Saturday, February 27, 2010

Checking Out

There is something about shops that fascinates me. So the last time I was in Tesco I got he camera out of my bag and risked a quick shot. I thought ASA 1600 would be enough but it couldn't quite cope. Nonetheless, the people assembled quite nicely and I do like the young man on the till who is intently watching the woman at the checkout. And there is someone looking directly at the camera. This is a bit like the children's puzzle "Where's Wally?". Can you spot her? She makes the photograph work and without her it would not look so satisfying. This is a very spacious store although sometimes it doesn't seem like that. It fills itself up with things and people. We all seem to like shopping and even travel for it, yet we complain about it thereafter. I found that I had to turn to the biblical for an appreciation of shopping. "How many pretences men that sell goods weave. What poor articles with what good face, do they palm off on their customer!" said Henry Beecher in his Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887). I am inordinately fond of Erich Fromm, a psychotherapist of the Frankfurt School. He updates the comment by saying that "Man does not only sell commodities, he sells himself and feels himself to be a commodity." (Escape from Freedom, 1941). There's the explanation. We are all commoditised and unconsciously we are aware of our commoditisation. In order to feel comfortable with our "false self" , we desire, associate with and purchase commodities in our leisure time. It's about us, not about the objects. And through the objects, we alienate ourselves from ourselves.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mind Your Head

Well it was raining and I hesitated to get the camera out. Spatters of rain were falling on the lens and I wanted to be on my way. But the crane was interesting as it made its way between the two Temple Bar streets, I'm not sure doing what exactly. This part of the city is barred to traffic in theory - but not here. We shall not complain, since the area we know as Temple Bar was very nearly demolished in favour of a bus station. It's now known as the cultural quarter but we do have to be careful with such terms. Culture is "functionalised consumption" with exactly the same planned obsolescence and waste that is part of our overall system. Everyone knows this, yet Dublin would be the poorer without its small specialist shops - especially those aimed at collectors. People make journeys across Ireland just to visit these stores - because the journey and its recollection adds a layer of interest to the collected object. Yet to call this a cultural quarter really adds nothing to our understanding of spatial relations. Rather it relegates this to a category. The space in which we live, lies in the sediment of history and underneath is nature - the old river bank from which Temple Bar derives its name. Is it dispiriting or exciting to be part of the sedimentation process, I wonder? Existentialist psychotherapists describe the hardening of attitudes in old age as sedimentation, but I feel that in some way, we are all sedimented products of our past.

Canal Capers

This photograph look OK in colour, with many yellows. But I tried it in a sepia monochrome and preferred the result. The banks of the Grand Canal have seen many changes here. This is just north of the Milano restaurant and the photo is taken from where Baggot Street crosses the canal where Mespil Road and Haddington Road meet. Dredging out the canal is quite a symbolic task is it not? Ensuring the flow of the waters through this channel ensures that vessels can successfully navigate their way to the Liffey. The Grand Canal in China is one of the first navigation canals and is still the longest, connecting many provinces. Its namesake in Dublin, hosts little traffic these days, but is nonetheless fascinating, possibly due to what Bachelard would describe as a kind of melancholy. The water is hardly deep, as the picture indicates. You might hesitate to take even a sip of this water, but as Bachelard (following Edgar Allen Poe), says, it would be good fun to stir it with a wooden spoon. It's "heavy". At one time, the heavy canal water crossed the land like veins, carrying raw materials. Now you can sense its despair.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Menus and Woman

Searsons is an institution in Baggot Street - one of two pubs on this side of the road, where many office workers linger at lunchtime for a bite to eat and a pint. There is no symbolism of food per se, it all reverts to different kinds of food. The menu advertises the carvery so we must be dealing with meat, vegetables and possibly bread. Even then, symbolism refers to the specific kinds of meat, which in Ireland would most likely be beef, pork or chicken. And we're not finished - the symbolism again reverts to the qualities of the animal itself, so we would have to consider cow, pig or ... fowl of various sorts. The cow is regarded as a Mother Earth symbol and so trumps the poor old pig which symbolises gluttony and greed. And of course, readers of this blog will know that birds don't get a good press, certainly not in Celtic mythology. I was pondering this as I stood for a while, kind of fascinated by the menu boards. When this particular woman passed, wearing some splendid winter colours, I happily snapped and so got the photograph I wanted for the blog. Then I headed for home for a sandwich!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rosa dei Venti

This compass rose "Rosa dei Venti" is a representation of the early compass with both cardinal points and winds demarcated. The earliest examples go back to Ancient China but it are very common in Italy. Perhaps the one most familiar would be that in St Peter's Square, although that is fairly recent at 1892. My research indicates that the design and name has also been used by secret societies including a group of neo fascists sponsored by the Mafia. The story is missing a few details even now, but the bones of the matter are that the Borghese, a fascist group, together with the secret Rosa dei Venti, planned to overthrow the Italian government in 1970. They derived their name ironically from Bologna, which the fascists hated for its proud political tradition. Many played a part in thwarting the fascist golpe, but interestingly for the name and image, heavy rain played a small role in the whole affair. You just can't trust the weather. Bob Dylan just might have said that "you don't need a weatherman to know the way the wind blows". Prudence, justice, temperance and truth, traditional symbolic iconography of the compass, are antithetical to these forces of darkness. The affair still remains shrouded in mystery, the complete truth unknown. But the compass is associated with the cycle of existence - in that no matter how far you travel, you will always return to your point of departure. The compass rose, Rosa dei Venti, suggests to me that seekers after social justice will inevitably prevail.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Marina's Red Ribbon

The cherry tree is often used as a memorial. Indeed, the red ribbon with the bell would not be out of place in Japan, where the cherry tree is venerated. For the Samurai. cherry was the symbol of the warrior's calling, and cherries decorated their swords. Cherry blossom was the symbol of the warrior code, bushido. The tied ribbon is quite special too. It symbolises flowering and hence immortality, perfection and also heroic deeds. Ribbons were thrown to victors in medieval jousts. The medal ribbon of course, denotes a distinguished career. Medal ribbons display triumph but also indicate that the hero did not escape potential danger. The colour is important. Red is worn in Japan almost exclusively by women and it symbolises true heartedness. Red is also the colour of flags, badges and posters. It is the colour of the fire that burns within a person, an individual. In psychoanalysis, red is the colour of the soul. It denotes the libido and is of the heart. The tractor is a means of tilling the soil and symbolises fertility in the general sense - of the sowing of seeds, growth and development. And the tractor too is red. A tree is a good memorial for a loved one. It continues to grow and delight us through the seasons, so that we can remember in a most positive way a dear, departed friend.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day with or without Flare

This photograph was caught in the Pembroke Road and with a lot of unwanted flare in the lens. I used a filter that "contrasted it out" as they used to say in the printing trade. It was like a wire mesh fence and you can still see a bit of it. Not everyone likes Valentine's Day, I can assure you so perhaps the unwanted flare represents the things we don't like about the day. These are usually concerns about commercialism but also about duty, where expectation can easily transform pleasure into exasperation. You may hear people say "I have to do this"and "I have to do that". It seems a long way from love. Love is something psychoanalysts, particularly Jungians, don't like to talk about. Maria von Franz in particular just wouldn't discuss it at all.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What's the Secret Code?

The Code of Codes? That's what you need to get in the door. There's very little that's new about doors and locks and entrance codes. Nowadays in the city we feel we need a defended space and the means of defence is technology. The need for locks and alarms finds satisfaction in the object. But its only a matter of a small amount of time. Soon, this pleasure disintegrates, because the need moves into desire and is satisfied only through a kind of repetition. I need to be more secure. How can I make myself more secure? It gets more urgent until saturated. Desire says Henri Lefebvre, is a part of the energies available to us as humans. This is like Jung's notion of libido, which should move outward into the world. I wondered if this technological security in the photograph signified retreat and a sublimation of available energies. This keeps our desires from discharging in an explosive way. Were it not for our desire for security would we not explode into the world in a variety of creative energies? Instead, we worry about others exploding into our private space, stealing our technological objects no doubt. Perhaps if we worried a little less about objects, our desires would explode creatively in the wider space.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Light Lies

When I saw the light lying in this fashion, I wondered whether the camera would be able to correctly record it. It's a very particular light that reminds me of my first work in Dublin. I was commissioned with taking photographs of European neighbourhoods and Tallaght was the Irish case. It was wintry and sunny and ... some other stuff! But when the local roads reflected the light it looked like this - vast swathes of it, which made the light meter give all sorts of readings. I was using Ilford XP2 which is very forgiving and fast enough black and white film. So that's my explanation of why I was pleased with this shot. But does the light lie? No, I don't think so. light is always truthful. But when it hits a surface and then fragments, it can tease the eye all right. Quantum physicists have all sorts of explanations of light waves, but I like the idea that they are "together but apart". Even though several light sources are separate, they are in a kind of single register, connected through the quantum potential. I am talking about non-locality here, a subject that Einstein was unhappy about but with which more recent theoreticians like David Bohm and John Bell have had success. I like to think of light not only fragmenting but disintegrating, revealing as Bohm would have said, something much more significant.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Found Abstraction

I was looking around for something I had never noticed. And here it was. You could call it abstraction in the realm of the real if you were psychoanalyst, Jacques-Marie-Émile Lacan. It's abstract because of the framing - but frankly it was white-on-white with a bit of decay that was the unintentionally abstract construct of the builders. Thee are three realms in Lacan's construct - the symbolic, the imaginary and the real. The psychoanalyst works with a client (the analysand) to deconstruct these levels, which may have become independent from one another. A bit like being unconsciously controlled by an archetype or a complex, being driven by the imaginary or the symbolic can have consequences for a person's life. I flatter myself that this image is a monochrome Mondrian. It has been abstracted and so the image has been somewhat deprived of visual references. It's real enough however - and something does flow through these pipes. If you had a dream about such an image, you would need to think of your associations to white, wall, bricks and pipes. Does the picture remind you of anything? And of course, it's always wise to give a thought to the body's internal waterworks. Contemporary references may spring to mind too. Does anyone remember the the Average White Band?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ghosts in the Brass

The brass plaque was attractive because of the raindrops. But then people started to pass. I kept the focus on the drops and took several shots. of which this was the most interesting. Brass is quite interesting and is the metal of choice for names is it not? Bronze and brass are symbolically interchangeable (they are both alloys of copper) and in Jungian terms it is an alchemical outcome of a marriage between opposites. - copper and zinc for brass and copper and for bronze, tin and silver. The vault of heaven for Ancient Egyptians was bronze. Romans shaved the heads of priests with a bronze razor. Bronze and brass are generally the metals of religious artifacts and instruments of worship - bells, horns and indeed domes are covered in bronze. It struck me that brass is still used in popular figures of speech. She was "brassed off" with his behaviour. he was "bold as brass" and pejoratively for a certain kind of woman, "brassy". And what about brazen? Not only does it mean covered in brass but "marked by flagrant and insolent audacity", as in "he brazened it out". It's a very tough metal and hence attractive for nameplates on the street. My two subjects however are only reflections, ghosts caught in the brass.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Saving Grace?

These balconies can be the saving grace of apartments in the city. Housing can be dispiriting, especially where cubes upon cubes are the order of the day. Yet a balcony offers a subversive space where precious few rules seem to be invoked. The balcony is a sunning area, a storage facility, a barbecue area, a garden or even a place for the washing machine. One that I saw in London had a small garden painted on its concrete floor! There is of course a need for very fixed locations in city accommodation - like a cooking area for example. But balconies are not so fixed in the way they are employed by their users. The Juliet balcony took its name from the Shakespeare play - and although the ones in the picture are not Juliet balconies per se, they are as much in the public realm as was Juliet's (the Juliet balcony was part of an upper floor, with walls on the side and a balustrade at the front). My point is that Shakespeare let Romeo and Juliet appropriate the balcony for sexuality - more in the realm of play than work - and in doing so assisted balconies in general to provide city dwellers with a flexible area that lies somewhat outside the dominance of bourgeois space.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wee Flower

I had the long lens attached and the flower looked nice. It's a depth of field job which really fuzzed up the background. Flora was an Italian Goddess who roughly approximates to Ceres and the rather more fearsome Demeter. Her temple was on the Circus Maximus in Rome and her festival Floralia was celebrated annually from April to May. That's a good long festival and perhaps it would be nice to reintroduce it. Additionally Flores was venerated at very exuberant, unrestrained folk festival at the beginning of May. Our own May Day seems to have lost its connotations of fertility and rebirth still associated with Celtic Beltane, yet there is little Celtic symbolism associated with flowers. Some Celtic female figures had flower in their name though - the Welsh Blodeuwedd and Ireland's Blathnat for example. Blodeuwedd was created magically from a single mass of flowers to be the bride of Llew, whom she promptly betrayed. Hence an association of flowers with fickleness, an expression of evolution and the fleeting nature of beauty.