Thursday, January 27, 2011

Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Naturally I couldn't help taking a picture of this enormous sign. It's covering a closed down bank - a bit of an ignominious end for a formerly prestigious institution. But I started to reflect on what constitutes the truth. Now early in my training we students were visited by a Choice Therapist who, as an introduction, argued that there was no such thing as truth and that no-one could define it. That was a little relativist for me and I recalled the words of my philosophy lecturer from 1968. He would quip that "truth ... is that, which is, in fact, the case." Now that opens several cans of philosophical worms as he very well knew. Truth is multi-dimensional. There are many layers in a truth cake. Yet when we come to lived experience - and I'm thinking of someone communicating that to me in the psychoanalytic space - it has its own truth, which I would not wish to compromise. That truth might be but a a layer and to that extent, one dimensional. Yet it cannot be reduced to either "knowledge" or "fact". It is not about science. Nietzsche said "... may the will to truth mean this to you. That everything shall be transformed into the humanly conceivable, the humanly evident, the humanly palpable. You should follow your own senses to the end." Maybe there is a crossroads in psychoanalysis where, for a short space of time, truth lives. (Ref: Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Blissful islands: Thus Spake Zarathustra, tr RJ Hollingdale, Middlesex, Penguin, 191, p110)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Please knock

There are many door knockers like this but there was something that drew me across to this one. Perhaps it was the reflection of the church opposite. Or maybe it was the brass, dulled a bit with its patina not altogether removed by polishing. The paintwork lends a kind of impressionist look to the reflected building and it gave me a sense of familiarity which is always reassuring. So maybe its the alchemy of brass that's driving the image. Brass shares the symbolism of bronze and both are copper alloys. Copper bonded with zinc, gives us this solid, lustrous substance brass, which is powerful, even violent, due to its composition of symbolic opposites. Copper is thought of as fire and zinc (like silver) tends to be associated with water and the moon. Bells are made of brass and of course they are sonorous, booming out across cities. Tibetan singing bowls are also made of brass and for the most part, brass (like bronze) is a sacred metal. Here on the door though, I think it is a symbol of power and strength. It's not a jolly, welcoming door knocker. It's rather a big, robust and probably expensive piece of kit. The knocker doesn't have to be a circle, but in so many cases of door knockers, it is. Its presence on the door makes up a circle within a square. This dynamic possibly suggests a change in status levels - but symbols are so ambivalent, we would have to examine the original set of circumstances of the door!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Stairway Down

Well, when I saw this I thought it looked bleak. But it was the complex of bars, rails and steps that took my interest. I also thought that it would illustrate the positive and negative aspects of symbols. (Just for the technically minded, I used a filter to achieve the speckled look although it looked fairly stark anyway.) This is the entrance to an office block that in all likelihood was hastily erected during the boom years and never occupied. Symbolically, stairs have two clear meanings depending on whether they are ascending or descending. A stairway up is, of course, an ascent to the spiritual and to heaven, but down leads to the underworld and the unconscious. Descent isn't always negative but in this case, these stairs speak of negativity and decay. It is interesting that when things are left unused they seem to decay and need repair more quickly than if they had been in constant use. Except for the Pyramids! Now they were well built.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Silent Light

This is just outside St Peter's and it's early in the evening just after Christmas. I was initially reluctant to get my camera out of the bag for the shot. And I wasn't altogether prepared to be persuaded that the shot would work. Nevertheless, a handy fence presented itself and I gave way, committing to a long and very approximate time exposure. I wanted the figures to be blurred in the ghostly way that's typical of old street photographs - and I got half my wish. But I was pleased! Despite the bustle of Rome and its many tourists, these streets had a very particular sound. There were only pedestrians going about their business and somehow the light and the sound in the scene combined in a synesthetic relationship. One could almost hear the light. There are no filters in use, so the starbursts around the street lights are just a dialogue between the street lights and the lens.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fountain, Memory and Modernity

This is the Piazza Navona, a place of which I am particularly fond. Always vibrant, this beautiful square hosts many market traders selling novelties and a variety of good, especially for children. My subject suddenly appeared in an imposing manner in the shot and I was most happy for his presence. It added to the colour of the scene. It is good that he is here because this fountain takes on the symbolism of the spring and that can be of Life, Youth, Knowledge and of course Immortality. The water of the spring or fountain is venerated as purity and the beginning of life. But they connect with ideas of Memory - in various Greek legends they can bring forgetfulness . If the dead lose their memory and the new born acquire them, then that is a very Jungian formulation. At a collective level, we acquire, in some manner, the memory of the past. In Orphic terms, the Spring of Lethe lulls into death, the Spring of Memory ensures wakefulness and hence immortality. So if the collective remembers, even unconsciously, then of course we ensure memory of continuity. That is a kind of immortality that in turn connects with what we consider modernity.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Righteous Partners

Like the toy balloons in the previous blog, statues depend pretty much on projections. They are whatever values we require them to carry. But I couldn't figure out whether these statues above were any particular Gods or historical figures. I think they were generic and hence represent something at an archetypal level. "Man" sees himself very much as an essential part of the cosmos and so man is at one and the same time a symbol and a copy of the universe in miniature. Everyone born is, in some way, the universe recreated. The statue of man is rooted in the earth but reaches towards the sky - both flesh and spirit. Now the statue horse in this position does not step (as in many traditions) out of the world of darkness. This horse is indeed a creature of light in the hands of Gods, Goddesses and heroes. It represents mastery and sublimation of the instincts and hence is "the noblest conquest of mankind". This horse is an epic horse isn't it? It is standing on par with the human. It is untethered, unridden or directed - but definitely the two creatures are together. It is when the horse is ridden that it becomes ambivalent - a creature of the light and the darkness and places in between. To me, these two look like they may do righteous battle together.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Temporary Toys

I thought I would start the New Year with a colourful image. These balloons are extremely popular with the children who visit the Piazza Navona and they are sold in vast number. Everything in play involves giving something of yourself up to the object. We invest and, in consequence, surrender something of our self which brings the object to life. Our libido achieves this, always moving outwards - and the game becomes a bridge between imagination and the real world. I sometimes wonder what happens to the balloons though. How many of them make it home? How many accidentally fly off to the sky accompanied by much wailing by the young owner? How many just deflate of their own accord? And how many suffer an unfortunate and sudden piercing and bursting? Perhaps the temporary nature of these objects is a development progression from the transitional object, like the teddy bear. That comprises a more or less permanent bridge between the child, mother and home for a substantial period of time. But this object shall certainly cease to be and the child, although disappointed, accommodates to loss. It is a rite of passage to reality. In the meantime of course it is demanded, appreciated and enjoyed by the child. And what a wonderful display of colour these toys make!