Cabinet de Lecture Fête du Fleuve June–November 2019, Jardin Public
At first sight a large shed in the park, the timber box designed by Konstantin Grcic nods to the 18th and 19th century Cabinet de Lecture or reading room and is part of the City of Bordeaux Cultural Season dedicated to Freedom.
The earlier reading rooms were not free but made access to books, papers and periodicals possible for a small fee at time when print was expensive and exclusive, opening up conversation and learning in a public place. This one has pinned texts on the freedom theme, and hosts weekly episodes of Aurélien Bellanger’s summer novel.
Also like the forerunner this cabinet gives shelter; the original was a place of warmth, light and relative comfort open all day and into the evening, the modern version has a seat in the shade.
Their heads are uncovered and their hair too is exposed, in all its darkness and sexuality. They wear lipstick, red, outlining the damp cavities of their mouths, like scrawls on a washroom wall, of the time before. I stop walking. Ofglen stops beside me and I know that she too cannot take her eyes off these women. We are fascinated, but also repelled. They seem undressed. It has taken so little time to change our minds, about things like this.
Then I think: I used to dress like that. That was freedom. Westernized, they used to call it.
The Japanese tourists come towards us, twittering, and we turn our heads away too late: our faces have been seen.
Margaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale, 1985