In his critique of the Montréal Tape Run, Ed Pinsent, one of the more imaginative reviewers around, says: „I also like the fact that so little is “explained”, that there are no printed biographies of the creators that can sometimes seem so self-serving and pretentious, and not a web link in sight. Hand-made cassette tapes, sounds recorded without use of a laptop, and a typewritten note – it confirms to me that I’m right to stay in love with the “old” world of tangible objects!”
There is no mention of the paper that Anne-F used to wrap her crustacés tapes in, simply because the MTR is wrapped in a piece of bubble plastic. The others weren’t. One tape, for example, was wrapped in pages of a falling apart edition of Arbres Indigènes du Canada. The pictures, use of colour and the lay-out had a very clear last century feel about them, the time when tons and tons of books landed on the shores of our knowledge, each one serving as a footnote for things, we were equally happy to know and to forget about. Anne used also the back leaflet of a Canada post customs declaration, an old receipt booklet or Chinese ''ghost money.” The tape called „”Déplacement Rendez vous” was wrapped in paper with six round holes in it, that she found in a yard sales.
The paper around the six holes and the receipt from the booklet had a very specific smell. Caramel for the one and a notion of vanilla and cinnamon for the booklet. How could this be possible? The receipt booklet unleashed a whirlwind of images. They ranged from vague recollections of the life in the harbour of 19th century Boston, as described in the opening chapter of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, to a nostalgia for the early twentieth century years, which I encountered for the first time in the silent movies made in Hollywood. But the paper, with its decades old perfume, made me also think of coffee: one of the best cortados I ever had. I found this coffee in a small cafe not far from the bookshop where Anne-F worked. It was one of those new bars, custom-made for the laptop generation, surfing on the new wave of coffee gourmet bars, where special offers with vanilla and caramel flavours abounded.
I once had an in-depth talk with an Austrian friend, Christian. He was born in Vienna, and as such your existence was troubled with Wiener schnitzel, the sausage that’s simply called Wiener, the Waltz of course, Sachertorte, Freud, Adolf Hitler and The Anschluss, the third man and theme from third man, but also with Wiener Melange, which is a special blend of coffee. Now this guy knew how to make the second best cortado I ever had. He had especially bought a professional espresso machine from Italy. It was one of the classic brands whose name I can’t recall. He had studied the art of coffee-making to extremes, simply because he liked to drink good coffee.
The best coffee he ever drank was in Antwerp in a bar without any pretensions. Mention Antwerp and I remember Austerlitz a book by Sebald. In it he describes very extensively the train station of Antwerp and its potpourri of architectural styles. When I read the first part of the book, I waited with anxiety for the moment, that the characters would start to walk and end up in the cafe, where Christian found the best coffee he ever had. It didn’t come. Sebald went to visit a fort, where you drank coffee from a thermos. Which brings me back to the words of Ed Pinsent. I also like it very much that so little written information is provided. This information would have become the interface, the anonymous point where sender and receiver of the tapes would meet, and disappear. In a global sense this interface is called news media. It lures us into a state of mind, that makes us forget about the beauty of futility.