The story about a rabbit – developmentPosted: February 21, 2014
When I was looking for inspiration for my CITY project from film/song/poetry and books that have similar theme of cultural identity and its relationship with changing one’s behaviour and characteristics, I came across this beautiful story from a book written by Kurt Schwitters titled ‘The story about a rabbit‘. It’s a story of a rabbit who experienced a transformation into different animal forms.
Once upon a time there was a brown rabbit that had long hair and long ears and a short tail, and it hopped around the corner even when there wasn’t a corner to hop around. Actually it wasn’t brown, but rosy, and its hair was actually short, and its tail was curly. And actually it didn’t hop at all but grunted and dug in the mud. Then it looked muddy and no longer rosy, but rather dark grey red. And if it had small piglets, they suckled on the rabbit. However, actually it wasn’t grey red, rather grey white, and it had many feathers and a pair of beautiful wings, but it couldn’t fly. On its legs it had flippers and it swam proudly on the pond in the park, and people who walked by threw it bread crumbs. That is, actually it swam underwater, had golden scales and a tail with two points. That is actually it didn’t have much of a tail; rather, it had two ears and was very fat and preferred to spend a good deal of time in the Nile River. Its mouth had a magnificent row of teeth. That is, actually it was driven by steam, had a propeller behind it and two anchors in the front. In the middle there was a chimney, and on the bridge there was a captain who belonged to a Hamburg shipping line. That is, actually he was very small, liked to jump as far as he could, and sought protection underneath the clothes of women, and the women scratched themselves. So this was the rabbit, and this was the story about the rabbit. That is, actually it wasn’t a story at all, but a transformation that even made the rabbit grow up.
Well then, it was a story and it was indeed also about a rabbit.
From Kurt Schwitters: Lucky Hans and other Merz fairy tales – translated by Jack Zipes. 2009
At first I thought that the rabbit was playing a game of disguise, wearing a costume, a mask to conceal his true identity, but then I realised that he was actually going through some transformations (physical and psychological) that made him grew up.
By understanding a little deeper into it, I think that there’s an ambiguity within the story. Schwitters wrote the transformation of the rabbit in incompleteness which invited me to include my psychology perception that is projected onto the story. Which I think this would be an example of constructivist based theory as explained by a famous art historian E.H. Gombrich. I thought that the story apply the constructivist theory since Schwitters was active in International Constructivist Art movement in 1922. Kurt Schwitters is a German artist whose works are heavily influence by Dada movement. His most famous futurist works are those of his collages and assemblage art, which has inspired many other great artists such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg
On Feb 13th, 2014 I had a tutorial with my constellation lecturer Dr. Martyn Woodward about the end of term-five minutes presentation. I told him about my idea of Kurt Schwitters’ book in connection with constructivist theory. His feedback was very constructive as he explained to me that the correct theory for the book is in fact Defamiliarization theory by Viktor Shklovsky. He also referred me to a story about the Blind men and an elephant. He inspired me to produce an image of ‘combine’ rabbit transformation. I will explain more in my next post including the final images of the story about a rabbit book for my personal-field project.
In regard with my city project, I feel that ‘The story of a rabbit’ reflects what is happening inside the rabbit’s character and identity. Although he transformed into different animal forms he is still the same rabbit. I found this connection between identity, transformation and relationship between them interesting. I talked to some of migrants coming from Asia, Africa and America who have been living in Newport for more than five years and asked them their opinions about the integration of new culture in the new society and their origin culture and I gathered that somehow they all have experienced transformation. The transformation is shown in the behaviour, language (e.g. accent), the way they present themselves, the political views, religion and e.t.c. So, based on this book and my findings, I would like to make a constantina book that depict the rabbit’s transformation as one of my final works.