edited Daria Kasovsky
ZMAN LE’OMANUT | Tel-Aviv December 13, 2002 | BOULEVARD CENTRAL | 3 walls installation | painted text |
Art Director and Chief Curator: Dr. Gideon Friedlander-Ofrat
We’re gathered soon to celebrate the 70th birthday of Max Nordau - -
And you are right! Indeed, of all those you mentioned, especially Kropotkin - - But he, you know that, had practically no big taste for small communal experiments - -
Anyway, I feel the same as you do; Why bother planning a city when one could write a novel or a dramatic piece? In any case, the wars destroy everything, and when their prop fails, it is upon the oceans and the mountains to wide open their pits - -
Let me once tell you heart to heart, love, my lady architect, you are my north, my compass and all that comes to pass ever, but tell me, how did we ever stumble upon our disgraceful profession? Louise, I hate, I detest, I abhor any mass, and even the smallest cyst, the tiniest swelling above the ground exerting an ambition greater than that of the mole, I do loathe - - I begun. Since two weeks I am writing, and I vouch for it: Opposite my text “News from Nowhere” fades out. People will marvel will be astounded; the perfection of my Garden City is unparalleled. I have in mind a young couple, their kid and a scrivener who shepherds them throughout their family visit to “Nordau”. So was it invited that I name this city. My scrivener knows everything, from general plan to the last detail of every single house. He’s a windbag too. He’ll quote Muthesius, he’ll quote Ebenezer, he knows Kropotkin by heart, not to mention Kaufmann, Openheimer, William Morris and Hertzke - -
This is the layout of my city: Houses not higher than two floors put on a grid of streets. The roofs will be flat, and farewell my beloved circle... Darling, my Nordau will not be a ring-shaped city. Because everything was disfigured! Also the perfect line – deformed. It was like a ‘train’ gone at an enchanted gallop between the hills... Do you remember that line of houses that I so much adored? Nah, not only the circle they demolished, also the line was wiped out, wasn’t it? Now, you tell me Louise, do you know a higher esthetical idealism, have you ever seen anything more profound than Openheimers’ lines of houses? One roof to all; how inexpensive and programmable it was, an impeccable materialization of the social reform - - a picture so beautiful: a line… The capitalists ate their hats, a dagger stuck in their hearts – a simple flat line!
And what’s left of this all, “Free Land in Germany”? What did the “Eden” people do? Less than five years after they erected their communal colony they destroyed all flat roof buildings. The self-built “Eden” they found, all of a sudden, a batch of schlock boxes. Their spirited hearts crushed with yearnings to their old self; crossbeams, turrets, towers and slates... “Eden” will have become “Eden”, they brooded, only when it had exactly replicated Oranienburg. Once spelled it was almost done: Soon was Eden to be furnished with the new law against flat roofs. One small law and the lot of Eden were notched even before World War One. Instead of elaborating the Edenic Reform presented by Openheimer and Lilienthal, they fervently promoted the right roof bevel. This passion matured into a sticky devotion to marmalade production, squash and all sorts of sauces, culminating with a new clutch most frightening called ‘Love of the Land’ upon it I do not dare think at all, where does this kind of love lead to? I am not sure, Louise, a tormenting doubt haunts me, that in the course of translating a Jewish, non-Zionist planning on German land to a Jewish-Zionist planning on the land of Palestine, neither builders nor their successors will come to their senses to really shape it into a better future.
For sure you would not have hesitated a bet against my Schhinkel medal - -
Anyway, to be in advance on the safe side, I set domes on top of all public buildings - - I can not write without smiling, I do not want to write without smiling, -- accept me the way I am, Louise. - -
A central avenue is obligatory, immured and symmetrical all along, from edifice to the number of plants in each parallel flowerbed, a path linking all public buildings leading to a tall tower at the end of the track. If we lost the ‘ring’, and we missed the ‘train’, dearest, to how many more illusions shall we cling? At least symmetry we can keep! Aside, in Eden there was a tower, a tower then I too decree.
With all else I am tuned with the guy who returned from Nebraska.
You too, Louise, go for the lovely story of the Jew who left London and returned to London, not callused, in spite of his considerable efforts to fulfill his father wish and become a corn grower in Nebraska. True, a farmer wasn’t made of him, but in America he mastered stenography, and, to his father great disgrace, he started, alas, to write!
And not only that his failure with corn rising was complete, in point of fact also architecture he never studied at all! What a swell guy, Louise, I must have already told you what I feel about them cysts and swellings… Sir Howard Ebenezer is the man, and I follow him. After I saw how in Germany Openheimer was caused to fail, I too object and negate any form of centralist rule, and any other form of oppression. That’s what speaks my heart with the ideas of Ebenzer: Even though his dream city is hopelessly circular and nauseating more than a carousel - - he had an admiration for medusas - - trust my word on that – you could never find, not in one of his diagrams a concession on free enterprise! His outline is assuredly rigor, the symmetry forever tyrannical, but always – there’s a freedom. Everybody can build his own house.
Do not ask me, Louise, whether they are going to take that in, down at the Jaffa Planner Office, because they won’t. They haven’t got over ‘rings’ and ‘trains’ yet, - - and other obsolete ideals - -
Incidentally, Ebenezer has often remarked, dryly, that the circle did always a great job with diagrams but there’s never been any real necessity to it in situ. As well this is of small importance, Louise, aren’t we lucky, no one will ever build my Nordau City. What lasts are only my nice Kropotkinian scrivener and the boy who asks very good questions.
A thousand kisses on your revolutionary lips, quick, before you separate my head from its shoulders. Ever yours, Alexander (Re-re-UK knock, knock- - )