Monday, 12 October 2009

Changing the way I see Collioure (and art)

Erotic Theory of the Collioure Bell Tower by Marc-André 2 Fugueres

I bought this last year, in Perpignan airport, in a fit of amusement that someone had written such a thing.

And after all, how could something encompassing art, sex and Collioure possibly be bad?

A very slender volume, it then sat on the shelf, forgotten, for the best part of a year, until I started compiling my reading list for this September’s holiday. And then it seemed an obvious thing to take; to read it in the shadow of the iconic bell tower itself.

This was actually just one section of Marc-André 2 Fugueres’s doctoral thesis, but it’s been published in this format in three languages – French, Catalan and English – since it deals with such a well-known building.

A Collioure-born artist, 2 Fugueres’s starting point is that the bell tower is so obviously phallic. But the theme that he develops is that Collioure itself is hermaphroditic in a number of ways, but including geographically.

Taking a map of the town and contrasting it with a Leonardo da Vinci drawing of a woman, he develops an idea of the double harbours being vaginal – indeed, they lead to a ‘canal’, under a bridge, that is the only way to approach the castle directly from the water – and it’s just below the window of the queen’s bedchamber, where she’d have been able to see, directly ahead, the tower.

Beyond the topography of the village, there is the hermaphroditic nature of Collioure itself – neither French nor Spanish, but a combination of the two, making something different: Catalan.

There were times when I found myself chuckling at the strain of the author to make his idea work. But something still struck me.

In working out this idea, 2 Fugueres effectively creates an artistic work – the working through of the idea and the explanation of it to readers becomes a piece of art itself.

2 Fugueres is responsible for a series of frames that are displayed on stands at various vantage points around the village: all of them guide the eye to the bell tower, and are loved by tourists who not only picture the tower through these frames, but also each other – plus holding up babies and small dogs to be similarly pictured.

And thus they all make a new piece of art out of 2 Fugueres’s work.

And with this book, he ensures that every time you see the village and consider it, then your ideas become yet another, new piece of art.

So what seems on the surface to be really quite preposterous, turns out to be quite interestingly provocative.

And I’ll never be able to see Collioure in quite the same way again.

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