Zurich just became a little more hip and cool…

… like it was a century ago.

Switzerland has never been known to be a magnet for the creative and literary arts in Europe. Unlike Paris, known for being the pulsating center for the artistic avant-garde, the Scandinavia for their minimalistic Nordic coolness, or Barcelona for its Picasso-Miro-Gaudi eclecticism, Zurich is more known for its staid work ethic and clockwork efficiency.

Tada!

FullSizeRender (31)It came as a surprise to me that 100 years ago, the present little bar/student cafe in the heart of Zurich old town – Cabaret Voltaire, was where the Dada movement, the predecessor of the more famous Surrealism (Salvador Dali) was born.

After World War 1 in the 1920s, neutral Zurich became the natural meeting point for many European artists and a sort of ‘anti’ art emerged – where anything in your day-to-day life can be used as a form of artistic expression. The Dada mandate became a visualized critique of the war led by Germany and nationalistic sentiments.

A series of art shows, talks, city tours and even a costume ball will be conducted throughout Zurich for its centennial celebrations from February to July. A special 165 Days of Feast will culminate in a Dada Benediction with reference to the Holy Catholic Mass at the Cabaret Voltaire. I think it is very fitting that the Mass will give the Dada blessing to Lady Gaga.

Swiss visual-arts maestro

I couldn’t help but snicker at the name Pipilotti. (Isn’t it the name of a Swiss cartoon character?) Besides the ‘Dadaglobe’ exhibition, the Kunsthaus is currently showcasing a retrospective exhibition by the Swiss-born female artist, Pipilotti Rist.

Bizarrely titled ‘Your saliva is my diving suit in the ocean of pain’, it is an entire pitch-black floor space filled with her object assemblages and video sculptures.

I like her audiovisual installation ‘Yoghurt on skin, velvet on TV’ made up of 3 big seashells and handbags with built-in LCD monitors. If you look closely inside the shell, you can see a giant moving eye peering through.

Another interesting one is ‘Little Make-up table with feedback’, with an array of jewelry, make up and knick knack casually thrown on a dressing table. If you look at the mirror, you see a video clip of someone puckering her luscious red-stained lips. It is as if the subject becomes the object, the protagonist seeing how something or some situation is seen from the ‘opposite side of the mirror’ so to speak.

The most arresting installation would have to be the large chandelier above a non-descript dining table, made up of many pairs of underwear with colored lights projected on it called ‘Cape Cod Chandelier’. These 2 art exhibitions at the Zurich Kunsthaus are definitely worth visiting. I don’t want to post up too many photos so you can experience the art in person.

In the spirit of Dadaism and experiencing the visual arts, care to buy a pair of funky spectacle frames along bahnhofstrasse?

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The wily fox and 5 city girls

  Our friend celebrated her 30th birthday on Saturday and we were treated to a game called Foxtrail, the Swiss version of The Amazing Race, which gave us a good opportunity to discover Bern beyond its famous Zytglogge clock tower, beautiful cobbled streets in the old town and their beloved black bears.

We were divided into 4 groups doing 4 unique trails – 2 groups of 5 girls each, and 2 groups of 5 guys. My group comprised of 3 Singaporeans, 1 Indonesian and 1 Vietnamese, and of course, my little boy in the pram. Did I mention we are all from Zurich and do not speak or understand BERNESE Swiss german? 😉

It was a warm and sunny autumn day and our energy level was at an all time high when we were handed our trail paper with clues and instructions. It quickly dissipated when after 45mins, we were the only team still at the starting point, trying to figure out what we were suppose to do. We have 19 stops to make in 2 hours!!! We will miss the Apero! 

 It was a slow and bumpy start but we soon got our groove and took a special RKS train out of the city center in search of a church tower that led us deep into the woods. My little boy Nathan, who does a forest playgroup every Thursday, seems to know his way around the trees better than the 5 of us. We found a quaint restaurant tucked deep in the forest overlooking a beautiful river. Chickens, ducks and kids roamed around carefreely around the restaurant/farm. After finding our way out of the forest, this was civilization to us!

  We even got to ask a boatman for a clue (feels a little like crossing the River Styx except the boatman was not wearing a dark cloak and you don’t hear the cries of banished souls around us) and he rowed or should I say, held on to a long rope above him that is tied to the other end of the stream and literally ‘pulled’ us to the other side. I think it was only 200 meters away.

   
  


E The wily fox then led us through a long tunnel to… the border of Switzerland? We were all pretty amused to see the EU sign at one of our trail points. I didn’t see a tax refund booth close by though.

   

 We didn’t complete our trail but it was still an amazing experience. When we went to the end point for our apero and birthday celebration, it was exhilarating exchanging stories of our different routes. We were all pretty impressed by how organized and fun this experience was.

We will come back again and redo the same trail and hopefully, complete it so we can finally beat the wily fox!

http://www.foxtrail.ch

   

made it to the apero but the chips r all gone!
 

a safe swiss haven?

Everyone who has visited or lived in Switzerland can be easily lulled into a sense of ‘feeling safe’. Compared to many other European countries (especially when you read the many news reports of teenagers looting and setting cars on fire), Switzerland is indeed a beautiful and peaceful country and its people are generally quite shy and reserved. This is the place where between 12 to 2 in the afternoon on weekdays and for the whole of Sunday, no vacuuming, drilling, hammering or loud rhythmic bedroom noises are tolerated because this is the time set aside for farm animals and old people to take their naps.

That is why it always comes as a surprise and great disappointment to me when I hear about incidents of house-breaking, school-bullying or any other forms of anti-social behaviors. Then again, most of such stories were passed down from a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend. Well, you get the idea.

I had my very own encounter with anti-social behavior a few weeks ago. I was on a swing on the playground near my house with my son when I saw two teenagers skate-scooting up the pedestrian walk next to the playground. They rode past a house with a big bush covered with easter decorations and started pulling the ceramic bunnies and eggs off and throwing them really hard at the house. Never in my life have I witnessed such unprovoked meanness. They then made their happy escape, laughing proudly at their misdeeds before they realized I saw everything. The skinnier boy raised his hand up at me. I couldn’t tell if he was waving at me in blatant defiance, or making a Nazi salute at me. I reciprocated with a firm middle finger. I think he was quite taken back and was not expecting any reaction from me. Anyway, both of them rode off.

Five minutes after my ‘act of bravado’, I finally had time to think like a responsible parent. What if the 2 big kids started attacking me and timmy? There was no way I could fend them off. They were armed with two big skate scooters; I had only my iphone (30% charged battery) and an innocent, snotty-faced child busy burying his toy car in the sand with not a clue in the world about what happened. I kept turning my head to make sure the 2 boys were not hiding somewhere ready to throw their skate scooters at me.

Last weekend, we saw a lot of trash like a Macdonald’s take-away bag and other plastic bags lying on the grass infront of the lake and on our front porch. My neighbor who lives 2 blocks away from us said that weekend, there were also a lot of trash found hanging on the trees!

The weather’s warming up really quickly now and a lot more people are starting to have picnics or use of the free bbq-pits infront of the lake. I have to remember to remind my husband to find somewhere less conspicious than the bins by the lake to dispose of our son’s soiled nappies, prawn shells and chicken bones. You don’t want any gooey poo dripping on you when u relax under a tree by the lake! I don’t want him to be made a scapegoat for all the trash spawned on public grounds when all we want to do is keep our balcony nappy-poo-stench-free. (read my blog about ‘the price of being green’)

Another friend who lives about 2 streets away from us said her neighbor’s huge Dodge, which was parked out in the open, was set ablaze late one night. There is still an ugly melted-in patch of tar left on the front porch where the fire took place. Who would do that? Maybe someone who doesn’t like american-brand lorries.

Most Swiss kids we’ve encountered are polite and quiet. A few years ago, my husband took my son out til close to midnight and was trying to get down the escalator at the railway station as fast as he could with the pram to catch the last train home. A teenage girl dressed in goth black got her boyfriend to 1) put down his carton of beer, 2) hold the train doors open for my husband and 3) help him carry the pram up the steps.

I always think Swiss kids, very much like Singaporean ones, are very sheltered, protected and somewhat more guilible than their european/south-east asian counterparts. Both have a well-educated and affluent population, and both countries do not have to grapple with issues of social unrest, poverty or war.

Perhaps it is due to the absence of pressures and conflicts, that the young become restless, and take it upon themselves to create armaggadons in their own little backyard.