September 20, 2005

The Republic of Dreams

Train ticket for Jerry Crimmins's 'République de Rêves.'By way of a search at abebooks, I learned of an exhibition that was staged at the Lijnbaancentrum, Rotterdam in 1983 entitled Imaginaire Landen, which collected various artworks that mapped or described imaginary locales. When I read that among the artists and writers represented in the show were Luigi Serafini, Donald Evans and Harry Mulisch, I was intrigued enough to order a copy of the exhibition catalogue. This, when it arrived, turned out to be a box containing numerous unbound leaflets, with sundry additional items, including: a box of matches bearing the name of a non-existent airline (syldavski aerolinieny), a weird card-game, a button-badge, numerous maps, blueprints, charts and tables, schematics of dreamt-up metro networks, a musical score, and even a little bag containing coarse black sand, some pebbles, and a broken cockle-shell, purportedly from the imaginary island of Atipé. Of all the imagined lands therein, perhaps the most beguiling to my eye was Jerry Crimmins’s La République de Rêves (‘The Republic of Dreams’) which was represented in the catalogue by a train ticket (above left), some maps, and a tourist-information brochure. I was delighted by the thought of a city in which one could walk from the Icarus Dirigible Port to the Park of the Alluring Mannequins by way of the Ave. of Swift and Invisible Nudes, Blvd. Max Ernst, and Soluble Fish and Liquid Bells St. Crimmins published a ‘Visitors Guide to La Républic de Rêves’ as long ago as 1980. An expanded ‘reverie’ on the subject was published in 1998.

First of two detail views of a map of the capital city in Jerry Crimmins's 'République de Rêves.'


Second of two detail views of a map of the capital city in Jerry Crimmins's 'République de Rêves.'

Leafing through the multiplicity of invented places in this box, and the artefacts ostensibly therefrom, felt like listening to a babble of unfamiliar languages, a league-of-nations without interpreters. The fact that most of the explanatory text was in Dutch placed me at one further remove from the material, and led me to ponder what common impetus there might be behind the creation of imaginary lands, languages, cultures, worlds. It’s an impulse I have experienced myself: even as a child (I can’t have been more than seven or eight years old), I recall dividing up the floor-space in the apartment where we lived into different notional ‘countries,’ such that my toy cars could undertake epic international journeys—and I recall the importance I attached to naming these regions, and drawing maps that traced their boundaries…

First of two detail views of a tourist brochure for Jerry Crimmins's 'République de Rêves.'

As usual, my ponderings didn’t bring me to any useful conclusions: in any case, there could well be as many world-building motives as there are imaginations: some worlds may be improvements on one that their creators feel to be far too imperfect; others are resorts to which their proprietors may steal away as though on vacation; others still are child-like games in their designers’ minds: and while some invented worlds demand attention; many more, surely, are artfully concealed behind bland portals in the most mundane settings—behind mirrors, under bridges, in old encyclopædias, or behind seemingly unremarkable hyperlinks somewhere on the internet…

Second of two detail views of a tourist brochure for Jerry Crimmins's 'République de Rêves.'

Click on the images above to see them enlarged and in context. To see the reverse of the train ticket shown top left, click here, and to see the remainder of the tourist guide, click here.

Posted by misteraitch at September 20, 2005 01:00 PM

wow, nice surprise huh? order an exhibition catalogue get a box o' goodies. love it. wonder what the actual exhibition was like? "de chirico station" "blvd. of cerebral intoxication" "ave. of the quivering shadows" love it. i hereby move we begin fundraising immediately to make this city, or something in the same spirit, a reality. i'm sure dubai would sell us an island for the right price.

Posted by: jmorrison on September 20, 2005 02:44 PM

This Republic is ravishing. Last winter I came across some information about another artist who had his own Republic of Dreams, Bruno Schulz (1892-1942). Seems that, for his, Poetry was the sovereign territory. The Mus�e d'art et d'histoire du juda�sme hold an exposition under that name, last autumn (haven't seen it though).

Posted by: Maridan' on September 20, 2005 08:56 PM

It sounds like a wonderful celebration of Imagination.

I love it!

Posted by: MissMeliss on September 20, 2005 09:26 PM

it also makes me think on Borges and his "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" story

Posted by: lanark on September 21, 2005 09:48 PM

There is a publisher in Utrecht making maps and globes of an imaginary world, very close to the cathedral. I wanted to buy their map of the 'world' but it was a tad too expensive for something I routinely used to do myself (i.e. make maps and, mind you, historical atlases of imaginary worlds) when I was a child.

Posted by: Loxias on September 22, 2005 10:04 AM

Where did you manage to find the 'exhibition catalogue' and buy it?

I've always been interested in building little cities on the carpet or floor when I was little... Sometimes I would build a big castle out of boxes, empty yogurt containers, and any toys I had around. I would put toy soldiers in all the right places on the walls so they could shoot at anyone in case they come close to the castle, and I would hide a big action figure somewhere in the middle so if someone sneaks in they will have the unpleasent surprise of being chased and eaten by a giant.
I really loved building those and to this day I still sometime consider digging up my old toys and building one of those in my room just for the sake of it.

I really really love this blog, I've seen nothing like it and it touches me every time I read something on it. Thank you.

Posted by: BR on September 25, 2005 01:22 AM

That's simply wonderful. I have a weakness for invented worlds.

Can this catalog still be acquired, and if so, where/how? Sounds like something I would enjoy getting my hands on. (I also have a weakness for boxes of goodies.)

Posted by: bluewyvern on September 25, 2005 03:18 AM

BR; bluwyvern—you can find it by going to, and searching for the title ‘Imaginaire Landen:’ On just trying it a moment ago, two results came up, although I think one of them is for the copy I already bought…

Posted by: misteraitch on September 25, 2005 07:30 AM

My very favorite blog...

I, too, had the childhood love of imaginary cities, and now I live in a tiny place where "reality" has been inextricably tangled with a particular set of fictions for almost two hundred years. The locals are now entirely confused about what is imaginary and what is "real," but they were born to it and don't even notice. I, an exile, am fascinated by it and them.

Posted by: Miss M on September 28, 2005 04:30 AM
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