For two weeks now I haven’t been able to look at a discarded heap of cardboard without seeing some kind of lusus naturae piece itself together from the rubble and emerge as an animated being.
Earlier this month I went to Amsterdam, which is where I was drawn into the dreamlike world of the Cardboarders: a collective of people with a penchant for cardboard who, through a kind of crafty alchemy, create incredible things out of this once misleadingly lifeless material.
We arrived at the Theatre Bellevue (the scene for this surreal late night workshop entitled ‘Cardboarden: Making Automata’s’) not really knowing what to expect. Cardboard arrows guided us to a room full of Dr. Frankensteins engrossed in the act of slicing apart chunks of cardboard and gluing them to huge cardboard creatures that seemed to become more alive with every addition. We ordered a beer and watched the creations unfold and it wasn’t long before we were pulled in to start playing cardboard God ourselves. One of my first acts as a cardboarder was to learn how hot the industrial glue-guns were by immediately burning one of the fingers on my right hand. I barely felt my finger melting away though; we were all so swept up in the frantic fabrication of papery fiends.
The ‘Automata’s’ came to life under our hands until pretty soon we were all amassed in the foyer, where the monsters gracefully flapped their wings, opened and closed their mouths, anxiously waved their arms, clapped their hands together and glided through the air above us . Then the cardboard creatures along with their makers left the Theatre Bellevue and made their way through the busy Saturday night streets of Amsterdam.
We looked like the cast of where the wild things are, making a wild rumpus as we went. In Leidseplein Square our anthropomorphic cardboard animals gave their first and final performance to a crowd of onlookers. Then the order was given to destroy them.
There was a tiny bit of hesitation as both maker and creation considered each other and then cardboard cupid’s head collided with the ground, splitting its delicate neck in two. Then all was carnage. We gave you life and now we’re taking it away.
After the destruction the wreckage of cardboard bodies lay in a heap. Their lifeless hands seeming to pry their way from underneath. I made eye-contact with the disembodied papery eye of what was once a real, moving turtle but felt little remorse. It was so great to make something and then to unmake it. Then we gathered up their dismembered forms, which were now reduced to just cardboard once again.
If you want to know more about the Cardboarders, follow their blog at: http://www.cardboarders.com/