An exhibition of unspeakable things: Lovecraft's Commonplace Book
The exhibition concept, in brief:
"An exhibition of unspeakable things" is an exhibition project of the Maison d'Ailleurs, Museum of science fiction (in Switzerland), based on a text by writer H. P. Lovecraft's the Commonplace Book. This work by Lovecraft, consisting of ideas to be developed at a later date, will be used as the basis for illustrations produced by brilliant comics authors/illustrators. The exhibition will present more than one hundred original works by artists whose only common ground is to be willing to embark on such a delirious journey.
Exhibition organizer and location:
The Maison d'Ailleurs (http://www.ailleurs.ch), Museum of science fiction, utopia and extraordinary journeys, is a non-profit foundation with two-fold mission: that of a public museum and a specialized research centre. Founded in 1976, the Maison d'Ailleurs possesses a collection of more than 60'000 objects related to its theme of specialization. This unique museum is the only public institution of its kind in Europe.
Alongside the institutionâ€™s research pole, there is great public interest in the Museum as numerous temporary exhibitions are held that encourage visitors to explore major themes in science fiction (future cities, space travel, etc.) or to discover visionary artists, film-makers, sculptors, painters and comics artists such as: Caza, H.R. Giger, John Howe, Dave McKean, Luc Schuiten, James Gurney and many more. Since 1989, the Maison d'Ailleurs has produced more than fifty exhibitions, both within and outside the Museum, and has attracted the attention of the international press.
H. P. Lovecraft:
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937), an American writer, is considered one of the fathers of XXth Century weird and fantastic fiction. He is the author of over sixty short stories, a novel, as well as poems. Although Lovecraft had a hard life and died young, he is known today as both a pioneer and genius. He influenced many important artists and writers of our time: Robert Bloch, H. R. Giger, Philippe Druillet, Roger Corman, Stephen King as well as Fritz Leiber.
Lovecraft's Commonplace Book is a written compilation of ideas: from 1919 to 1934, Lovecraft wrote down fragments, plot ideas and scenario outlines, all concrete elements he could put to use at any given time. The texts contain suggestions for story-writing (as many as 221 !) as well as a list of horror fundamentals, intended to stimulate the imagination. Today we would call them "pitches" for horror stories, accompanied by images, disparate quotes... This book totally immerses the reader into Lovecraft's world, almost as a witness to the birth of countless future stories yet to unfold. It is interesting to note that the Commonplace Book was actually used by other authors as a Lovecraftian source on which to base new novels and short stories.
The Commonplace Book was selected for the base of the exhibition as it sums up the work of Lovecraft remarkably well. Consisting mainly of short phrases, it is much easier to use as a source of inspiration for an illustration than a short story. The artworks produced for the exhibition will serve to â€œcomplete â€ the ideas in the selected excerpt, to develop it or to bring it to life (in a quirky way or not!). Each artist can use the amount of text he desires.
â†’ Examples of the author's notes:
- "Man observed in a publick place with features (or ring or jewel) identified with those of man long (perhaps generations) buried."
- "Subterranean region beneath placid New England village, inhabited by (living or extinct) creatures of prehistoric antiquity and strangeness."
- "Ancient and unknown ruinsâ€”strange and immortal bird who speaks in a language horrifying and revelatory to the explorers."
- "Individual, by some strange process, retraces the path of evolution and becomes amphibious."
Copyrights: according to the leading Lovecraft scholar, the text appears to be copyright-free (the copyrights for Lovecraftâ€™s work are very complex). Nevertheless, both the copyright agents for Lovecraftâ€™s work in French and the publisher of the French version of the "Commonplace Book" have authorized the Maison d'Ailleursâ€™ creation of an exhibition based on these texts (as well as an accompanying publication).
â†’ A digital version of the text is attached. It also exists in its original English version.
Illustrations: number, type and format:
- As the Maison d'Ailleurs possesses approximately 250 m2 of exhibition space on three floors, a relatively large amount of artwork is required for "an exhibition of unspeakable things ". Participating artists are therefore encouraged to create several illustrations inspired by the "Commonplace Book". There is no limit as to how many!
- Both style and technique are open (black and white, colour, etc.). The works produced may consist of mere illustrated "notes" or sketches. Even if an "illustrative approach" is applied to Lovecraftâ€™s ideas (as oppose to a "comic strip style"), it is possible to include speech balloons (text bubbles) or to make a series of images for one text fragment (but we do not need a comic strip...).
- In order to facilitate the project's organisation and to ensure a coherent overall aesthetic presentation, we have decided to impose standard format size for all illustrations: A5, A4 or A3.
- The authorâ€™s name and the reference number corresponding to Lovecraftâ€™s note used for inspiration, must figure on each illustration, thank you in advance for your cooperation!
- Original works remain the property of the artists and will be returned once the exhibition has been dismantled. (Please note: it is probable that the exhibition will be presented in other institutions after the first public showing at the Maison d'Ailleurs.) Copyrights for artworks will remain the property of each respective artist, who must grant the exhibition organisers permission,free of charge, to include the works in the exhibition (for public viewing) as well as to be published in the exhibition catalogue.
- Costs for the transport of works, from the artists homes to the Maison d'Ailleurs and back, will be covered by the Museum.
"An exhibition of unspeakable things" will be presented on three floors at the Maison d'Ailleurs, from the end of October 2007 to April 2008. Each illustration will be presented along with the note from Lovecraftâ€™s text that served as inspiration (original scenography will be designed in order to do so). As well, the Maison d'Ailleurs will display rare documents linked to H. P. Lovecraft (such as a hand-written postcard from the Museumâ€™s collections) or are related to Lovecraft's "universe". The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society will be one of the exhibition partners. A viewing of the medium-length film "The Call of Cthulhu" is planned. As well, it is highly probable that several writers will also contribute to the project.
An exhibition catalogue is to be produced, presenting a selection of illustrations from the exhibition with the Lovecraft text that served as inspiration (in both French and English). Each participating artist will receive gratuitously a certain number of catalogues (the exact amount is to be determined). Michel Houellebecq, a reknowned Lovecraft specialist, has been asked to write the prologue of the catalogue.
Subsequent exhibition locations:
Several other locations/organisations have already expressed their interest in presenting this exhibition, such as the Fumetto Festival in Lucerne, in April 2008, as well as the Utopiales Festival in Nantes, in October 2008.
Fianancial support and budget:
At this stage in the project, it does not appear possible to remunerate participating artists (other than by gratuitously supplying a certain number of exhibition catalogues).
Not to become rich, obviously, but rather to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Lovecraftâ€™s death, to receive a beautiful catalogue of illustrations, to join the group of prestigious artists participating in this group exhibition, to venture â€œoff the beaten pathâ€ into the monstrously frightful, and to â€œbring to lifeâ€ particularly horrifying or abstract situations.
- Mix & Remix: initiator of the exhibition project, Mix & Remix (Philippe Becquelin) is a press and television illustrator. Each weeek, as political cartoonist for the magazine L'Hebdo, he creates comical illustrations on current news. His illustrations are also published in the French newspaper Courrier international and the Italian newspaper l'Internazionale. As well, his work was on exhibition at the Festival of AngoulÃªme in 2005.
- The magazine L'Hebdo: a Swiss news magazine edited in Lausanne. Founded in September 1981, l'Hebdo is the most important publication of its kind in French-speaking Switzerland. They will ensure both the promotion of the exhibition and the distribution of the exhibition catalogue.
- The Lausanne Municipal Library: this institution possesses an extraordinary archive of comics, managed by the official curator, Cuno Affolter. The Library serves as an important contact point in this area of specialisation in Switzerland.
- 28 October 2007 - April 2008: presentation of the exhibition at the Museum
- 27 October 2007: exhibition opening at the Maison d'Ailleurs
- 1 September 2007: deadline for the reception of original artworks from artists; preparation of the publication (scans, layout, printing, etc.)
- 30 June 2007: deadline for artists to communicate the exact number of artworks to be presented (if possible including the size and format of each work)
- 31 March 2007: deadline for artists confirmation of participation
- 15 February 2007: finalisation of artists contracts"
The graphic design of the exhibition (poster, publications, etc.) is by Julien Notter and SÃ©bastien Vigne (at-elier.net), who will also collaborate in designing the exhibition scenography under the supervision of the Museumâ€™s management team.
Patrick J. Gyger, Director â€“ email@example.com
Maison d'Ailleurs, MusÃ©e de la science-fiction, de l'utopie et des voyages extraordinaires, 1400 Yverdon-les-Bains, Suisse
tÃ©l +41 24 425 64 38