Artist Béatrice Coron creates series of cities juxtaposing countless human activities. “Personal Cities” are narrative urban territories, containing all the essential facts of her friends’ life, represented in cut paper tableaux.
Brooklyn Public Library: August 16- October 2, 2005
Texts by Mick Stern
Béatrice Coron began working on her series of CityEscapes in 1999. In subsequent years she explored different themes and variations and created InnerCity, SagaCity and ExCentriCity, just to name a few. She creates, out of the proximity and juxtaposition of countless human activities, a multiplicity of possible narratives. “Personal Cities” began with the idea of imagining a city that would contain all the essential elements of one single person’s life. She asked friends to describe in words the kind of city they would like to call home. Beatrice then made a paper-cut image of each person’s wishes. This guided tour will help you discover these personal spaces, and visualize the city of your dreams.
It’s hard to picture now, but once our ancestors were heavier than air. They lived on the ground, in the dirt, vulnerable to predators. They looked up and envied the careless freedom of the birds.
All that ended one spring day when the First Balloonist demonstrated the first hot air balloon. He waved to the crowd as he sailed over the trees toward the ocean, never to be seen again.
But his example inspired our ancestors to build Balloon City. Today we’re still aloft, we’re still adding new balloons for young families and patching up the old balloons. We only come down for brief periods of planting and harvest, but in a different place every year. Most of the time we’re floating alongside each other, changing places, swapping books and recipies with new neighbors, holding open air concerts, gazing at the landscape, looking for whales if we’re over water, admiring constellations at night, always drifting and drifting.
Marie: Flower City
Marie’s Flower City would be a major tourist attraction if any airline were permitted to fly there. Several tall buildings open in the morning at sunrise and close at sunset, like giant flowers. This heliotropic community is filled with pleasant gardens and pools. All roads go through the air. At ground level, the main passage is filled with shops on one side and farms on the other side, so one never feels oppressed by too much urban development. As a result, the inhabitants are very relaxed and friendly—all the more so because there are no rich and no poor in Flower City. All transportation is public. People float from one place to another in propeller-driven bubbles.
Warren: Tree City
Warren’s Tree City should be the first destination for anybody who likes an outdoor life. Most of the city is actually outdoors; it is built upon an enormous, outspread oak. This city-sized tree, by the way, is the largest living thing known to Warren. On and around its branches, people go camping, fly kites, ride bicycles, go hiking or even enjoy a ride in an old-fashioned carriage. To get to the upper branches, you have to climb or take the blimp. If you want other diversions, you can visit a theater, a museum, or eat in some well-equipped kitchens inside the trunk where cooks prepare delicious meals for hungry bicyclists and hikers at the end of the day.
Lise: Village City
Lise’s Village City has been called “a city with the soul of a small town” (by Lise herself,). You’ll see this when you stroll around these neighborhoods. A woman leans out her window and talks to a man on a unicycle. Vendors carry baskets of nuts and dried fruit. Fresh laundry flutters overhead; the trolley passes by (cars are banned). Some people own giraffes, monkeys, or even alligators, but there’s nothing to worry about, because large reptiles must be leashed — it’s the law. The visitor to Village City will soon realize that the inhabitants have a passion for music. It seems as if everybody either sings or plays an instrument. Harps, cellos, and trombones are particularly popular, especially in trios. People play music out in the street when the weather is fair, and the children dance in their own way.
Mick: Water City
Mick’s Water City consists of three edifices rising from the sea. Unexpectedly, the local birds have grown to enormous sizes. If you go to the upper floors, you can feel the warmth of their wings as they fly past. The citizens of Water City like to go to parties, read poetry, play music, contemplate the sky, stand on their heads, and go fishing out of their windows. They are crazy about boat rides and they like to fly on the feathery backs of the giant birds. If you look at the top of the central building, you’ll see one lone bird sitting quietly in a cage; many consider this the only way to acquire wisdom. If you’re lucky, somebody may cancel their reservation for the cage just before you show up. Otherwise, you’ll have to add your name to the waiting list—which fortunately is not too long.
Bea: World City
If you could fit everything into one city, that would be Bea’s World City. Indeed, many experienced travelers feel it’s a waste of time to go anywhere else, for here you have it all: the Gobi Desert, Arizona, the Alps, Marrakech, rice paddies, corals, libraries, museums and of course, Tibet. You don’t need any visas or tickets. You just pick a street (let’s say Fifth Avenue) walk a few blocks, turn the corner, and you’re in Yucatan. When that gets too hot, walk a few more blocks and you’ll be able to ski in Chamonix. What’s that down at the end of the Boulevard St. Michel? The pink flamingos of Lake Nakuru! At night in World City, the diversions are endless, and in lighted windows above the dark street, you can see the silhouettes of people engaged in doing everything you ever dreamed of.
Thomas: Sun City
Hedonists would head for Thomas’ Sun City in droves, but they can’t, because the location is secret in order to keep the droves out. Some rooms remain empty but music is heard eveywhere. Something delicious is simmering on the stove. The city rises like a pyramid toward the sun, with many terraces and gardens with banana trees, oleander, bougainvillea, frangipani and other semi-tropical plants. There is a library filled with shelves and shelves of books, and almost everybody is an avid reader. Refreshing waterfalls beckon on all sides, and sunbathers recline in the nude on the spacious city beach. Others relax by puffing on narghiles, sitting in hot tubs, or strolling through gardens.