Saturday, October 3, 2015

Of Bikes and Roads and Dreams

I noticed the bike when I was giving a new camera a test run. My last compact suffered a fall and probably it was time for a change. A test demands a wide range of shots and this scene offered distance and geometry. Most of all, it was a low light day. My immediate thought was of the owner's decision to secure the bike here. It's in a pedestrian island and hardly unobtrusive. Perhaps the owner was hiding it in the light. I hardly dare to speak of symbolism and bicycles. Sometimes clients would dream about being on a bike and of course they had looked it up. "Under my own steam," they would say proudly. I would mentally flinch - because like "the road less taken," the phrase is much overused. "On yer bike!" is one phrase that I like, although it's an impolite expression for "go away." And of course, because one rides a bike, it also has a sexual reference which I'll briefly explain by example. In my youth, a well meaning teacher, eternally doomed to explain sex to teenagers, told the class that no-one could get an STD from riding a Raleigh bicycle. We giggled politely and guffawed mightily later. So "I dreamed I was riding an old bike," isn't necessarily an expression of freedom and balance. In dream analysis it's always best to explore every connotation of the dream symbol. By way of an ending I would ask the client what kind of road they were riding in the dream - smooth, rough, rutted? Was the going tough? Was it less taken?

Friday, April 17, 2015

If you want to get ahead - get a hat

I always liked this kind of hat. The fellow wearing it is in a museum and I thought he would be happier with a ruddy glow because he seems like an outdoor sort. The hat is a headdress and to some extend shares symbolism with hair. It's the topmost adorning feature and a sign of authority. A hat is also like a crown and a tricorn hat even more so. So the hat also denotes power. Hats have a powerful iconography. The importance of the hat in movie Westerns cannot be over estimated. That is usually a black hat or a white hat, often worn with a correspondingly coloured horse. It connotes a position in the narrative of opposites - good and evil. To wear a different hat is to assume a different role but to change your hat is an altogether more serious business. Jung points out that this involves changing your ideas, your outlook on the world. Gustav Meyrink's novel "The Golem" is a Jewish tale of the Prague ghetto. The unnamed hero borrows a hat belonging to one Athanasius Pernath and is plunged into his head and body. The Golem is a Biblical creature rather like Frankenstein's monster and there are mystical Jewish texts that offer instructions on how to make one. Hasidic folklore suggests a Golem can be made to serve the purposes of its creator, but the most important thing is the fashioning of the head. In "Waiting for Godot", the hat is all about identity. "Give him his hat, he can't think without his hat." And when the characters speak as one, they all take off their hats. If you dream about a hat, it may represent a concern about identity, role and authority. Are you taking off the hat or putting it on?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sacks on the Beach

This is one of the first shots from my new wide angle zoom lens for the Pentax Q. I always visit Fregene over the Christmas period and there are always different kind of scenes to be captured. This time I was testing the potential of new equipment. Every winter, storms destroy many of the temporary beach structures - and so the beach was dotted with piles of sandbags. I noticed that the sacks originally contained coffee, so the container has been recycled to a defensive purpose, the holding back of the sea's destructive forces,  Unlike a sea wall these are temporary, seasonal defenses and quite distinct. They're designed to absorb the force of the sea and mitigate rising water levels. So if you dream of sandbags this can represent defenses of a transitional nature. Perhaps some turbulent period in life is approaching. It's temporary but you need to weather and limit the damage of forces ranged against you. Sometimes the unconscious may organise such a defense on your behalf in a manoeuvre to protect the individual against intolerable anxiety. The German term abwehr more appropriate describes the process. It implies parrying or warding off. We know the sandbags can't completely defend against rising waters, nor are they waterproof. They defend by warding off the danger. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Tower is not a Mast

I spotted this communications tower outside a supermarket in Rome and I couldn't resist the shape and the colours. The shop was on a fast road out of Rome with many commercial establishments and not much else. The tower is quite a symbol. In this case, it's all about communication and reaches skywards - it might be said to join the heavens. All towers have some kind of deep earthworks underneath. But whereas in the past, foundations would have been packed with rubble, they are now stabilised by massive concrete blocks sunk into the earth. So the connection between heavens and underworld is complete. But this tower is topless. It is capped by no dome or any adornment other than antennae and some spotlights - communication and light are directed earthwards. In that sense the tower remains a positive symbol because communication enhances awareness and is part of the acquisition of consciousness. In the symbolism of towers, the ladder is most important. Workers must go up and down to build the tower - but also to carry out essential maintenance. They continually ascend and descend this axis between earth and heaven, complicit in some energetic broadcast. This is a modern tower and it has a close relation to traditional tower structures. It is not a mast. The mast is always tethered by guy wires and thus is a different symbol altogether. It's the free standing tower that connotes solidity and strength. If you dream you're on a tower, then think how you feel. Are you strong or vulnerable? Are you pleased with your view across the city or are you trembling and anxious you may fall?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Time to say Yes

There comes to a time no matter what, when we have to make a stand. I am always saying that whatever the circumstances, one always loves one's country. Scotland is my country. I have never been happy with its attachment to England. So today is a big day - and like everyone else I can't be certain of the outcome of the Referendum. Jenny is a favourite character in my stories at Follow the Wabbit and it's her face I'm privileging here. She is of course a pirate and a pirate is independent. Pirates were usually in the employ of the state, but they were privateers. They made alliances where they could and took part of the proceeds - the American War of Independence was alive with privateers. Most psychotherapists are freelance and by the same token they are independent. We all value our independence. We continually emphasise that our children should seek independence and break free from the parents. They must give up the parent archetype and the parents must give up the child archetype. The pirate - with all that piracy entails - is free from the parents. But freedom comes at a price. The domineering parent may try to keep control for their own narcissistic reasons. Their children are often mere projections of themselves. But Scotland is more than a projection of England - more than the costumes and the haggis continually trotted out for foreign guests. I did give Jenny the Pirate Chief a Scottish costume though. She is Glasgow post-punk. She's kitsch and a little terrifying, I wouldn't get in her way. She's for Scottish Independence and so am I.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Art and the Suitable Container

This is by way of a nice story. A fellow artist got in touch to tell me she had made a painting from one of my blog entries. It's this one here and I was delighted. Her name is Stefania Vignotto who lives in Thailand and her paintings are at Fine Art America. But the story isn't finished. Stefania wanted to send me a quality print, but there was difficulty that day in getting the right container. Stefania cycled all around and found a tiny post office where a helpful woman said she would make a bespoke package. So the woman made a double envelope then tied the package up with the string her mother uses for home made sweets that she sells in her shop. Duly mailed out, the painting reached me a week later, safe and sound. After I unwrapped it, Otis the cat descended on the string and adopted it as a toy. It was a joyful sequence. Since the painting will now hang in a place of importance, I will recall the story when I pass it. Stefania saw something in my photograph and added her interpretation to create something wonderful. But I liked the story of container and wrapping so much that they became, for me, part of the object. In Jungian psychology, the container provides a protective covering. The persona, for example, is a necessary container that protects the inner self - but problems arise when we confuse the two. Patina as container is something different. Over time, covering and the covered are organically fused. In my case, the container is patina and provenance. Even if I consider the painting alone, I doubt I'll be able to separate my thoughts of painting, container and journey.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Representation in the Lived Space of the City

There are so many things happening in this shot, but I hardly recall I took it. Maybe I composed it, but I don't think so. Street poles arranged themselves and no less than three arrows aligned. Some objects seem to echo each other. And of course we shouldn't neglect the football boy in the mural. What's he pointing at? I know this was before midday, but what is that crowd outside the church? It may have been a funeral, despite the informal dress. I am critical and I'm not content to see a space without looking for a representation of space. This is more than a collection of angles and buildings and street furniture and it's so much more than things in a frame. On one level it's a lived space, but it's more than one single space. We need to recognise the political space of the city otherwise we live an illusion. I mentioned time but is there time in this photograph? We can stare and stare but we won't see time. We see movement, we see shape and we even recognise change but we can never see time. Henri Lefebvre notes that the tree leaves rings as a mark of time and this time is physically inscribed in natural space. If we look we can easily see the time of the tree, but the city hides time. Moreover, time is concealed within the frame of the photograph, which is a fragment of space. I do know the actual time of day of the photo of course - it's 10:16 am. The shutter speed - the fragment of time - is 1/250th of  a second. That occupies a technological space completely hidden from the people within this photograph.