Friday, 27 February 2009
Artur Odermatt, AKA “Herr Bubbles”: Proprietor of Odermatt’s Laundrette and much feared leader of the Swiss chapter of “Die Reinigungsmittel”. His appearance is both distinctive and alarming, thanks to his monocle, bowler hat and the horrific scar which runs the full length of his face.
Herr Odermatt is equally dedicated to his professional laundry service as he is to his criminal activities, and his traditional hand washing service was always a source of pride for the people of his home town of Indemini, at the foot of Monte Tamaro.
His methods, which have remained unchanged since the family business was established in 1754, entail the rigorous scrubbing of garments against the rocks of the nearby mountain and the use of a unique detergent, prepared with the collected saliva of an indigenous species of cuckoo.
Despite there being a great distance between the small town of Indemini and the great city of Geneva, word of Herr Odermatt’s extraordinary techniques and their ability to clean the most intricate raiments somehow reached le Boulevard de Banni, and in particular, Herr Muller himself.
As a connoisseur of fine apparel from around the globe, the question of sanitation had for some time beleaguered Herr Muller; causing him to devote years of experimentation to discovering a suitable illumination. Spurred on by the prospect of finding a solution to his problem, and charmed by the complexity of Odermatt’s methods, Franck made the long and arduous journey to meet the illustrious “Herr Bubbles”.
Initially their meeting was somewhat icy, neither man wishing to give away too much information too soon. However, after much discussion and several games of Takhteh, each managed to gain the trust of the other man and they formed a mutually beneficial alliance which has remained strong ever since. Herr Muller soon discovered that the laundering services Artur Odermatt offered were in no way limited to the washing of one’s soiled and damaged garments.
Herr Odermatt’s unique skills were so valuable, so essential to Herr Muller’s regime that he simply had to enlist the services of this expert valet. He waited until the early hours of the morning, when the Indeminian was sufficiently refreshed with vodka and fatigued from the many games of Eastern backgammon that he let down his guard to a point where he disclosed a tiny but vital secret regarding his working methods. At that moment Herr Muller looked up from his game and made Artur an offer he simply could not refuse.
Clearly beaten, Odermatt vowed to follow Herr Muller back to le Boulevard de Banni and never to return to his home town, even to visit his family or to tend his rare and beautiful llamas.
Once settled in the simple but attractive building that had been procured for him, Herr Odermatt sent word back to his Generals in “Die Reinigungsmittel” to the effect that their usual business was to be resumed and he once again took up his position as leader of this much feared troop of the most despicable examples of humanity.
Odermatt, having access to many of Herr Muller's contacts and networks, now coordinates a vast army of professional assassins and espionage experts, including Ludwig and Horst, who are bound by an oath taken by their dying mother, to carry out the orders of Herr Muller and anyone he authorises as his Left-Tenant. These assignments range from discreet carcass disposal, to sourcing priceless and rare diamonds, paintings and wildlife for export to Asia and the Americas.
However, Herr Odermatt must never let slip the cover he has worked tirelessly to preserve. Dedicated to the continuation of his family traditions and forever indebted to the rock on which he built his fortune, Odermatt makes a daily journey to the foothills of Monte Tamaro, leaving his operations in the capable hands of Horst.
He routinely packs the unwashed clothing and dirty bedlinen of the busy townsfolk into his tiny and ancient Fiat and makes this journey, this pilgrimage to soap and lather, always ensuring he reaches his preferred boulder by dusk, the time that the cuckoo emerges to dine.
Here he repeats a routine so familiar to him that he is able to pass the time by playing his precious Ozark harp, the sad sound carrying on the wind, while he washes his customers tweed, wool and leather, looking down on the twinkling lights of the small town he left behind, and harmonising with the distant bleating of his beloved and estranged llamas.
Sylvester Rossellini was a leading “Venditore Della Penna” who took great pride in his reputation as a man who sourced the most exquisite fountain pens the artists, businessmen and academics of Naples had ever seen. It was said that inside each of Signor Rossellini’s magnificent pens there was a bespoke, hand blended concoction of Nero & Azzurro inks, giving a unique tint to anything its owner wrote. It was also claimed, though never proven, that this obsessive vendor pricked his finger using the nib of each pen and added a single droplet of his own blood to the ink mixture; thus sending every writing implement out into the world carrying a small part of his heart and soul within its casing.
An outwardly happy, contented man devoted to his family he was often heard whistling as he walked the short distance from his shop at one end of Via Santo Francesco to his modest home at the other end. Instantly recognisable in his scarlet waistcoat and matching fedora; often weighed down with bouquets of roses for his darling Annunziata, bright red apples for his children, or bones given to him by the local butcher for his spaniel, Eduardo. Unfortunately, this happy façade appears to have been just that; a smokescreen designed to maintain an air of noble fortitude and familial bliss.
It was on this quiet, respectable street one bitter December morning, that a neighbour taking out her dustbins discovered the corpse of Signor Sylvester Rossellini. His mortified remains had laid on the edge of the road overnight, his blood frozen in the gutter, where it had trickled from his dying body. It was thought that he had been struck by a tram, the careless driver too scared to stop and tend to the stricken man, and it was assumed he had cracked his head on the tall, grey kerbstone. It took a more detailed inspection to reveal that the blood had, in fact, leaked from several hundred tiny wounds to the abdomen and chest, almost imperceptible against the blood-red hue of his waistcoat.
Upon calling at the Rossellini family residence the carabiniere found it empty, save for two items. One, an unopened envelope found leaning against the mantelpiece clock. It contained a hand-written note explaining that Annunziata was leaving Sylvester and would be taking the children and Eduardo to live with her mother and father across the street. The note was written in the unmistakable shade of navy blue that could only have come from one of Signor Rossellini’s own pens, not in itself remarkable since the family possessed many of Sylvester’s favourite pens in boxes all around the house.
The second item, discovered in the fireplace directly beneath where the note had been left, was a slightly scorched, brown paper bag containing three shiny red apples. One apple with a single bite having been taken from it before it was dropped into the glowing embers.
The case presented the police with a most perplexing mystery. Had Signor Rossellini come home, read the note and dropped the apples into the fire in dismay, before walking out of the house and into the street where he met his end? But the envelope was unopened. Had he, in fact, come home early and discovered his family in the act of absconding? How did he come to have so many tiny wounds and why did he not attempt to fight off his attacker before he was perforated so thoroughly? Each wound was no bigger than the nib of a fountain pen and, taken in isolation, would have caused no more than a minor pinprick; certainly not enough to kill a man.
When questioned about her husband’s apparent murder, Annunziata became agitated and could not give an accurate account of the previous evening’s events. She claimed that she had left her husband due to his disregard for her profound hypersensitivity to roses. She put it to the interrogating officer that it was Sylvester who had been trying to kill her over the course of many years by bringing flowers into the house in an attempt to bring on a deadly anaphylactic shock, and that the apples and bones he brought home were in fact for himself, rather than gifts for his loved ones. Signora Rossellini also let slip that she found her husband’s obsession with pens both tiresome and childish.
After many hours of interrogation Annunziata cracked. She explained to the police that she had in fact been at her mother and father’s home, watching from behind the lace curtains of the salon window, when Sylvester reached the house. He had, it was claimed, gone inside where he had no doubt discovered his home silent and empty. Signora Rossellini insisted that he had then appeared in the street and had noticed her face at the window. He took a pen from his waistcoat pocket and, in a silent trance, began to violently jab himself in the chest and stomach.
Signora Rossellini was apparently undisturbed by this sight, since any blood that appeared was entirely disguised by the colour of this poor man’s jolly waistcoat. She said that she dismissed his actions as a foolish gesture, closing the curtains and locking the doors to prevent her husband from entering the house. She alleged that she went to bed at around eleven without giving her husband a second thought. A decision she claimed most vigorously to regret.
This story seemed to satisfy the police and she was allowed to go home, an innocent woman and no longer a suspect in this terrible incident. A verdict of suicide was given and the case was closed.
The local press however, who had been very fond of Signor Rossellini - several of their number being his clients - were not so kind to Annunziata. They ran stories professing to know that she had killed her husband for his vast collection of priceless antique quills and was an evil, murderous temptress who had tried to seduce many of the town’s men and boys while her husband toiled only two hundred yards up the street.
The newspaper stories became more outlandish as time went on until Annunziata could take no more. Leaving her children in the care of her elderly mother and father and humanely disposing of little Eduardo, she left Naples for good. She did not care where she found herself, only that she could be allowed to live out the rest of her days in peace. At first it seemed she would find nowhere she was not recognised as “Donna Diabolica Della Penna”, a moniker given to her by the Neapolitan newspapers.
Her fortunes changed when she overheard a conversation between two elderly sisters, on one of her many aimless train journeys. Annunziata listened intently as they talked of what they would do with their ailing business when they returned home, since neither of them had children and there was nobody to assume control now that they were both too infirm to continue working. Annunziata saw her opportunity and pounced. She began talking to the old ladies and discovered that they owned a small newspaper shop in a busy street. The only newspaper shop for miles around, they were desperate for somebody with intelligence and integrity to manage the day to day affairs of this apparently vital source of local news.
In less than twenty minutes of conversation the two sisters had been convinced that Signora Rossellini was the woman they had been looking for. She was offered the position as they disembarked on the railway station platform and by the time the three women arrived at le Boulevard de Banni they were already referring to her as “la Directrice”.
Though this solved a number of Annunziata’s problems, namely finding a place to live and gainful employment, this was not without its complications. Here was she, a woman internationally reviled by the press, who would now be expected to liaise with newspaper publishing companies, suppliers, even local journalists and photographers. She would not stand a chance of remaining incognito and would be out of work and homeless as soon as the first hawk-eyed paperboy let the cat out of the bag. She had to think of a solution.
There and then Annunziata made a decision that would affect the entire course of her life. Unbeknownst to her new employers she cancelled the shop’s order with all the local and national newspapers, keeping only the supply of children’s literature and special interest publications on her shelves. Donning a heavy disguise and cycling to the next town, she bought all the day’s newspapers, returned home and set to work.
She then set about using the skills she had learned during the many tedious calligraphy lessons her late husband had given at the kitchen table, and began to re-write from scratch every newspaper available in her shop. She was careful to include all the major stories of the day; excluding the many articles that related to herself or Sylvester and expertly replacing them with advertisements for the many brands of Neapolitan fountain pens she now stocked.
The shop was closed for a single day in order for her to get the first batch ready, and since hers was the only newspaper shop in town she could write the events of the previous day as if they were brand new stories and nobody was any the wiser. Her hand written newspapers were a tremendous success, people remarked upon the clarity of the typefaces and the unusual navy blue tint to the newsprint; which Annunziata put down to her ability to source a better supplier of these precious publications.
Her employers were very happy with their new 'Directrice' and treated her like a long lost daughter. So much so, that she inherited the shop when the two sisters both died tragically the same night, after mistakenly drinking glasses of Indian ink instead of their usual bedtime cocoa. Nobody was sure how this had happened, they had maintained the same routine for many years without incident. Regardless the townsfolk rallied around Signora Rossellini and treated her with the utmost respect as she publicly grieved for her elderly employers.
More than fifty years later Signora Rossellini still makes daily tricycle journeys to the next town, wearing a black velvet cloak and dark glasses, where she fills the basket full of newspapers to copy by candlelight each evening. A very well respected and popular local character, she sells as many expensive pens as she does newspapers, and to this day the townsfolk do not realise that they are reading yesterday’s news today.
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
As an extremely private person, Herr Muller keeps in his confidence only those who know him well and Purissimma Harkleroad is an esteemed member of this exclusive club. A long-standing family friend, Frau Harkleroad has known The Master of Complications since both were children. This refined lady runs a small but well established doll hospital, housed in an elegantly imposing building on the same street as The Master’s premises.
It is in this very building that Siamese twins Yvette and Solange are believed to have convalesced once reunited after their separate escapes from the asylum that was their home in their early years. Anna, another of Herr Muller’s cohort, is also reputed to have made several visits here whilst attempting to battle the demons that led to her opium addiction; a compulsion which plagues her existence and often causes her to behave reprehensively.
The services Purissimma offers extend much further than those of a typical doll repair service. In her vast and elaborately furnished premises her patients are treated lavishly with an array of balms, elixirs, ointments, potions, remedies, salves, tinctures and tonics. It is claimed by many that Frau Harkleroad can cure all ills.
Her quest to prove this claim is a noble, yet not entirely selfless one, since she is believed to be the very person who spread the rumour of her infallibility, as a challenge to herself after her heartbreaking failure to save the most important of the marionettes in her care.
“Orsola” was little Purissimma’s most treasured childhood companion. A priceless heirloom passed down through generations of the Harkleroad family, she came into the little girl’s possession when Purissimma was just three years old. Immediately the youngster began to experiment with Orsola; removing limbs, injecting potions and applying leeches.
It is thought that these early medical trials are what provided Purissimma with her skill and expertise this field.
This intense experimentation, however, soon began to take its toll on Orsola. After the opening of Purissimma’s first professional consulting room, a gift from her father on her seventh birthday, Orsola fell tragically and incurably ill. No sooner had Purissimma cut the turquoise ribbon that hung across the doorway of her surgery, than Orsola fell into a deep and silent coma.
After six frantic days and eleven sleepless nights spent locked in the surgery trying to find a cure, all avenues were finally exhausted. Purissimma realised there was nothing more she could do for her tiny, motionless friend. She pledged to enjoy what little time they had together and let fate decide their fortunes.
That night she lay down in her tiny bed with Orsola’s cold, hard hands lying on top of hers. At first Purissimma was unable to sleep, however early the following morning, in the dim sunlight of a winter dawn, fatigue overcame her and she dozed for a few short minutes.
When Purissimma awoke Orsola had slipped away, almost as though she had waited for the comforting glow of the sun’s rays to help her Mistress to drift off first, thus sparing her the pain of witnessing the stricken doll’s final breath.
Orsola’s death had a devastating effect on Purissimma. She found she was unable to enter the infirmary for several weeks and would retreat into a solemn silence whenever she was presented with a new figurine requiring treatment. This continued for more than a month, until Little Franckie brought her a patient in desperate need of her help. The doll, named Fabiana, was in a terrible condition. She had been working on a reconnaissance mission for the young Master when she was captured behind enemy lines. She was cruelly tortured and had suffered horrific burns to her face and arms.
Fabiana’s plight sparked something in Purissimma and the girl found herself compelled to assist. She entered her surgery once again and set to work on a programme of recovery and rehabilitation for Fabiana.
The brave little doll survived and was able to continue in the employ of young Master Muller. Though badly scarred by the attack, she turned this to her advantage and is able to terrify the most hardened of criminals with a swift, solitary glance.
Purissimma Harkleroad continues to develop her specialist treatments and works closely to support both Franck and many of his workforce. Her refined appearance is such that she is able to enter the most elite establishments unnoticed, an attribute which serves her well. Her live crocodile skin purse holds the tools of her trade for treatment carried out in the field, as she can never predict when her services may be needed and she is a woman who loathes being unprepared.
Saturday, 14 February 2009
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Have you ever longed for an unnecessarily complex solution to a seemingly simple problem? No, neither had the hapless victims trapped within the events portrayed in the book entitled 'The Master of Complications'. These innocents entered the premises of Herr Franck Muller with apparently straightforward requests, only to be dragged into a terrifying world of violent hallucinations, rat infested tunnels, psychotic Siamese twins and evil dwarves.
Indeed, it seems the authors are also victims of this curse, as they have not chosen to write or illustrate these pages. It seems possible that Franck Muller is himself the twisted puppeteer behind the words, illustrations and photographs before you. Is it Muller’s intention that this publication serves as a warning of his impenetrable control over humanity?
Quite possibly. He is, after all, The Master of Complications. Above you will see an essential element of Herr Muller's convoluted apparatus. Used routinely as part of Hans Fritzl's violent interrogations, the random question generator has posed queries so complex they have confounded the sharpest of minds.
Sunday, 8 February 2009
Franck's beloved mother Estelle can be seen portrayed within the base of this ornate China cup. Growing old was her greatest fear and in order to spare her from this fate Franck worked tirelessly to find an alternative. After many years of experimentation, occasionally resulting in the near death of Estelle, Herr Muller finally discovered a way to preserve her youth. He carefully and painstakingly encased her within this object, as he felt it symbolised her fragility and delicate beauty. There she has remained ever since. ZB
Raoul is one of Franck's oldest friends. They studied together at one of the most prestigious universities in Geneva, before Franck went into the family business and Raoul took a very different path. He has been employed in a variety of jobs, from street sweeper to professional hand-glider pilot. From his current home in Gdansk, he now forms part of Franck Muller's vast international network of contacts and works as chief dog walker for the Muller family. He has one hundred and forty five kills to his name. RM
Saturday, 7 February 2009
In order to resolve the quotidian quandaries of those who enter his establishment, it is often necessary for Franck to collect samples of skin, hair and other organs for analysis. He efficiently stores the samples in this set of drawers, inherited from his late father who used them to house his swarm of giant dwarf bees. ZB
N.B. Giant dwarf bees are a variety of bees, native to Siberia, which are larger than both their cousins the large dwarf bee, and their second cousins twice removed the miniature dwarf bee. They are not, however, larger than their cousin's auntie's brothers the gargantuan dwarf bee. They are also considerably smaller than the well known and most common dwarf bee variety the elephantine dwarf bee.
Trying to locate some photos from the last Franck Muller exhibition at Almiro Gallery in Liverpool, but having no success. Instead, here's a quick sketch of the show, drawn on a dark and freezing October evening as my fingers began to stiffen and my nose began to drip. If only the gallery had a sign or a window we might have been able to close the bloody door. I'll keep looking for photos, but if I don't have them Zoë might be able to upload some next time she's here. RM
Friday, 6 February 2009
Siamese twins Solange and Yvette have been in Franck’s employ since they illegally discharged themselves from an asylum at the age of thirteen. Yvette was first to abscond, with Solange making her escape two weeks later. Solange specialises in espionage, while Yvette is an expert fencer. They are both Swiss. RM
This is the scooter used by Ludwig and Horst when they worked for the Late Luigi Allegro, at "Luigi's Hot Oven". Following Luigi's mysterious disappearance the restaurant was closed and the brothers were left without employment. Herr Muller made them an offer they could not refuse. RM
Thursday, 5 February 2009
The exhibition is running until May 5th, so please go down and take a look. The Art of Tea is on Barlow Moor Road in Didsbury and their details can be found at www.myspace.com/theartoftea
We're hoping that this will be the start of a very interesting journey for Franck Muller and his cohorts, and we are very excited about where to go next with the idea. This blog is going to document the progress we make (or lack of it) and should give readers an insight into the characters, photography and sketches that make up the book.
I'm going to attempt to add some pictures now, but since I've never used this blogging software before it may take some time before they appear. Here goes. RM & ZB