Today a gækkebrev arrived. Literally meaning “a riddling letter”, a gækkebrev is a letter in the shape of an elaborate paper cut-out with a riddle written in its middle. Sometimes a snowdrop is included with the letter, sometimes the riddle just alludes to the snowdrop.
The letter is commonly associated with Easter in Denmark and school children absolutely love making them. The reason? Quite apart from kids being creative and conjuring up gorgeous paper cut-outs, the letters bear a prize: an Easter egg. Above all other things, the gækkebrev is anonymous and the writer will leave a hint in the shape of dots (four dots if your name has four letters etc). If you can identify the sender, you win an Easter egg. If you are fooled by the riddler, you owe him or her an Easter egg.
People will go to great lengths to fool the recipient of a gækkebrev. They might post the letter in another town, they might get a friend to write for them in case their handwriting is too distinct or they might even deliberately travel out of the country and get someone else to post their gækkebrev. Or perhaps that is just my family and friends?
The sender of my letter wrote me using a painstakingly different handwriting and altered the number of letters in her name – opting to sign with a pet name rather than her real name. Sadly, I still recognised the handwriting (your lower-case “r” is really distinct, Chris) and now I’m awaiting my prize. I love traditions – particularly when they go my way.
A few relevant links:
+ A guide to DIY gækkebreve in English
+ The fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen’s paper cut-outs and gækkebreve. Gorgeous stuff.
+ Contemporary paper art by Dane Peter Callesen carries on the tradition of paper cut-outs and paper art – and he really, really ups the game. My current favourite of his is Icy Sea/Eis Meer which has been created using an A4 sheet.
We went to the hospital today for a long-awaited appointment. I have been undergoing epilepsy tests but they came out negative. No abnormal electrical currents or any abnormal brain structures – I’m relieved that I’m not dying of a brain tumour and I’m frustrated that I could not get a clear, concise answer to wtf is going on with me today. We’re off to see my GP to find out what is next. Exciting times.
So, a compensation I was allowed to buy three skeins of very, fabulous, very expensive yarn. I am not sure if it is entirely healthy (for my bank account or my partner’s sanity) to both suffer from bibliophilia and, er, yarn-philia?
Speaking of bibliophilia, one of my major interests is artists’ books: the idea that the book is more than just a transparent medium but actually plays a major part in our understanding of texts (and thus the world) is very, very appealing to me. This year’s Glasgow’s International Art Festival caters to this interest of mine with the Glasgow International Artists Bookfair. It’ll feature all sorts of books about books as well as actual artists’ books and workshops on bookbinding etc. I’m so there. No surprise that I will also be found here looking very excited at this exhibition.
Glasgow is good to me.
The Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art: “the world’s largest collection of anatomically correct fabric brain art. Inspired by research from neuroscience, dissection and neuroeconomics, our current exhibition features three quilts with functional images from PET and fMRI scanning, a knitted brain, and two fabric pieces interpreting single neuron recording.”
Their disclaimer amuses this soon-to-undergo-MRI-scan woman: “While our artists make every effort to insure accuracy, we cannot accept responsibility for the consequences of using fabric brain art as a guide for functional magnetic resonance imaging, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, neurosurgery, or single-neuron recording.”
Found via the scary, slightly incomprehensible Knitting For Nerds which also includes links to knitted nonorientable manifolds (no, I don’t know either) and The Periodic Table sweater.
One of my current preoccupation is the idea of public writing – that is, writing/lettering/typography found in public places and spaces. I take photos whenever I see somebody doing something interesting – whether they be commissioned or non-commissioned pieces. I have even tentatively put together a small Flickr-set of some of my photos.
One of my favourite examples stem from my erstwhile hometown of Copenhagen, Denmark. I was walking along a wall when I noticed the street name elaborately carved into the bricks. Above the carved brick you had the traditional blue-white street sign with the same name. Two centuries of labelling streets in one go. I was excited by the juxtapositions: permanence vs. easily replaced and serif vs sans-serif. I was also excited by how the contemporary street sign had been placed higher than the carved brick as if to exercise its dominance, its importance.
One of my Scottish friends, Fi, works as a curator and we recently spoke about the concept of public lettering and writing. Fi mentioned that the first thing was sprung to her mind was the Scottish Parliament’s Canongate Wall. It is absolutely fascinating: various stones with quotes on Scottish identity and history are inserted into an outer wall, so anybody walking along the street will be asked to reflect upon Scotland, art and identity. Even the pavement has slates engraved with sentences. And, as I agreed with Fi, that is really a great example of public space and writing being combined to great effect.
And then you have non-commissioned stuff like graffiti and posters and random notes put up in windows..