Lost City: On Remembrance of Things Past — Solitary City

A favorite pastime of the French, particularly of the Parisian stock, is to lament the loss of their nation, language, or culture. This happens at neighborhood markets, on Mediterranean beaches, and frequently, on panels on evening news programs, where a graying member of the Académie Française (I am thinking here of the author and cultural […]

via Lost City: On Remembrance of Things Past — Solitary City

On Signage

Sometimes kitsch. Sometimes haunting. Sometimes enchanting. Sometimes banal. Often evocative of places and spaces familiar to us in our everyday encounters with the urban world. A neon sign in a favorite cafe, a vintage enameled sign sporting the logo of a long defunct motor oil company, an art deco sign with its delicately stylish elements, a hand painted apothecary’s sign from the middle ages or an intricate wrought iron sign with exquisite handmade lattice work: signage comes in a myriad number of designs, shapes and forms.

– Marcus D. Niski

 

The Painter of Modern Life …

But now it is evening. It is that strange, equivocal hour when the curtains of heaven are drawn and cities light up. The gas-light makes a stain upon the crimson of the sunset. Honest men and rogues, sane men and mad, are all saying to themselves, ‘The end of another day!’ The thoughts of all, whether good men or knaves, turn to pleasure, and each one hastens to the place of his choice to drink the cup of oblivion. Monsieur G. will be the last to linger wherever there can be a glow of light, an echo I of poetry, a quiver of life or a chord of music; wherever a passion can pose before him, wherever natural man and conventional man display themselves in a strange beauty, wherever the sun lights up the swift joys of the depraved animal! ‘A fine way to fill one’s day, to be sure’ …

– Charles Baudelaire, The Artist, Man of the World, Man of the Crowd, and Child in The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays (1863) , Translated and Edited by Jonathan Myne, Phaidon, 1964, P 11

Benjamin’s Parisian Passages

I have a distant recollection of walking all the way from the Gare du Nord to lunch in the Café Marly by way of the nineteenth-century arcades so beloved of Walter Benjamin. I tried to reconstruct this journey in reverse, starting in the Galerie Vivienne not far from Adrien Gardère’s office:-

A fabulous piece of flânerie and visual tour of Benjamin’s Passages by Charles Robert Saumarez Smith via Passages — | Charles | Saumarez | Smith |

” …

The Arcades book [Das Passagen-Werk] was never intended to be an economic history (though part of its ambition was to act as a corrective to the entire discipline of economic history). An early sketch suggests something far more like his autobiographical work, A Berlin Childhood [:] “One knew of places in ancient Greece where the way led down into the underworld. Our waking existence likewise is a land which, at certain hidden points, leads down into the underworld – a land full of inconspicuous places from which dreams arise. All day long, suspecting nothing, we pass them by, but no sooner has sleep come than we are groping our way back to lose ourselves in the dark corridors. By day, the labyrinth of urban dwelling resembles consciousness; the arcades… issue unremarked on to the streets. At night, however, under the tenebrous mass of the houses, their denser darkness protrudes like a threat, and the nocturnal pedestrian hurries past – unless, that is, we have emboldened him to turn into a narrow lane.”

Two books served Benjamin as models: Louis Aragon’s A Paris Peasant, with its affectionate tribute to the Passage de L’Opéra, and Franz Hessel’s Strolling in Berlin, which focuses on the Kaisergalerie and its power to summon up the feel of a bygone era. In his book, Benjamin would try to capture the “phantasmagoric” experience of the Parisian wandering among displays of goods, an experience still recoverable in his own day, when “arcades dot the metropolitan landscape like caves containing the fossil remains of a vanished monster: the consumer of the pre-imperial era of capitalism, the last dinosaur of Europe”.

… “

An extract from JM Coetzee’s highly engaging essay on Walter Benjamin: ‘The man who went shopping for truth’ as found at:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2001/jan/20/history.society as accessed 30 September 2017-09-30

 

Impossible City: New Orleans – Places Journal

Sometimes you see a picture and you can tell that something’s missing, but you don’t know what it is …

Or you could try to fill the emptiness with something you love, as I love Walker Percy’s renderings in The Moviegoer:

The street looks tremendous. People on the far side seem tiny and archaic, dwarfed by the great sky and the windy clouds like pedestrians in old prints.

Via: Impossible City: New Orleans — Places Journal

Places

From cradle to the grave we engage with places of differing kinds for differing reasons for better or for worse: places of horror and wonderment, places of joy and sorrow, places to rest, places to work, places that lift us up and places that bring us down, places of lightness and darkness: so many places inhabit our world…

                                                                                          Public Squares

 

Hospitals

 

Quadrangles

 

Churches

                 

Prisons

Rooms

Universities

 

            Cemeteries

 

Hotels

Asylums

 

Fields

 

Hills

 

Valleys

 

         Dales

 

              Laneways

 

Fjords

 

            Escarpments

 

[MN] September, 2017