You must be the artist, welcome to the Kunstraum Lichtenstein
Come over here and join us, have some cheese, how long have you been here?
Just arrived this afternoon
Have you seen the castle?
Yes, from down the parking lot, can you visit?
No! The Prince lives there!
What does the Prince do?
He rules, he has a lot of power. We just had an election, we gave him more power.
He is a Prince but he still needs to be elected?
No, we didn't elect him, but we voted for a new constitution. The power is shared between the people and the Prince, we have a parliament, but everyone wanted to change the constitution. He did, and the Parliament did, and people voted against the Parliament to give him more of the power.
The people don't trust their own Parliament?
No, they rather have the Prince rule.
I know, it kind of sounds dictatorial, but the truth is, he is so rich he can't be corrupted, and people don't trust politicians.
Is he a good ruler then?
Not really, but he threatened to leave if he wasn't elected.
Where would he leave?
Vienna, that's where the family is from. He doesn't need us, we need him, he is a very rich and powerful man and his family has been good to Lichtenstein.
They protected us during the war, we were this little nation and somehow we survived everything and stayed and stayed and stayed and then people just forgot about us and here we are.
What else is a threat to Lichtenstein?
Yes, the fight against it.
Well, after September 11. You know, we are a tax heaven here, all kinds of money went through here, no questions asked, but after September 11, there is this new control, nobody wants to support Osama Bin Ladens money laundry and distribution to his cells.
So it's an internal threat then, the control?
Both internal and external, we are now under a lot of international control as well. But banking is not everything, we also have very important industry in Lichtenstein!
Hardeners, we make film that hardens tools, and drill points and dental fixtures, but the drill points are world famous.
Do you have a university?
Yes sort of, we have everything, but it is small, the university just have business degrees, but we have a museum, a theatre, everything, for such a small population, it is great, everyone gets their thing. Artist can really thrive here, do what they want and be supported.
That's nice, so what is Lichtenstein art?
This, what you see around you here.
What is it?
Don't know, ask the artist, she is over there.
What's the most famous artist to come out of Lichtenstein?
Don't know, we aren't producing any Picassos here, if you know what I mean.
What about folk art?
No we don't have that.
Oh that, it's all fake, some people try to say its rooted in tradition and sell it to tourists, but you know, this area was poor, there was nothing here but mice to eat and the Rein that would flood regularly and people had to escape.
And then what happened?
They straightened out the Rein, it is straight and under control now.
Do you use it?
Yes the riverside, it's a frontier, we skate there.
Does it freeze so you can skate?
No, the current is too strong, I meant, we roller blade on the riverside.
So it is dangerous still, the river?
Yes, sometimes people jump in.
So it is dangerous?
Yes, a man lost his baby and jumped after it and died too, it was very sad, happened two years ago.
I am going to get some more cheese.
Not a Local Bird
So here in the basement, we have all the plant specimens and stuffed animals. We have over 100.000 plants and 400 animals. We used to have an elephant, but they gave it away, before my time, not enough space to store it.
How big was it?
Like an elephant.
Would you have kept it?
Oh, yes, it was of great scientific value.
What's the scientific value of a stuffed elephant?
Oh, if it was captured in the wild, it is invaluable. You can sample it's genes for population research. Invaluable. Really a shame. Here are the birds.
Yes, most of them are very old, a century old, we even have extinct birds. Birds that don't exist anymore.
What's an extinct bird?
This one for example, the American Migratory Pigeon. It's gone. They used to be flocks of millions flying around. They were shot down for sport. The last one died in a Zoo in Cincinnati in 1914.
Yes. Most birds here are beautifully preserved. We had some of the best artists working here in St., Gallen, preparing the birds, their expressions are very realistic.
Are they filled with arsenic?
Yes, and DDT.
Is it dangerous, for you to work with them?
It is part of the job, we don't keep them out for very long. Here are the skeletons. This is a moose.
And a human. How old is it?
The person who gave it?
Probably 100 years old.
It was a very old person, look, all the teeth are out. In those times, they used it for medical research. This is the skeleton of an anteater. Here is a snake. Do you want to see the fossils?
I think all I want is a white bird with its wings stretched out, flying, a bit like an airplane. Maybe a white dove, or a seagull?
The white dove is upstairs, in the exhibition about biblical animals, but here is the seagull. It's not a local bird though.