The Lake

www.theunstitute.org

There is a new living quarter in the outskirts of our town called Fountain Side, taking its name from a gigantic fountain sculpture that used to adorn the central square. The sculpture has been taken down a while ago- the square is now a large, bare expanse, which has a peculiar upward curve around the edge, forming some sort of a shallow basin, which is rumoured to be turned into a lake. Around the square there stands a tightly packed cluster of high rise buildings which in spite of the short amount of time since their completion, has already started looking run down due to the rather fragile quality of the material -mud and straw and which, in our tempestuous climate of intense heat and blustery winds must aid their further ruination. Corners of the houses have become smoothed out, deformed, plaster crumbling and falling down constantly, smashing onto the pavements, doors are hanging at weird angles so that from a short distance away they don’t resemble houses but appear rather like towering heaps of precariously piled up dusty rubbish. I suppose they were originally bright and colourful- at close examination one can still see the remains of the original paint between the crumbled pieces of plaster: in shadows, in places sheltered by balconies, under stairs and porches the colour is even luminous- pinks, yellows, ultramarines and lime greens.

I should mention some decorative elements of these blocks: dotted along the facades and the rooftops are the disassembled parts of the original fountain sculpture that used to stand on the central square. The houses near the square bear quite large chunks of it: one of the blocks directly facing the square has two huge hands moulded into the portico and a halved head with eyes sits like a strange cupola on the top of it. Another block’s facade is dominated by a gigantic toe overhanging the entrance way, another has two enormous ears jutting out from its sides. But as you walk away from the square these sculptural elements become more and more fragmented and small broken off parts such as noses, ears and fingers have been set into whirly patterns around doors and balconies; along the roofs there are a selection of alternating head parts, legs and torsos producing a weird castellated effect.

Due to the constantly falling plaster from the buildings, multicoloured dust collects in piles and lines the narrow passages between the buildings. These walkways are overhung by numerous balconies which extend as far as the ones on the opposite side of the street; some of the buildings from the opposite sides even share balconies, like a vessel. No windows can be seen anywhere, just the numerous balconies piled up high with dust.

Along the street passages there is constant traffic of people, a never seizing flow of people with buckets; they are the council employees, most of them are the residents of the blocks. What is really striking about the workers is that they are themselves completely covered in the multicolour plaster dust which they stir from the ground as they move. It is impossible to identify any of them: thick dust cakes over their faces forming bizarre, featureless masks. These plaster face-masks crack when the bearer grimaces or tries to speak and pale skin shows underneath them, glistening with sweat, though the moisture quickly soaks up the new particles of dust which move around with them forming and reforming new skins over the masks.

The residents are involved in the activity of moving water to the basin in the square but of course when they arrive there is only crumbled plaster in their buckets which they pile up in the middle of the lake; the wind then takes the dust up again and disperses it at a whim.

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