Christo & Mephisto

The first is the gentleman who wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin & the Pont-Neuf in Paris; the second is a lesser known ‘wrapper’ from Vulgaria whose plans have survived only on paper, in the form of sketches. One indignant art critic once described Mephisto as a ‘wrapist’, whereas Mephisto’s supporters go into ‘wraptures’ over such projects as putting the Taj Mahal in a burqa while the Eifel Tower sports a bikini, preferably in the French tricolour.

Mephisto learnt his trade/art in haute couture, needless to say. He is against Christo’s wrapping the whole of an object in – whatever. It’s not what you clothe them in but how you clothe them, aparently that’s what’s important, from the Faustian point of view. Women’s dresses are basically like the trailer of a film, or like the teaser for an online article –

‘Stop it!’ comes the heckling. ‘You are a sexist.’

And why? Mephisto pretends to be innocent. Like his cheek!

‘You think only of that one thing.’

But not all the time! Mephisto protests.

Haute couture began with Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ (published 1837), Mephisto claims. Probably nobody except perhaps Donald Trump will ever have the courage to tell the ladies on the catwalk that they are more unclothed than clothed, Mephisto says. The girls freeze & tumble & shame themselves in front of their stepfathers, all for a fistful of dollars – up to fifty thousand for a day’s shoot, Mephisto has heard. The only things that are ‘high’ about haute couture are the high heels, unless someone is on speed, Mephisto says. ‘You can ask Christopher Marlowe or Wolfgang von Goethe,’ he adds, as if they would know!

‘What’s that got to do with the great art of rapping – pardon, wrapping?’ we counter.

About as much as rapping has to do with singing – Mephisto says. ‘No, I’m kidding,’ he grins, a devilish grin. ‘What d’you do when you wrap something, whether it’s a birthday present or the Reichstag? You hide it. You truss it up like a turkey. As if for a hasty funeral in the midst of a civil war or abject poverty. That’s no way to treat a famous building or a beautiful bridge, is it? That’s why I’m going to take the high road to fashion and make the Reichstag what it has never been in its entire history since 1894 – I’m going to make it sexy!’

‘What d’you mean, sexy?’ we could smell sulphur again.

‘It’s okay if you show the figure through the wrapping, but the Reichstag should show a bit of legs as well, don’t you think? What about slashed tarpaulin sheets over the entrance and a tiara for the dome? The Eiffel Tower would look very naughty in a skimpy red-and-white two-piece, I feel.’

‘What about the blue, you know, allez les bleus and all that?’

‘The sky will be blue.’

‘And Pont-Neuf?’

‘Ah, you mean the bridge over the Seine? You’ve got the water, now all you’ve got to do is to turn the bridge into a bathing beauty, a mermaid or something, but topless.’

‘What d’you think you’re trying to do?’

‘I’m liberating architecture from the drudgery & tedium of being just houses, monuments & museums – the bridges are almost sexy in comparison, I must say, at least the flighty modern ones which have a nice silhouette. And it’s no use wrapping a building just once: a building’s got to be wrapped differently in spring than in summer; an autumn collection in decent pastels & grey for mausoleums, for example. We’ll need to develop a different line of wrapping for fat buildings to make them look less squat. We’ll need fashion accessories for the historical buildings such as when the Queen comes on a visit: think of it, the Queen comes to Brügge and all the buildings are clutching Her Majesty’s kind of handbag, with children waving from inside the hatch! Generally I can see all buildings, ugly & old as well as modern & state-of-the-art, having any number of wrappings – or as many as the city council can afford – and still having nothing to wear when the Queen or the Formula One circus comes around the next time.’

‘So what is the solution?’

‘Revolution, what else? Haven’t you seen, some buildings have even stopped painting themselves. Others are just letting themselves go. Still other buildings are sitting in a row on their paved & crooked lane in the sun and telling each other stories from the olden days. Those are the ones I like best.’

‘And what d’you do when you like a building?’

‘I don’t wrap ’em,’ Mephisto said.