On a weekend not long ago I visited the flea market in town. It had sprung up on Schwetzinger strasse, a narrow one-way street I use everyday on my drive to work. Spots on either side where cars are parked on a normal day were now taken up by long tables spread out with odds and ends, and behind these tables sat the sellers, old women with striking hairdos watching passers by with indifferent eyes, and behind the women stood their cars, small Volkswagens or Renaults, reconditioned versions of a long-obsolete model, as though these old automobiles were also up for sale. Walking along this familiar street now flaunting an altered character was like traveling forward or backward in time, into a future or a past that was vaguely familiar and yet whose contours and rhythms I could not identify.
I do not know what it is like to live there, but as a visitor, no matter how many times I’ve been to the city before, New York does not fail to impress. Like Venice, Paris, or Mumbai, its character assails you the moment you step into the city. Arriving by train into the New York Penn station, the same passengers who were relaxed and laid back when they boarded the train in the suburbs spring into motion, like toys with wound up keys, and march with an infectious purpose through the station into the maze-like streets of Manhattan. The press of humanity that begins here continues unabated, in the subway, the cafes, the museums, and you always know you are in New York because its signature, the dense racial mix, is hard to miss. Mexicans, Indians, Chinese, Africans, Europeans, Americans: all in one subway car, like a grand social experiment designed to observe inter-racial behaviour in a confined setting. The experiment is not a success: nothing much happens, each individual is self-absorbed: immersed in a book, listening to music, or simply lost in thought; communication, when it occurs, is not between members in the car but with someone far away, reached through a mobile phone.
The mobile devices I spotted on the subway were all iPhones. A young woman stood beside me checking her iCalender, switching between a few dates; 14th: Finish Chapter 9, Long NC; 15th: Take your pills!; 18th: Dinner with Mq & Tj. Later, in a cafe, the dozen or so tables were occupied by men and women peering into a screen in front; all those laptops bore the Apple logo, and a bluish tinge in the eyes of many suggested a Facebook page. A master-slave relationship was evident; humans seemed to have surrendered, unconsciously, to machines.
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A new type of electricity pylon may soon loom over the countryside. It will look less offensive and leak less electromagnetic radiation than its predecessors.
The other day while walking across the countryside I spotted a pair of pylons ahead. They stood in the middle of a field, and the arcs hanging gently between them were dotted with silhouettes of birds. The wires continued further, almost endlessly, punctuated in regular intervals by identical towers with outstretched arms. There was a sadness in that beautiful vision: these objects were either ignored or routinely dismissed as ugly.
Continue reading “The beauty of pylons”
1. The exhibition
On a rainy Saturday afternoon in September, during a weekend in Lausanne, I spot a notice for an Edward Hopper exhibition running at a local museum. I have never seen a Hopper original, and I soon start towards Fondation de l’Hermitage – a 19th century residence that houses temporary exhibitions, – looking forward to a quiet afternoon in the company of paintings I love.
Continue reading “Edward Hopper and the eternal moment”