Text written for a booklet accompaning a rabbit toy at Periferic Binennial, Iasi, 2007
Curator: Attila Tordai

My name is Balthazar, I am a rabbit. The name Balthazar is horrible enough so that whenever I am compelled to introduce myself to those who require for my name, my ears turn red at an instant which would be a lesser impediment if they weren’t so glaring. Balthazar sounds like something utterly serious and I must confess I am ashamed of it.
And you have not heard it all yet: Balthazar Alexander Rubinov. Long and rusty like an old, aristocratic Russian train. I will refrain from divulging all the details and background information on having been presented with such an impossible name. There are things in life you are born with, other more or less valuable burdens you are compelled to carry and again certain things you get hold of later on your way. Balthazar A. Rubinov belongs to the first category. A millstone, if you ask me, noble wings with precious gems, if you ask Emil. Purple and white fur, a few golden embroideries at the collar of some tsar and a solid flue – well, these are the ingredients of my name.
Emil is my best friend, or something in that fashion, for the record. I have no idea how old he is, he never shows his age but he wears glasses and is a fair child. A pretty serious one, otherwise he wouldn’t have changed my factory Bunny B. into the pretentious-starchy-and-ponderous monstrosity of my present name. The idea is the earth is crowded with all kinds of rabbits and all kinds of toys but none of them can boast such a crusty name as I. You know, their names – in various versions of the familiar bunny or rabbit, have the beautiful sound of fluffy tennis balls covered in silk.

I am a toy rabbit. Mouse-grey artificial fur, black or brown eyes, depending on the weather, a well defined Y, and an excellently articulated white tail of which I am extremely proud. The Y is that particular cleft at the intersection of nostrils and face. It is not only rabbits who have them – cats also do.

Even if I am trying to play the big guy here, fact is I am a mere toy – which, to be frank, annoys me a lot. Ok, luckily I have been manufactured at a pretty professional toy factory at the outskirts of Arad. My greatest luck above all is yet the fact that I am not a stylised product. I mean I do look like a rabbit and resemble no hypos, crocodiles, squirrels, nor God knows what else. Those who have designed me, filled me with synthetic wool and sew me had all along the process a black-and-white photograph of an excellent representative of the blue Vienna rabbit in front.
I have only seen it once, very briefly, before the accessories workshop master attached my last labels – actual tomes, explaining my superior origins, the textiles used at my assemblage and all those boring details on EU protection norms. The rabbit in the photograph stood with a serene air, aware of his assets, basking his silver-grey fur in the sunlight, standing out of the dark background of a bush. I had only spotted him for a second or so yet I‘ll never forget the content expression of the face, the fluffy cheeks, the strong chest and those ears resting on the back beaming with satisfaction and vernal languor. I cannot find words to convey the significance that rabbit bears in my eyes. I am sure he passed away in meantime – how old could that photo be? Real rabbits seldom live more than 7-10 years, anyway. I couldn’t say he was my ancestor, as a matter of fact there is no link between us, but still, I am made in his image and likeness. This almost verges on religion, only my ancestor is a mortal to the bone. And ephemeral. And perfect, I would say.
I met his soft, noble eyes, and then dark descended upon me, I saw nothing except for the cardboard box into which they were trying to squeeze me. These packaging things can be quite uncomfortable. Thanks to them, one becomes acquainted with the grip of a corset.

But I have a completely different story to tell. It is neither about the black and white photograph, nor about my stupid name: it actually is about Emil. I am so sorry I cannot tell all these into his face, but I am really angry with him. I picked up a grudge on him at a certain moment and cannot find the way back.
In meantime – and as I have always perceived time not through my own body, but through observing that of my fair friend, I don’t know, for how long, so many unshared emotions, frustrations and untold words have settled in me that I have simply gone numb, something clicked somewhere between what had happened then and what I would like to happen from now on and I got blocked. These lines would move Emil, if he read them, of that I am sure. I need a bit of daring, you know, a drop of special attention from him, and I am simply at a loss in talking to him.

The trouble is I always sleep. Even now, while talking to you, I am asleep. Which doesn’t mean all this is a blunder – on the contrary, it is dead real. Well, except for Emil’s name. Oh, and I’m not Balthazar either, thank God for that. I know you’ll get angry and ask why on earth have I made such a fuss about this name if it isn’t even mine. Well, sometimes I enjoy suffering for others. There surely are toy rabbits with this crusty name somewhere, and someone should speak up in their stead. This name, Balthazar Alexander Rubinov is definitely not ok for a toy rabbit.
All right, enough of this.

I am sharing all these with you because I am afraid of telling it to him – but not because rabbits are cowards. That’s nonsense. Do you know rabbits were the symbols of sincerity in ancient times, and the Greeks consecrated them to Venus? So I simply do not know how have rabbits ended up being symbols of cowardice and shyness. Rabbits never run for fear, they do it for pleasure. And their fast propagation does not rest in their having nothing better to do. Playboy sucks, you know.

I will continue to call my fair friend Emil anyway, and much to your distress I will continue to complain about my awkward name, because no matter how many favourable arguments you could find, the name can still be termed as nothing else but awkward, especially for a huge, mouse-grey rabbit.

Before breaking the news on the quarrel I had with Emil, I need to declare it for once and for all that I love Isabella Blow. I have a black and white photograph of her proudly wearing one of the most delicious creations by Philip Treacy. And I am not saying this because Isabella was wearing a superb hat in the form of eagle-rabbit-ears, that would be too facile, too mediocre a deed, I am saying it because Isabella Blow is my favourite designer and Philip the most talented hatter ever to walk on earth. Look them up on the Internet and you will get my message at once.
Enough, the advertisement break ends here.
Uhhh – that was a sigh.
I don’t even know where to begin.

The trouble probably is that I’m extremely jealous. And vain. And slightly extremist. I know this doesn’t sound like a rabbit, but who is to decide the nature of things? Who decides whether a perfectly orange, wonderful carrot has an equally good taste or not? Relying on my own experience, or more precisely on that of my more organic brethren, not all carrots are tasty. How can certain shrivelled and knotty carrots have such a divine flavour – it’s a mystery. I’ll talk about the external and internal qualities of carrots later, because it really is high time I started talking about this problem of ours which came along unnoticed, like a light snowball and has by now managed to reach astronomical dimensions so that none of us can handle it anymore. Words linked to other words, streams of phrases with eternal junctures in their midst, because none of us lets the other speak to the end, the whole matter is a plate full of entangled spaghetti. And us tired, irritated and disappointed on either side of the spaghetti-plate. It looks so sad. Well, it is said, after all.

It all began in the evening when Emil threw a piece of paper under my nose, directly on the floor. I was exhausted. He, too. We were playing landingonthemoon all day. This meant Emil tied me tightly by the ears with a sufficiently long rope and took me to the open window. There I closed my eyes to shun the void opening up under me but I could still feel it to the marrow of my bones and in the trembling of my front feet, or at least I imagined how a real rabbit could feel under similar circumstances. Then, bursting with pride – a toy rabbit is never afraid – I jumped into thin air from the seventh floor. It all was ok, not as dramatic as my story would suggest, but there still was a certain moment I hated. It was the painful moment when the rope Emil had prepared stretched to the utmost and a strong hitch due to the impact pulled me back. Emil’s mother had sown my ears times and times again to my head in vain. The subtle whirring sound, the strong hitch and the awful, few seconds long up-and-down dance cut all my appetite to being lulled by Emil into any kind of training.
“- Let’s play landingonthemoon!”
After a moment of darkness I could see the sky and half of the block swirling around in a slowing fashion then I managed to spot Emil’s blond head and even glasses gleaming above me at the seventh floor. Then he would direct me from above to explore the dense and untended garden of our block. And he was very good at it, pulling the rope to show me how pleasure on the moon – even if for a fluffy grey astronaut on a rather vegetal moon – was infinite. The stage of somersaults in the luxuriously bushy garden of the block was perfect, the worst part – even worse than the hitch at landing – was the difficult ascent to Emil’s seventh floor window. Because the whole process of rolling the rope back around an empty jar was lengthy and I got bored at an instant, but especially because the good old fifth floor neighbour had the habit of opening his window, taking the rope tied to my ears and cutting it.
Just like that, because we had invaded his space – the space he was entitled to in front of his window – without asking for any kind of permission from him. This meant I was again falling at speed of light and Emil shut his window to descend the stairs and fetch me. There were scratches and socks blackened by the whips of muddy leaves – I don’t know why, but whenever the fifth floor neighbour cut the rope and Emil had to descend seven floors (he was too light and the elevator would not carry him), the garden was a slimy swamp because it had rained the evening before and the leaves were still retaining the moisture of raindrops.
Once at home, Emil puffing because of so many stairs, I was hopelessly tucked into the washing-machine which I hate. Unhealthy thing. Rabbits need to be washed in a different fashion. You can’t just tuck them into an aluminium vat with lots of holes, can you? What is all that? A spaceship?

So, as I was saying, we were both exhausted and before throwing that paper under my nose on the floor, Emil had quietly crunched a few colour pencils. This was either the sign of true distress or he was simply staring at the white sheet of paper in his front not knowing what to draw. Emil had never liked to draw. The only use he put his pencils to was crunching them. And not just any random kind of crunching, but a systematic one. An entire process. He started with the tip, enemy number one, because a tipless pencil couldn’t draw. Then, to make dead sure sharpening the pencil was out of the question, he tactfully crunched the entire upper part of his pencils. Then he relaxed and did some additional crunching on the back end of the pencil, just to prevent his parents or the babysitter in charge to have a try at sharpening the other end.
Emil destroys only strong, lively colours. He spares his yellow, white and pink pencils, and sometimes, just to annoy Rosa – a girl of twenty or so who sees to it that Emil learns his daily lesson of English and French and draws a fixed number of drawings per day, or takes Emil for a walk outside – he humbly tries to draw with the listed colours only. And he really tries.
I have no idea why, but Rosa always gives in. Perhaps because she is paid to give in. She gives in and patiently sharpens all those coloured pencils. I cannot tell whether she does good or wrong, fact is that by a shiny box of neatly sharpened pencils Emil looks like a weeping willow and I wonder if Rosa notices this heavy gloom freshly sharpened pencils induce in Emil.

Well, look, I am stealing your time with explaining away the crunching business instead of telling you how it all began. That particular piece of paper displayed the following lines:
“Rable de Lievre.
Roast the posterior of the rabbit in the oven with legs and all, on a buttered plate. Serve it hot.”
I took a baffled look at the page. What the hell is this? It obviously looked like a page torn from a cook-book; people eat rabbits, you know, in which matter I can only side with my organic brethren.
I haven’t said a word, but I meekly looked into Emil’s glassy eyes. Sometimes I cannot tell whether his eyes are glassy with anger, with tears or just because of his lenses. Whatever the reason were, Emil’s eyes looked glassy. He was mad. At me? Why?

Every time Emil is angry with me he throws a piece of paper in my face, describing some meal made of rabbit meat, torn from that cook-book for grownups. The more complex the recipe, the nastier his gesture. Kids recur to revenge not because they are evil but because they are helpless. Emil wouldn’t have torn all those recipes from his parents’ cook-book if he could communicate it in words. Despite the fact that sometimes he is such a chatterbox, I wonder whether all my thoughts are not in fact his thoughts.
Because usually he imagines the things I could say, the things I could think of upon certain objects or subjects quite well, he even goes as far as improvising dialogues between the two of us which I must admit annoys me a lot. But it is not these empty dialogues I meant to talk about here, and not all those scenarios he plays with me or with his other toys, no, I wanted to talk about words which spring directly out of him, out of his very soul, words that crystallise in his big blond head. Words he keeps well hidden somewhere between his mouth and eyes. I have the impression that things he intends to say in these moments of utter sincerity appear at first in his eyes, linger a bit, they shorten the atmosphere and they actually might even appear at the mouth if the moment is ripe, or if it is not, they rush back behind the eyes to heavily settle in a dark cave afterwards. This cave is nothing like passive memory – it more likely resembles an active volcano, ready at any time to erupt.

That night I expected him to explain himself, I didn’t know that his gesture of throwing cook-book pages under my nose would become a ritual painful and exhausting for both of us, and I never suspected what might lie behind those pages. This I found out later on.

Another sample of Emil’s bursts:
“Rabbit steak.
Take the back legs, the back and the attached parts of the rabbit are used. Prepare a marinade, using water and wine, 2 -3 spoonfuls of wine-vinegar, 2 -3 spoonfuls of oil, slices of onions, carrots, celery, bay leafs and savory, salt and a few peppercorns. Place the meat in a deep bowl and pour the marinade over it. Leave it in the refrigerator for approximately 1 – 2 days, turning the meat pieces from time to time in the marinade around. Take the meat from the marinade and dry it with a clean towel. Add smoked bacon and garlic. Place it in the pan with its back upward, add a spoonful of butter and 2 -3 spoonfuls of water. Place the pan in the oven. Leave it until it roasts well, baste it with the sauce which is formed during frying. Serve it hot with the sauce from the pan.”

This time I felt really embarrassed. I didn’t know what to say, toys don’t speak anyway or if they do, they do it as long as their battery works. And as my design did not include sound equipment, I simply looked questioningly into Emil’s eyes.

- Look, he said, and thrust the paper really close to my nose, look what I’ve found.

And as my baffled look seemed to tell nothing to Emil who was rather preoccupied with demonstrating something to me instead of explaining it, he lifted the paper from the floor, flattened it carefully and started to read it out. I have no idea in what grade he was at that time, nevertheless he stumbled a lot and ate lots of letters.
This torture lasted for a while each time, I had to attend this culinary liturgy to its end and I often got very sleepy meanwhile. Owing probably to the total lack of intonation, to erroneous accents or to constant blunders on the route, I would snooze in the exact middle of the discourse.
When I had first fallen asleep, Emil got monstrously mad. But because he is not the violent type or at least he does not exteriorize his violence so easily, I noticed the thing not when it happened but much later, the next day at lunch, when we found ourselves lined up like they do it in the army, in long rows of six-seven toys each. There were around ten rows on the whole.
Perfect order.
Emil was walking up and down somewhere in the front, holding a match notebook and a pencil, probably red, in his hand – obviously in a manner less than skilled. I could see he tried very hard not to throw it away, nor to have a crunch at its end. He called out loud for each of us then took down our names in the grey notebook.
63. All taken in record. 63 different toys, made of plush, metal, wood, plastic, cardboard or paper. Toy number 48 was one of Emil’s favourites, a glass made from a children’s magazine, a manufacturing method he had learned in kindergarten and was very proud of it.

Then he had left the room and all the toys sighed with relief. I missed him so much. He got angry with me for falling asleep during one of his culinary liturgies and stopped talking to me. I know that only a night and half a day had passed since that event, but for me an entire century had passed.
I missed him. I wanted to hear his voice again, to see his huge head fidget above me, I wanted to play landingonthemoon, or to play the cowboy game, in which Emil used to mount all sorts of smaller animals on my back, or to play the car-race, me running with all my might to outrun an arrogant high-heeled shoe or his dad’s slippers.
He turned back with the same serious complexion and with three large cardboard boxes. We wondered for how long that tense situation was going to last? Using a black marker he wrote PAST on the first, PRESENT on the second and FUTURE on the third box, then he turned and faced us. As soon as he started to select a few toys and throw them into the box on which he had written PAST we figured it out Emil wanted to systematize his toys. Oh, but one never does such a thing. You don’t throw your old toys in the PAST box and the appealing ones in the PRESENT box.
In the end he stuffed most of his toys in the PAST box, picked a few lucky ones for the PRESENT box, except for the big, grey and beautiful rabbit – that is except for me.
The FUTURE box was empty because he had nothing to fill it with, in order to be there, toys had to be bought and catalogued first.
He carried the PAST box behind the block and dumped it by the waste containers, he put the PRESENT box under his desk by his computer and he carefully placed the one on which he had written FUTURE in a visibly cleaner and more decorative in the middle of the room, next to me.
That was it. Me and the potential future in the middle of Emil’s empty room.
He hustled a bit more around the place, then came to me and said:
- You could be in this box but you aren’t because you fell asleep.

From that day on, things started tumbling downhill. My fair friend would sit in front of me and watch TV with absent eyes, mistaking the remote control for his dad’s cell phone to talk directly to cartoon characters, me lying by the empty cardboard box with FUTURE written on it. The other toys went numb, first with anger, then with sadness, finally with complete loss of faith in them ever being taken out from under the desk.
Rosa stopped sharpening his pencils because Emil didn’t even touch them. She preferred it that way, otherwise we would have had to chase him all day long. French and English lessons were held with a mass-like air each day at four, in complete silence, without whimpering and running around the table, without eternally crunched pencils.
Whereas complete muteness descended upon us. From time to time Emil would turn his gaze from the TV to see whether I was still there and stare at me with no glimmer in his eyes.
One evening I opened my sleepy eyes and saw his huge head staring at me. Like that. It only lasted for a second, he went quickly back to bed. This was too much. What was his problem? Why did he stop talking to me? What did I do to him? What did I not do?

I decided to put an end to the torture and pretended to sleep all day next day. I knew he would get annoyed. His favourite toy had simply give in to psychological harassment and decided to sleep and ignore him completely. For a day or two Emil showed no signs of noticing my slumber, those days were like a nightmare for me. Do you know how difficult it is to pretend to sleep in broad daylight? Total paralysis. Paranoia. Relaxed tenseness, sounds and colours invading your head and you aren’t able to tell real from unreal anymore.
Then he slowly started to react, but without any major change in his attitude. Meanwhile I got accustomed to sleeping almost all day and had started to build a parallel world different from the one my fair friend lived in. I am sure he did the same if he was not entirely absorbed by the television.

And so.
This is all I wanted to say.
Oh, and that much, much later I started missing even those hideous recipes of meals cooked from rabbit meat, I wished to get any kind of sign, no matter how malicious, from him, but nothing ever happened after that.