patio just for one night. This is when the Hippothontis celebrate their biggest fair.

Excerpts from the story Clair de Lune, part of the project 'Athens: Northwest Passage', by draftworks* Exhibited at the 13th Venice Biennale, Greek pavilion [curators: Panos Dragonas, Anna Skiada] 

This is how the story starts:


‘I would cheerfully have died then, because I had lived through the most beautiful story I had ever read in my entire life. Perhaps I had found that we all look for in the pages of books and on the screens of movie theatres: it was a story in which the stars and I were the protagonists’
Umberto Eco, Six Walks in the Fictional Woods

Hippothontis, Day 5, Maupertius

Hippothontis is a tribe that is not too much attached to this world. Some people say that their origin is from the sky, the night-sky, and that is where they tend to return.

Their knowledge of astronomy is very precise, and yet they confuse astronomy with astrology, most likely on purpose. They have written countless books about each one of the stars and the constellations, extremely detailed with all their physical properties and exact distance from earth. And yet, if you ask them, they will tell you that according to the old myth ‘stars are the pinholes in the curtain of the night poked by blooming-birds trying to escape’, or they will passionately try to assure you that, ‘as the French scientist Maupertuis has taught the nebulae are openings in the firmament, through which the empyrean can be seen’. That is not because they are confused, but because they have an eccentric understanding of reality; most of the times they don’t want to distinguish reality from fiction, or precision from approximation. They sometimes take for reality events that they have imagined, or events that others have narrated to them, and the opposite; they may take a real event for a caprice of imagination. That is why when they talk to each other one may understand them as being ironic, or schizophrenic; and a foreigner may even be insulted, as he will not understand if they are true to him or tease him and making fun of him. And yet what I admired to them was exactly that: they can talk about something obvious as being totally irrational and make something absurd seem to you as the most self-evident true in the world. And you will know that they never lie about it.


And this is how the story ends:

Hippothontis , Day 12, The Moonlight Landscape Fair

For 29,53 consecutive days each month, in between the two full moons, the Planisphere is full-lit and the constellations shine as if they have moved from the sky to the ground, the walls and the roofs. However once a month, when the moon is full and the stars in the sky have disappeared, when the moonlight casts on the buildings top and blind walls, they celebrate their biggest fare. They all go below the Inversed Planetarium and raise their look up. This is when the stars become actual pinholes and the ceiling becomes a glorious nebulae, lit by the moon, and then they tell you with pride: ‘Here, now you see how Maupertius was right’. This is when they switch the constellations off for a day 'And through the quiet moonlight their songs rise’:

Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.
Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L'amour vainqueur et la vie opportune
Ils n'ont pas l'air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,
Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d'extase les jets d'eau,
Les grands jets d'eau sveltes parmi les marbres.

[Clair de Lune, model and photograph by draftworks*architects]

[Clair de Lune, model and photograph by draftworks*architects]  

Clair1[Clair de Lune, model and photograph by draftworks*architects]

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