- carpet, handmade
limited edition of 8 copies
materials: wool, viscose
dimensions: 375 x 200 cm
background colour: pink or blue
A tsunami of black rats on a hibiscus pink background. A sea of staring eyes. Everywhere! Those wild eyes with their crazed look. Those intermingled tails. A freakish, tangled skein, teeming with crawling creatures inching towards an unknown destination. A purpose it is up to us to determine, or perhaps invent.
Rat King is a tale in its infancy, one in which you take on the narrator’s role, or perchance that of its hero. A story in which you surge forward with a pack of punk, rock ’n’ roll and revolutionary rats. Rats who have it in for you or rats following you like the Pied Piper. Which is it going to be? It’s entirely up to you.
What’s at the other end of that rug? A despotic CEO behind his massive desk? A photographic portrait of a dictator? The woman you love? Your children watching TV? Just you, perhaps.
Once again, it’s your story.
It’s the moment when Pupsam pass you the baton. Because their own story, as I recall it, began in the winter of 2011.
Gloomy weather, a depressing economic outlook. The pretty lady who runs the corner bakery can only manage a forced smile. There is a melancholy feel to the birds’ songs. Gasping for breath in some sort of asthmatic episode, the computer refuses to render 3D graphics.
Pupsam had had enough. They were desperate for things to get better.
And they weren’t alone. Although they hadn’t started talking about it on the news, murmurings had already begun in the Arab countries and, in Spain, the indignados would soon make their first appearance.
It’s awe inspiring to realise that only the merest spark is needed to ignite the bonfires of change. And we always wonder where it comes from. Maybe from an idea popping up simultaneously in the heads of people all over the world. Maybe from a single individual. Maybe at the beating of a butterfly’s wings. And why not with a phone call from Galerie Slott? A conversation about creating a new piece, a floor covering that would tie together the other creations of the collection and ground them in the exhibition space.
Definitely a project that Pupsam could get excited about! With considerable constraints, but also a lot of room for expression.
They quickly went to work, searching for an idea to inhabit the Slott*. They looked at several possibilities, particularly animal themes. Maybe a large hunting dog… and why not rats?
Rat and art are anagrams of each other. And for several years now, Art with a capital “A” has been the focus of Pupsam’s work. It’s what makes their designs so special. So expressive. In their very own way, by embedding art in our daily lives, they are working to change the world.
Ganesha, the Hindu god of wisdom, intelligence, education and prudence, the patron of letters and learning, is always shown mounted on, or accompanied by, a rat. One of Hinduism’s most popular deities, he is the remover of obstacles created by illusions and ignorance.
Subsequent research led Pupsam to a German legend about a war in the underworld describing the incredible adventures of Prince Nerub, a young rat whose father, the king, has just died. As Nerub has not yet reached adulthood, the kingdom’s authorities refuse to allow him to succeed his father. But facing down a sinister force, Nerub’s kingdom is in desperate need of a ruler. An army of renegades led by a spider named Große Spinne, previously expelled from the kingdom by Nerub’s father, is at its gates. Nerub steals the crown and locks himself with the royal court in the throne room. Three moons later, he emerges transformed. Nerub now possesses the mind of a single, perfect being, having joined together with all of the rats in the room. Spurred by his mighty conviction, with his newfound strength Nerub successfully defeats Große Spinne and his army.
The term “Rat King” apparently derives from this legend, referring to a strange natural phenomenon: in various spots around the world, specimens of rats knotted together by their tails have been found, forming a single being.
With the Rat King, Pupsam had found their concept. A palette of black rats to deploy their ideas and their aspirations. Rats laying claim to a bubblegum pink space. Pink like the Exquise Design logo. Pink like the colour of more carefree days.
But from the idea to the finished object, a long road remained to be travelled by Pupsam.
A road that would lead them first to Anita Graffman of Art&Design in Sweden, a studio specialising in the creation of rugs and tapestries. Anita spoke at length with Pupsam, delving deeply into rug manufacturing techniques and revealing some of their secrets.
Back in Paris, Pupsam then began experimenting with various types of yarn and explored different colourways and combinations. They paid very particular attention to the wavering, watered effect of the eyes to give them that crazed look. In addition, Pupsam worked especially hard to give the rats the silky and lustrous fur that makes them so loathsome while tempting us to reach out and stroke their pelts. They also created a glossy and enticing pink that looks good enough to eat. Finally, they played with volume, sculpting the mass of rats crawling over each other in their confused and halting efforts to advance.
At the same time, Anita had put Pupsam in touch with Raj of Adhiraj Exports, a manufacturer of handmade rugs based in India. They submitted their project to Raj, who took some time to respond and in the end purely and simply refused to make the rug. You might wonder why, until you remember Ganesha! Rats are sacred in India. It was inconceivable to Raj that one could trample them underfoot.
But anything is possible. Pupsam know this well and have made it their credo: “Nothing can stop a good idea, it spreads like an epidemic carried by rats.” So they got back in touch with Raj and defended their position. After all, Ganesha himself is often shown travelling astride a rat. Ultimately convinced, the craftsman agreed to take on the project.
In spring 2012, the rug was ready to join Galerie Slott’s collection at the Art Paris Art Fair. Under the majestic glass roof of the Grand Palais, where this show was held, wary visitors approached Rat King, with a mixture of repulsion and fascination in their gaze. Many stayed to contemplate the rug for some time. Something seemed to be vibrating within them… and Pupsam couldn’t have been happier. In Tunisia, Ben Ali’s regime had just been toppled. Perhaps the world would be changing after all. Emerging from the fog with strength and hope, like a tsunami of black rats on a hibiscus pink background.
* Slott is the word for castle in Swedish.