Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Bellmer Travelogue: Love Sanctuary

It’s the striking sounds you hear, it’s the burst of air you feel, you’re desperate to sprint to a place of sanctuary, away from the boredom/hysteria of the organised/chaotic world [war, politics, family breakdowns, etc.] You’re yearning for sexual excitement again! Just pack your bags, grab your loved one and drive towards the mountainous plains, as a thriving metropolis is hidden hundreds of miles away from organised society – but it’s only been in recent years that this metropolis – the Love Sanctuary – has been discovered by the public conscience. It’s the ultimate place where no-one can conform, where everyone can become spoiled babies and children again, diving into what they [perhaps mostly men] crave most in life!
From the far distance, a giant, yet narrow metropolis can be seen among the hills, rocks, craters and cliffs. A collection of skyscrapers hugging tight together [their roofs and antennae almost sticking to each other], as smaller newer structures surround the skyscrapers, all bordered up by concrete and wooden walls to keep their ideal land tight and safe [although recently have been slightly broken down due to the quick invasion]. Many of the bloated exterior shells seem to resemble women’s anatomy, such as breasts with nipples, masks, stomachs and thighs, and there is probably no such thing as a ground floor in the Love Sanctuary, as the hilly terrain leads you from one height at one end to another height at the other. Because the city council had planned decades ago that they would not expand their square miles of land beyond a fixed distance to protect the wilderness and wildlife surround it, the recent discovery has led to quickly increasing overpopulation leading to an overall heat and light trap.
The tallest structures, constructed from combinations of concrete and steel, with hints of brick in certain areas, may look excitingly pink, violet and red from a far distance, but they quickly fade away as you near closer, as these structures have been derelict and worn down in recent years [cracked concrete and growing vegetation in those cracks] – the city council has had little control over the fast increase in population and has led to some violence; some male visitors becoming so hysteric with what is there to offer in the Love Sanctuary, leading to fighting, bruises, smashes and blood stains. Even the famous Art Deco-style clock tower at the very top of the skyscraper collection, with its golden sun plate sitting on top, reveals dying colours, some cracks and smashes from the recent riots.
Clouds of dark, puffy smoke occupy the narrow urban island, in contrast with the cloudy/blue sky in the wilderness surroundings, coming from the chimneys on the roofs and from underground [where else can you expand?], the temperature rises as you near as the heat and electricity is trapped inside. As you near one of the grand entrance gates [slightly broken down], your female companion becomes gradually alienated by the entire city, yet there doesn’t seem to be that much choice around this plain desert!
All male visitors to the city pay a £10 fee to enter the gates, whereas for women it is £30, as they are escorted to the underground entrances [with entrances and interiors similar to the Nazi concentration camps] which will lead them to the city centre – the city council implies that both genders discover each other, rather than escort each other in the same direction, because that is what will bring up sexual excitement again!
With the overpopulation issue, the massive town square has been occupied by a quickly growing shanty town settlement, as so many visitors refuse to travel back to their normal lives and want to become citizens. The tallest curving, bloated and wavy structures [slightly derelict] contrast heavily with the shanty towns built up [across levels and platforms] from recycled materials such as steel planes, wooden planks, mud piles and bricks – the long-term male visitors would have stolen the items from the many shopping districts to set up their own ideal homes, but still living in poor and dirty conditions [some fire barrels can even be seen from a distance, due to smashed street lights over the years].
Large portraits of famous young women in the entertainment and arts are hanged across the building walls around the city centre, much like Mao Zedong at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, as well as dangling flags, ribbons and gowns, whilst numbers from 1930s Broadway and Hollywood musicals are played from loudspeakers to constantly liven the mood, especially in the face of growing destruction and unrest. Smells of perfume, laundry detergent, lipstick and women’s shampoo are forced across the city to excite the visitors [men more than women].
Large pits and pools located across the hilly terrain of the city are filled with soft objects [cushions, mattresses, duvet covers, ball pits, stuffed animals, etc.] are designed for both sexes to grab each other in the ultimate places to have sex [almost resembling padded solitary confinement cells] Long queues are always seen for each pit [like public pools and roller coasters]. Among other facilities are giant love trampolines, sex cinema multiplexes and a pavilion for exploring virtual women innovations [of course, many of them have become run down due to the ‘over-excitement!’]
Many of the long-term visitors are dressed in bright, white and seducing soft clothes [regulation by the city council], whilst cycling is the only form of transport allowed, giving way to the freedom of cycling across the hilly city terrain through the many bumps, ramps, platforms and levels you would normally find in skating parks – the cycling paths are designated by a yellow border on either side. There are even convenient curving slide paths for cycling or just sliding down [metal chutes] between the different skyscrapers/structures.
Among the shops and restaurants spread across different platforms through the city are exotic food markets, French, Italian and Japanese restaurants, cosmetics and clothes stores [exaggerated colours] that stretch for miles across several floors, and the Love Hotel industry is incredibly competitive in this city, as different hotel businesses stack on top of each other stretching the cityscape [with its juxtaposed windows and doors].
In general, of course, Love Sanctuary’s city council constantly wants to remind you that there is nothing wrong with behaving like little children again as you and your loved ones sprint through the many services the city has to offer, though the gradual wearing down of the city may make you think differently after all, on how you really should behave throughout your time on Earth!

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  1. You have some interesting thoughts here Robin; I think you could distil them a little further, as although your city does sound chaotic, you are still throwing everything including the kitchen sink at it! The exotic food markets for example... that starts to give it more appealing and cosmopolitan feel again. And I'm not sure what the significance of having a clock tower as the central feature is?

    I think you are onto something with the sentence '(they)...remind you that there is nothing wrong with behaving like little children again', as this ties in nicely with some of the Freudian ideas that Bellmer had. This, combined with the bulging, overpopulated buildings, could give you a seriously anxiety-inducing atmosphere. Let's see some thumbnails now, really exploring this environment!

  2. I'm so reminded of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World dystopia when I read this... and I think that's the key word 'dystopian' - if I look at Bellmer's art, do I see someone remotely interested in chutes, decorative deco clock towers? No, I see something more squalid, more dysfunctional and more uncanny. Jackie is right - I'd like you to deal with what is adult and disturbing about Bellmer, because not dealing with that element seems a bit perverse. You've got some chilling ideas in here (the concentration camps, the sense that women are being objectified), but it does feel too as if you're making this city about your historical research, as opposed to making it about Bellmer...

  3. Some vivid imagery going on here. Well done as this stage can be a difficult hurdle if you don't have a strong image in your head. But the chaos you are describing feels a hint too open to interpretation. You describe this place as a pleasure city but I also get hints of a thieves' paradise or destitute slum so while true that cities can be like this, it might help return you to your artist's themes by narrowing it down.

    You're going for chaotic. But what kind of chaotic? I like the image of garish red light districts, bloated pleasure hotels, gaudy sex-obsessed tower blocks and an infinite choice of satisfaction for anyone looking to discover or share time with the men/women they love.

    Phil has a point - look at Brave New World a little; a quintissential "dismal utopia" that is a paradise for the naive or unaware and a horror for the conscientious. What you've created reminds me of the island of the lotus-eaters from Homer's Odyssey, who are trapped due to the nature of the namesake activity that makes them wonder "why would I ever leave, this place has all I need"