Sunday, March 27, 2011

Portico flâneur - the art of strolling

I do like Turin and its porticos. On the one day I had chosen to prowl around, it rained! However this was no problem. You can walk for many kilometres under these arches and look at the many different shops. Turin has managed to hang on to its old traditions. There are small cafes, many with the original period decor. There are hobby shops with all kinds of models and you can order made-to-measure confectionery. Turin continues to be a centre for chocolate making and it's generally small scale. The Slow Food movement began in this region and it does show. What better place to be a flâneur? In order to be a flâneur proper you must have an interest in the city and its ways. You have to be have an affection for the things the city can offer. It is the zenith of participant observation - where some detachment is necessary for full enjoyment and appreciation. Probably my fondness for Turin is showing. It is nice to just walk around with no particular aim and I feel that perhaps we are in danger of losing the art of strolling. In these times, we must always have a purpose - shopping mostly. It isn't necessary. So perhaps we should all try to be flâneurs. Just as an exercise, go out for a walk around the city and see if you can do this without intention.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


This is a much worked on photograph with a few errors that were, in the end, satisfactory. It reminded me of the sixties and seventies obsession with "high flat syndrome". That naturally only applied to the UK and was entirely ethnocentric. Many countries are perfectly OK with apartment blocks - or condominiums are they are sometimes called. If you live in a city, acknowledging the benefits rather than the drawbacks of high density, then you know that many facilities are available to you - including transport, leisure and health. Importantly they are close by. In Spain and some other countries, participation in an apartment block committee is compulsory. That's perfectly sensible you might think. yet it demands a sharing sensibility. It's where collective and individual needs must coincide. In Jungian psychology, the individual is often privileged over the collective. Some practitioners seem to feel that this is means the individual is always "better" than the collective. Yet as existentialist psychotherapists know, we don't have a choice about being social beings. Where individuals benefit from sharing there can be no argument. Both individual and collective values are valid.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sustainable Purification?

This doorway is on O'Connell Street, much of which has seen better days. Particularly at the north end, there are many closed buildings - even a hotel where I once stayed seems quite derelict! The message is aimed at the banking sector and naturally many members of the collective are rather angry about the behaviour of those in whom we were encouraged to trust. Symbolically though, it is the method suggested by the graffito that interests. Fire is about many things. Yet we can be clear that in this case it's about change. Purification is in the very nature of fire and cleansing is what is suggested here. My philosophy hero, Gaston Bachelard would smile at this one. When he wrote the Psychoanalysis of Fire, one of the things he had in mind was the overpowering, elemental force of fire and the dramatic change it produces. When a fire starts it produces a chain reaction by which it sustains itself. Combustion brings fire and a process of change that both continues and is somewhat difficult to stop. Certainly it cannnot be reversed. Although the graffito doesn't go very far - graffiti never can - it's suggesting sustainable change. Change imples some kind of loss and in recent times, losses have been high.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Jason and the Psychonauts

I saw an opportunity to change a good enough seascape into something more particular. In general I don't like the Photoshop excesses, which are everywhere. But the shot seemed to be asking for manipulation. Also it seemed as if my horizon was, for once, dead level and made for a straightforward selection job. It was a very dull day without a great deal of sky detail but the sea looked choppy and threatening. So I opted for wide angle lens and then cropped the image to the centre. The sea invariably symbolises the unconscious, undifferentiated and formless. Terrifying eh? It's shapeless and dark and might have monsters in it. Am I speaking of the sea or the unconscious? A journey through the sea of the unconscious is what we embark upon in analysis. Paraphrasing Shankaracharya's "sea of passions", whoever crosses the sea with its demons and massive waves can be said to have travelled to the ends of the earth and have departed to the beyond. I have always felt that anyone setting out in analysis is a brave person embarking on a difficult and even perilous voyage, so the sea provides a good metaphor. Like the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts, the analyst and analysand must together confront, overcome and ultimately integrate whatever is in the unconscious. That's why some of us like to call analyst and analysand after the Argonauts. We are Psychonauts, forever piloting our ships across the sea of the unconscious.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Down here at the Railroad Station

In this picture, the passenger is arriving - and clearly wants to move forward on his journey at haste. If we dream of ourselves in this position we are clearly in transition. Having said that, I am always dreaming of changing buses, trains, planes and moving between termini. These splendid trains in the background would signify power, luxury and comfort in a dream. They could also indicate a development in your life. But this all depends of course on the context. If you were always travelling on this kind of train, it might signify something completely different. However, when I think of railway stations, they sometimes remind me of the ancient caravan trade routes. Now the caravanserai were roadside stops for the caravan traders to rest and recuperate. Like the old coach inns, they provided meals and accommodation. The railway station is a bit like that. These lines are from one of my favourite poems, Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. "Think, in this batter'd Caravansara/ Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day/How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp/Abode his destined Hour, and went his way." The railway station is, over time, like anything else. It's subject to change. Major railways stations no longer offer baths to travel-stained passengers, like the caravenserai of old. That's a pity. I remember using the service at Euston station in London. It was affordable and briefly luxurious. Chain coffee shops and clothes franchises can never replace that.