Friday, July 19, 2013

The Ambivalence of Mickey Mouse

This took my attention because there seemed to be so many soft toys piled into one space. It's an amusement arcade machine, where you can manipulate a crane to grab the toy you want. I think most people don't manage to get anything at all. Clearly this is Mickey Mouse and it was only following a Disney dispute that he emerged as his own character, replacing Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. This gives me an opportunity to correct a mistake. Many works on symbolism only recognise mice as rats. In turn, rats are compared with their "fellow rodents" - rabbits.  But rabbits, hares and pikas are lagomorphs, not rodents. That's lucky for rabbits since rats are regarded as unclean. Freud's famous tract, the Rat Man, gives an idea of what rats symbolise. These underground rummagers have connotations of both the phallic and the anal. At the same time, they are signs of money, wealth and plenty. The mouse that spreads pestilence is also a symbol of Apollo, who both sends disease and cures it. Symbols are ambivalent and perhaps Mickey Mouse is too. He's an excellent cartoon character, who's antics give me much pleasure. At the same time, he has become a symbol of a vast exploitation empire. Mickey is very protected in copyright terms, so I hope Mickey recognises my good faith.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Immanence of the Wall

This is near a school in Lingotto, Turin. What took my fancy was the colour but when I drew closer I spotted graffiti at the bottom - and I must say it made me smile. It wasn't the religious message that amused but the manner of conveying the definite, immanent nature of the event. Immanence is of course connected with religion and weltanschauung (world view).  But when push comes to shove this is just a wall. The wall shuts in and protects a world and avoids the invasion of evil influences. They are restrictive but we do know the value of walls. In Ancient Egypt it was all about height. The wall rises above us. The Wailing Wall separates those in exile from those at home - walls as separators can be about nations, tribes, families or rulers. In psychoanalysis, walls can symbolise separation between the ego and everything else. Walls mark boundaries. I suppose walls offers themselves up for inscription and these days might carry advertising or graffiti. Diogenes of Oenoanda carved a summary of the philosophy of Epicurus onto lengthy portico walls, now in Modern Turkey. Originally 25,000 words long, wall pieces continue to be unearthed by the Deutches Arch√§ologische Institut. As archaeological digs continue to demonstrate, it's hard to get rid of a wall.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

My Puma

I'm featuring a puma today, because I have a relationship with this one. It's one of the pumas that plays a part in my story blog, Follow the Wabbit. Although it's clear that it's a museum puma, killed and stuffed long ago, it was given some life and character by the taxidermist. Once I had a strange encounter with a puma in entirely the wrong place at the wrong time, but we both went our separate ways and I'm here to tell the tale. Shortly afterwards I came across this fellow - and like the taxidermist, I made him a character too. A puma is a cougar, a mountain lion, a panther or a catamount. Although it can be big, it is more related to the cat. So it gets the symbolism of the cat, not the lion. Cats are often regarded unfavourably in symbolism and many cultures see the cat as diabolic. But not in Islam. When passengers on Noah's Ark were disturbed by rats, Noah stroked the lion's face and it spat out a couple of cats. But whether it's a beast of good or a beast of evil omen, you can't ignore a puma. I chose to give this Puma a benevolent character and I made him a bit of a mensch. That's a Yiddish expression describing a principled, decorous and charitable individual. Puma is responsible and dignified - and even if he's a little old fashioned, he does what's right.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Even on the Squares

It was a chance shot in a container shop selling mostly kitchen things. And no matter what I do with it, it won't line up as I wish. Maybe that's the way with geometric things. I should have used a tripod with a spirit level and calibrations. Even then, I know this kind of shot seldom is seldom perfectly even. Have a look at movies on the TV. The angles never really work. And unless you have a shift lens and eons of time, you can forget symmetry in the frame. In situ, our eyes and brain compensate of course, and they will for my effort above - unless you study it closely. A square is one of the most popular symbols. It's always a construction, and represents a manufactured and bounded world. The world is square in ancient Chinese symbolism, because of the four directions of yang. These coordinates are a way of interpreting and describing abstract space in cosmic symbolism - we tend to to say "the earth" when we mean space. But when we get to the cube, then it is an expression of solidity, permanence and ultimately stagnation. The square is temporal whilst the circle is eternal. The square is limited through its boundaries and boundaries are often set by squares. Perhaps the sixties meaning of a person being regarded as "a square" was about constriction and boundaries. The over-corseted individual is too bounded to fully enjoy life.