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.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Skulls, Alchemy and Rebirth

This skull resides in the workshop in Nürnberg where a good friend practices her craft. The workshop is rather unusual because it houses a printing technique known as Xylography.A design is cut out in wood, then a limited run of imprints are made using a special machine. You may know of the artist and political thinker William Morris. He was a famous xylography artist but I know my friend is his equal for fine cutting! This is the web site of artist Anke Vogler  so that you can see the kind of detailed work that's possible. Nürnberg is famous for Albrecht Dürer, another xylography artist. You may even have seen his famous picture of a hare, which is a symbol of Nürnberg. But that doesn't tell us about skulls! The skull is a repository of life and is part of alchemy. The scene above looks quite alchemical doesn't it? The skull is the seat of control, centre of operations and ultimately the womb of knowledge. Most famous for its place above the St Andrew's crossed bones in which skull and crossbones represents the four quarters of nature and perfection. The reason for the symbol's adaptation as the pirate "Jolly Roger" is not known - but "giving no quarter" springs to mind. As an alchemical symbol the skull connotes putrefaction, but putrefaction involves rebirth and the cycle of life and death. In alchemy, the new man arises from the crucible in which the old was annihilated. There are only a few people left who can do this kind of skilled work. Perhaps the skull is there to remind us of that.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Things come around: Fairground Attraction

This big wheel isn't unusual except for its position. It's to the rear of the old Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nürnberg. I guess if you visit Nürnberg you have to go there - although I did find it uncomfortable. It's rather a massive place, although much was demolished after the war and more recently in the sixties. I hadn't realised it was used as a prisoner of war camp. Many Allied prisoners helped to build this daunting place until they were replaced by German prisoners - the wheel of time revolves. In the thirties, the Nazi Party even had a funfair housed in wooden building within the site. But I was feeling a little sad after I explored the interior where the museum is housed - and when I saw the Big Wheel I snatched a shot because I had to. It's the sky that makes the picture - it was that kind of day and I reflected. The ceaseless turn of the wheel leads to renewal but nothing can stop the direction of the wheel. We may not turn it back, yet it always moves. Unlike the circle however, spokes suggest the sun. In Hinduism, the wheel is not only solar. It is cosmic and hence intergalactic. A single horse pulls a single wheeled chariot like a voyaging star. But perhaps this particular wheel means something more - wheel symbolism also includes the wheel of fortune and of course the Tarot springs to mind. Where Jungian thought is concerned, the rise and fall of the cars connote alteration and compensation. Some say this means justice.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Feuerbach's Beard. The point is to change it

I find it interesting to come across the grave of someone I've read. This is the resting place of Ludwig Feuerbach, a teacher of Karl Marx and the subject of one of his most famous works. Long years ago, my old college chums would amuse me by criticising Feuerbach for not being a Marxist. Of course, it's hardly possible that he would be. Without Feuerbach, there would be no essay on Feuerbach and that was seminal to Marx's development and outlook. It is within "Theses on Feuerbach" that we meet the famous line, "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it." Marx emphasised the practical activities of humans and to some extent psychoanalysts do also - although we can often sink into the marshes of ideology. Thought on its own doesn't go anywhere. It emerges in practice and only then is it a vehicle for change. People in analysis want to change. So the contemplation process that we encourage must eventually be practiced in the real material word by the real flesh and blood person. Feuerbach himself was a great thinker but I'm afraid I was more fascinated by his beard than his writing. A beard is a sign of bravery. Many cultures insist on them and the greatest of gods are depicted with beards. In Ancient Egypt, they were often imitation with a curled point at the end. I'm not a beard person - I'm a moustache person and I appear to be in luck, because the symbolism is much the same. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Trains, names, numbers and life

The shot was taken from a platform seat in Fürth metro. I modified it a little because it was nearly monochrome and I wanted the roof to stand out. But what symbolism should I employ? Seats, roofs, holes and maps - there's a lot to chose from. The train itself is recent addition to symbolism and the received opinion is that certain structures apply - structures of timetables, regulations and authority. I take a different view. Every train has a number and attached to that is a departure time (from somewhere). The train is always called strictly by it's departure time, not the actual time it left. For example, a train might be the 3.20 from Fürth and so it remains even if it's late. The name of the train contains the nominal time. Now that may be a semiotic point, but theory is grey and green is the tree of life. Isn't it a wonderful feeling when you're satisfied you are on the right train? You look at your watch and hear the guard's whistle blow. The wheels screech and very slowly the train moves off. It's not long before it picks up speed and begins to glide across the city. The destination station is set - but of course it can and occasionally does change. Instead of arriving at our chosen station, we find ourselves somewhere else and have to make new arrangements for our final destination. It doesn't matter where the train ends up. It's still the 3.20 that left from Fürth.And so it is with people. Our date of birth, a number, is the one we have to carry. A name can always be changed but never your date of birth. That's the time you left on your journey. You know where and when you departed but the destination is up to you.