Note Archive: #musings

Sacred Heart


Let's break my radio silence on here with a hark back to Paris again. This time, we're at the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. A beautiful church slash tourist attraction, in the Montmartre area of Paris. Since it was one of Margaux's favourite places in her hometown, she very enthusiastically wanted to take me there. And I, ever the obliging guest, let her do so.

From the base of the hill, Sacre-Cœur stands proud; it dominates like a three-tier cake, except much less edible. It's looks as delicious as a cake though, with the cream brickwork, pointed domes and corniced features. Once we'd walked to the top, and snapped the obligatory selfies to a backdrop of Paris, we sat down on the steps to take a breath. To talk and pause for a moment too.

As we sat, just gazing around at everyone surrounding us, a man stood up on the wall before us. Beside him, a stereo and in his arms, a football. The music started. Instrumental and grand, it coalesced with the heat of the sun and the view overlooking the city. And so the tricks began and the ball glided between his feet, arms, chest and head. For 5 minutes at least, we were all transfixed. Myself, Margaux and everyone around us. I'm told such sights are fairly common by the Sacré-Cœur, but since this was new to me, I was rather impressed.

The crescendo came when the man scaled the lamp-post next to him. He, as you can see from the one photo I managed to capture below, posed and continued his tricks whilst suspended from the light. Bearing in mind that he was above a hefty drop, it's not surprising there was a collective intake of breath the one moment he very nearly fell. However, ever composed, he saved his grip and then slowly came down to finish off his performance.

It was, as you can imagine, quite a moment. After that, we went inside the Basilica. Though I don't follow a religion myself, there is something beautiful about the spiritual stillness that churches often have. The echoes that bounce around the architecture, the quiet prayer or contemplation and the gentle lighting that illuminates the space. And inside, Sacré-Cœur excels at delivering all three.

Visiting Sacré-Cœur was, to return to my cake analogy, a tasty treat. Without really trying, the day delivered many moments which allowed us to stop. And with that, I see why Margaux was so enthusiastic about taking me there.


The Basilica
A visit to the Sacré-Cœur in Paris, August 2015.

Gargoyles


I mentioned in the Abstract Landscapes review that I visited Paris this summer. The second time in my life thus far, and a short trip, spent with a housemate who'd gone home for the holiday.

There are two loose memories from eleven-year-old me in Paris. One involves being terrified of falling between the stairs, whilst walking up the Eiffel tower. And the other, was of going to Notre Dame. This memory is incredibly fuzzy. Yet, it was the architecture that captured me, with that strange feeling of awe perhaps.

So this summer, visiting Notre Dame again was very much on the agenda. My first day in Paris was a tourist day. The day when I wandered the streets and the Seine alone, and covered all the tourist activities I could. Notre Dame was ticked off my list in the afternoon. I opted not to go inside, as much like last time, the queue to enter was hefty.

Outside Notre Dame, I ate an ice cream. I texted my mum, to tell her I was eating an ice cream. Then I sat for a while and listened to all the languages that passed by. Being outside the cathedral was enough. I walked again. I marvelled at the intricacy, and raised an eyebrow at the gargoyles. Most of all, I took pictures. I guess gothic art & architecture is something that I've liked for a while.

So, this is my postcard from Notre Dame. I'm glad I chose to visit again.


Gargoyles & Flying Butresses
An outside view of Notre Dame in Paris, August 2015.

Abstract Landscapes

Digital seems to be having a moment of late; at least in my corner of the world. Whether it's former Loft pal, Yinka, co-curating Future Curious, or the recent Digital Disturbances exhibition at my current university; the crossover of technology and humanity has become a hot topic in the art & design world.

This interregation of digital spheres and humankind has been fascinating me for a while, though in ways that I'm only just beginning to grasp. I have written before about outfit blogging, and about reliance on technology for communicating. I’ve also, in more academic contexts, written about social media and body image, and meditated on fashion blogs. (What can I say, fashion has been my thing) The digital world is captivating. You’re reading these words on a screen, through a network of connected computers and via a web browser. It’s an incredible mathematical and engineering feat, quite frankly. But what exactly does it mean to be human with these riveting new toys?

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The Power Out

Well, it's raining. My room has somewhat annoyingly sprung a leak, and of course, there's been a power cut along our road. Rather than enduring the feeling of damp bones, as drops from the ceiling echo into the bowl placed below; I've evacuated to the kitchen, where I now sit with a candle, paper and a pen. Dinner is bubbling away on the stove (we have gas, thankfully) and I'm stealing this unexpected pocket of time to write something, anything really. It's all very antiquated. A relic of eras gone by.


Power cuts are peculiar, in that they show you just how much of your life has come to rely on electricity. Your instinct is to groan. Mild irritation before rationality hits; it's temporary. A disgruntled house-mate, newly returned from a trip away, has left to shower at a friend's house. Seemingly simple conveniences, like washing, have been taken away by the outage. Power showers, you understand – another luxury, much like insignificant others that have come to punctuate daily existence, in the time and place I live right now.

To be exacting about it, the candles lighting my page and the pen held in my grasp are very much technologies too. I've recently begun reading Living in a Technological Culture, by Mary Tiles and Hans Oberdiek. A twenty-year old text, that is speaking to some loose thoughts of late. Our lives are shaped and formed by technologies; and in taking this from a person, are we stripping the human from their being? I'd like to believe we are more than that; more than the artifice that has become naturalised into insignificance. Yet today, when the power cuts, I'm reminded of how much my life requires technology. How much human history has been defined by technology. And that what I do, simply everyday things, presupposes the certainty of having a flow of power. It's surreal to think about how we lived without this. If only because I've never known a world without electric technology.

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Cynosure

15.11.10: Thrifted black trousers; borrowed floral shirt & yellow jacket; hand-me-down twisted chain necklace

A good few years have passed since I participated in that old pastime of outfit blogging. It's not really something I think much to do these days. Partly because there are enough people documenting their clothing online, and partly because my wardrobe seems a little lacklustre at times. I would say money and time are the causes, but that would indicate that interestingness in appearance is dictated by those factors. My idealistic notions do not wish to believe that, though our current fashion system does seem to suggest money and time are the lifeblood of this, so-called interestingness in dress.

Sometimes, I remember the practice of photographing an outfit though. Locating the trusty tripod, before darting backwards and forwards within the 10 second timer on the camera – I never had a photographer boyfriend, as the running joke dictates. Documenting chance outfits is not something I would say I ever truly enjoyed, but it was something I did. Because I liked clothes. Because I was exploring my aesthetic preferences and sense of style. And most of all, because I was intrigued by how all these appearance related matters, could alter perceptions both internally and externally.

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The Little Things

Life, with all its funny twists and turns, often leaves me confused. Perhaps it’s due to my constant thinking or perhaps it’s just that the world can be shambolic, and negotiating your way through it isn’t always a barrel of laughs. Nevertheless, we continue forth because Pandora’s box let hope escape too, so we can believe that things have a strange way of working out for the best.

To quote the ineffable Monty Python:

“…when life looks jolly rotten, there’s something you’ve forgotten, and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing”

Truer words never spoken.

Sometimes, the smiles come from the little things. The quirky details in an outfit. The glow-in-the-dark face on your watch. The unexpected card from a friend at a difficult time. The funny little late night conversations. The spontaneous dances. Sharing music, books, knowledge, thoughts and ideas with other souls. Making things. And really, just being a little bit more bloody grateful for everything you can surround yourself with.

The only other thing is time. Time to figure out who you are and what you believe, and the things you hope for. Words are the easy bit really, but the time it takes to understand the pieces of your puzzle? That is invaluable.

Glimpse

Museums are odd spaces, if you stop to think about it. Objects enclosed in glass boxes, protected from the touch, sound and breath of the general populace. We can see them, carefully presented in a dimmed artificial light, but these objects are now immune to human life – often the very thing that brought them into being in the beginning.

The continued existential question of our kind – who are we? why are we here? – is why such spaces exist. Why objects are presented, stripped bare from their original maker (except maybe recent history) and allowed to coalesce with our own consciousness. Campaigns such as Fashion Revolution day hint that this is a cultural model – a removal of the very hands that created something, to sell us an idea of who we are. An idea we piece together from the fragments we've absorbed before. Is authorship even valuable, when we feverishly impose our own meaning onto something anyway?

Stripped bare of context, the objects in glass boxes become an exercise in aesthetics. A mummified cat, sacred from what I know of Ancient Egypt, becomes reduced to a reminder of basket weave patterns. I might muse about the time/skill that went in or the beliefs of the people who made it, but as a product of this civilisation, museums can become nothing more than "inspiration" – a search for an idea to merge with my collected consciousness, and trigger the creation of something that I can embed with meaning. Potential is everywhere and over-abundance seems inevitable.

Museums are odd spaces, but I enjoy them anyway. I like the sense of stillness and the concrete answers they (try to) present, as a form of refuge from my own questioning mind. They are places where history is fixed; in everything but the stories we go on to tell.


Ancient Egypt & Ancient Greece
At the British Museum, London