Have you ever thought of an old friend who you hadn’t seen in years, and then met them minutes later?
As I was writing this post, I was in conversation with my brother while walking down the road in Dublin, talking about this type of coincidence. As luck would have it, we were midway through this conversation when an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years appeared directly in front of us. Coincidence? Read on.
On April 26, 1986, in northern Kiev Oblast, Ukraine, a fire started in Reactor 4 of a large nuclear power station near the towns of Chernobyl and Pripyat. The Chernobyl power station, which had begun operations nine years earlier, went into crisis as the fire spread and soon a small explosion occurred in the reactor. An evacuation was ordered, and fire services entered to attempt to reduce the damage and the spread of radioactive material into the air. However, it was already too late. Irradiated gas leaked into the local area, and within hours people began to feel nauseous and light-headed. Soon both towns were evacuated, and have never been repopulated to the same extent (although some people live there, in a fascinating story uncovered by Holly Morris).
One of the regularly cited problems with modern cities is the constant feeling of displacement that can occur in the repetitive landscape of supermarkets, airports or office blocks. A restoration for this is often found in cultural movements and architectural developments that adjust a population’s sense of place.
Maria Lewicka describes home as ‘a symbol of continuity and order, rootedness, self-identity, attachment, privacy, comfort, security and refuge’. This importance of the idea of home is continuously repeated in studies on the concept of place, and also in literature and art. But most profoundly, it finds its way into our daily lives. Order is the key point, but in consistently displaced circumstances people cannot find this sense of order.
In Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, the pathetically pitiable protagonist Quoyle meanders back from New Jersey to the home-land of his family, Newfoundland. Quoyle is a clod, unable to help himself or his family, and he seemingly does not fit into any public society. His work and life are in as much disarray as one another. But when he returns to his family’s home-place something happens that makes everything fit into place. There is not one event, just a coming together of place and person, and a type of normality is restored. The place does not create the identity, the journey does. But the home-place creates stability, order and sanctuary. Continue reading “Home is Where the Hearth is III – Return”
Displacement from home is an uncomfortable feeling. It breeds suspicion and a feeling of nervousness, and rightly so. If, as previously discussed, home is a refuge, then displacement from home must create an opposing effect.
During displacement there is a chaotic element. People find it hard to settle; rules can change regularly if moving from
You go to a place, you go to another place. You return home.
You don’t return for 5 minutes to the bank. So what is the difference between home and another place? Why do we separate these two entities, and how do we create this separation?
Home is safety and privacy. It is outside of public norms; we do not have to behave with the same social rigour at home that we do in public places. A home allows us to dance on the kitchen table wearing our favourite Speedos if we should so choose; it does not conform to public rules and order, but to our own system. Continue reading “Home is Where the Hearth is I – Departure”
“Sure, cried the tenant men, but it’s our land. We measured it and broke it up. We were born on it, and we killed on it, died on it…That’s what makes it ours – being born on it, working it, dying on it. That makes ownership, not a paper with numbers on it.” – from John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, 1939, p38
People move. In the 20th Century, with the invention of the aeroplane, people began to move faster and further than they ever could before. But moving place is something that people have always done. From nomadic cultures and tribes to those who have moved out of necessity (due to famine or crisis), people have always crossed borders and scrambled into unexplored areas in search of a place that they can be born in, work in, and eventually die in.
If you are reading this then I am communicating with you. If you comment below you are communicating with me and anyone else who reads your comment. This is public communication, and you are taking part. Online communication allows public messages to travel across vast distances within seconds. A simple click of a “share” button can potentially bring a message to an entire online world.
The system of lantern-communication is an early form of long-distance communications that could travel far as long as visibility was clear. Lighthouses have used these systems to communicate with ships through code and signals for millennia. Prior to the introduction of modern telephony the most likely method of communicating orally over long distances was to climb to the top of the nearest hill and shout as loud as you could. Continue reading “Reincarnation of Paul Revere’s Lamp – Private communication in public”
When Shakespeare plays were originally performed, it was not allowed for audience members to bring in paper for fear that they would write down and steal the plays. To counter this, furtive audience members would go to performances and each remember different sections of the plays, then meet later and write down all they could remember. Each section was then stitched together, and the works were stolen regardless.
Firstly, let me briefly apologise for the abhorrent lack of activity on MUW over the past three months. Blogging is time-consuming, and sometimes life is too, and unfortunately the latter has been the case of late. Expect posting to get back to normal over the coming weeks; no posts doesn’t mean no ideas and there is a colossal backlog of brainwaves. Watch this space!
Possession is nine-tenths of the law. In the past wars have been fought and families split over possession and the idea of ownership. However, this tenuous law is dependent on the idea that there is some value in ownership – the economic worth of property guides the idea that possession is valuable. People understand that the boundaries that surround owned areas and objects are respected by a sense of possession that we take for granted. In cyberspace, ownership is more ambiguous as spaces are owned or maintained in virtual areas that are often maintained for free. So how does possession work in a community with spaces and services provided free of charge?
In the late 18th Century, Russian ruler Catherine the Great chose to visit the villages of her country to see how the peasants were living. Her first minister, Potemkin, arranged to have façades of fake villages filled with actors constructed along Catherine’s route that showed a scenic, peaceful and prosperous country. Actors played the parts of the peasants, and Catherine remained in the confines of her carriage as she travelled through. Potemkin feared that Catherine might react badly if she encountered the despair and poverty that was really being faced by the Russian serfs, and as a result of his actions Catherine saw a healthy, happy nation. The idea of a fake façade built to distort a view became known as a Potemkin Village.
From the moment we learn to read the English language (presuming you can if you are reading this), we learn to decipher a series of characters twenty-six letters long, give or take. Each character has a sound associated with it, and we hear these sounds as we read. The characters are all symbols, each with its own significance to our understanding. SSSSSSSSSSSS can represent a long, hissing sound, just as KAKAKAKAKA could be a machine gun. We learn this system of graphics, recognising the line across the top of a T as opposed to the one that is missing on an I, and we make sense of the words that are written by scanning these graphic signs and creating words from our understanding of their sounds.
Far before we learn to read and decipher the graphic symbols of this Latin alphabet, we learn another language. This is the language of the visual, and it involves the same method of deciphering what we see into other forms, but it is different as with this language we do not necessarily have a spoken language to go along with it. At our youngest and most naive, we decipher the symbols of the people raising us, seeing their representations as those of family or friends, but we do not recognise any link between these people and language. Instead, we simply categorise and recognise, realising that there is something different about these people to the people that we pass in the street. Continue reading “Seeing Scene Seen – Everything we read is art”