Excerpt from The Crystal Frontier by Mai-Thu Perret:
I am in P. I live in an attic. On the fifth floor. It’s already spring, the window is open. The traffic is awful. Yesterday, I was watching people dance and I really wanted to be home and not here.
It’s true, you’re right, the streets are interesting when there is traffic and at night when they are lit up. As for the advertising, I was very disappointed. I expected something much better, it is so mediocre that there really isn’t anything to say about it. The neon signs are not bad, not really because of what they promote but because there are so many of them and they’re well fabricated. I couldn’t find the poster you told me about though. In general, from an artistic point of view, P. is very provincial. On the other hand, the bridges and the escalators are very beautiful. For some time there had been a growing demand for everything new, and now they’ve started selling the kind of novelty fabrics we love to imitate at home, but there are also a lot of geometric patterns. All the rooms are covered with this style of wallpaper. I’d like to send you catalogues, but haven’t had time to find those stores yet, there are so many streets I don’t know.
Yesterday night I walked down the streets on my own, I saw a lot of circuses and movie theatres, but I didn’t dare go anywhere, there are so many places where you must pay to go in and it’s hard when you don’t speak the language. I observe everything. What imbeciles and idiots people are: they have so much and they don’t do anything, they “make love,” as they say so delicately. The woman as object fabricated by the capitalist West will be its downfall. Everything about them is fabricated: the hands, the postures, the bodies. There are dozens of theatres where naked women spend the entire night silently, wearing huge expensive feathers, in front of an expensive décor, and nothing happens, they walk by, and that’s all, everybody’s happy. Every single one is different. And what’s the point? They parade naked and that’s all. They don’t speak, they don’t dance, they don’t move. They just walk on by, one after the other… In groups of three, five, or 20… and that’s it. And even now, I couldn’t possibly tell whether it is exactly “nothing,” or whether they are “objects.”
In truth there is very little to see in this exhibition. They’ve build an enormous number of pavilions, from afar they are all ugly and from up close it’s even worse. Everything is cluttered.
What this signifies is that we must work, and work, and work. The new light does not only represent the liberation of the worker, it also signifies a new attitude towards men, towards women, towards objects. Even objects, in our hands, must be our equals, real comrades, and we will learn to laugh, have fun, and talk with them. Look how many objects there are here, coldly ornamented and coldly ornamenting the city from outside, while from inside they are doing their hard work, like slaves plotting a disaster to avenge themselves from their oppressors. To live here you either have to be against everything or become a thief. That’s what makes me love the way we see things. Now I understand the capitalist who has too little, the opium of life really is objects. They are absolutely unable to tell the difference between an object and an ersatz. We will never be able to build a new model for life if our relationships are like the ones of those Western bohemians. That’s the real problem. First there is our way of life. Then we must come together, stay united, and trust each other. Now I understand that we must never imitate anything, but to create what is new following our own taste.
The club is ready now, I’m sending you the photographs. It is really so simple, clear, and light that one never wants to make it dirty. A lot of enamel, a lot of white, a lot of black, and a lot of grey.
(My understanding is that this text is adapted from a letter that Aleksandr Rodchenko wrote while visiting Paris)