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Meissen

Hello beautiful people. Yes, it’s been quite some time really since I managed to put something up on this blog, and here I am again with more of “what I did last year”. You may wish to ignore it, as all the others,  but I hope you don’t.

Meissen is a gift that keeps on giving, for me but not only for me. Too large to be a village or hamlet, too small to be a city, it’s a medium sized town in the former East Germany, on the Elbe river, about 30 km downstream from the much larger Dresden. I’ve been there a few times now, and plan to return. You can help in this if you want to!*

The reason I first went to Meissen is porcelain. Meissen is the place where Europeans first figured out how the Chinese did it. A few enterprising souls used local clay and managed to reproduce something not entirely unlike what was being imported at great expense from the east.

The local satrap for it really was he responded to this development in a characteristic way: he locked up the inventors in his castle atop the hill overlooking the town so as to keep the secret secret. Well done!

That didn’t really work out. Once others knew it could be done, right there at home, they jumped into it.

All the same, Meissen kept on keeping on, and the local ruler, absorbed into the Saxon dynasty dominated by Dresden, commissioned and collected Meissen porcelain at the same time as he continued to import from China. Dresden has a marvellous museum of this collection and one day I will put up another photo story about that.

Meanwhile however Meissen porcelain has been produced all those centuries, right through the period of “Communist” rule to today.  While the Commos ruled they made special medallions commemorating various achievements and I have one of these! No photo, sorry.

Generally, I think the Meissen version of Chinese porcelain, while top flight for the actual porcelain, the stuff you hold in your hand and rub, is not actually up to the mark when it comes to artistry. The best is not bad and most of that is in Dresden. The museum in Meissen (part of the factory), however, shows the limitations of the work there, with only a few pieces really worthy of attention. Sorry about that too!

The place, however, has a lot more going for it than that. For starters, it is beautiful. The castle and the church it encloses, set high above the river, are impressive, and the town itself is full of interesting features. Set in wine country, the surrounding hills are picturesque. It’s just nice. And there are the people. . .who I’ve been so fortunate to meet and get to know.

Here is the town, the castle and the “Dom” cathedral, seen from across the river, among the vines:

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Nice, eh?

That’s an autumn view. In summer, from the old town:

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There are heaps of churches and romantic street scenes, and touches of the past and present in public spaces:

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Twilight views:

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Street scenes:

 

 

 

 

Er, “folk wisdom”:

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And the kind of spiritual blessing one gets from a cold autumn day, walking in the country:

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There’s a lot more to this wonderful town and its people, and if I am really lucky, I’ll  be back again to sample its beauties. Meanwhile, I just thought I’d share with you some of my photo memories. Thanks for having a look!

*Yes, dear reader, by waiting until after August 1 when the present giveaway season ends, and then buying at least one copy of all my books from smashwords or other e-retailers apart from Amazon, you too can assist!  Go on – you know you want to. Give your spare copies to friends. To enemies. To innocent passersby on the street with a smartphone.

 

 

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Posted by on July 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Gallery art

Hello there. It’s a crisp early winter day in the small town in New Zealand that endures me. Keep it up folks! It’s nice here. Something that struck me while I was cruising on my cycle in Europe last year was the way art galleries do art in displaying their art. Sometimes this is just a special breed of interior design, but other times it’s as creative as the art on display. Here is a good example, from the gallery in Gothenburg, Sweden:

 

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The juxtaposition of the contemporary sculpture, which is ah “ambiguously resonant” and the much older quasi-preRaphaelite landscape is pretty cool, according to me. Well done curators!

Here is another that really struck me, in the fabulous Albertinum in Dresden:

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The lighting is terrific isn’t it? Shadows from both directions.

There are other ways of doing art while showing it. Here is a nice composition of cabinet, door and lighting in the Bremerhaven, Germany gallery:

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The Eisenach museum/gallery in Thuringia combines history and art. The district is a centre for outdoor joy, near the longest foot trail in Germany. A collection of combination walking sticks and seats hangs from the ceiling:

 

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The Eisenach gallery has a lot of rooms offering photo opportunities like this one:

 

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There is a great range of fittings in all museums and galleries of course that – well, fit. . .radiators and grills:

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Fire extinguisher!

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Cabinet arrangement:

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The seats below are in the foyer of a gallery in Herford, Germany, designed by Frank Gehry, who also designed the famous gallery in Bilbao, Spain.

 

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The building itself shows the Gehry style:

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The Albertinum in Dresden is one of my favourites. It is so clever! Here is a paper towel dispenser in the men’s room, with “paper towels” written above in six languages:

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It made me laugh, though I guess you couldn’t really say it wasn’t naively sincere. But I don’t think so.

Here is Rodin’s “Dumper” in the Albertinum sculpture hall:

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And the view of the loo. The lighting is beautiful here.

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Also in Dresden the reconstucted Residenzschloss, where the big cheeses hung out before German unification in 1870 or so, has a special gallery for works on paper. They are sensitive to light so there are windows to control it, one looking over the courtyard with its wonderful enclosing roof:

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And in the cellar, the men’s room, wedged in among rocks of the ages.

That’s it, beautiful humans! Thanks for having a look. There are some more serious posts to come, or I hope so. Hope too your lives are just exactly as you would want them to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Vroom!

Not quite a room with a view but a view from a room, kind of. . .

Digital photography has changed the way people record their lives, whether through an actual camera or a smart phone. With the cost of making prints to see what it looks like gone completely, there is no reason not to take a photo of anything at all. If it’s no good, the delete key is right there, and if it is. . .or even if it isn’t, if it’s just a moment in time that has some interest or other (or not), it can be whomped up on a blog post or anywhere at all on the net, or even – daring but done – a print can be made and stuck in a photo album, or in a show. . .or pasted on a door, or the floor. . .It’s good! It’s better than good! Amazing! A friend of mine takes a lot of photos of what she eats. Why ever not? I’ve tended to continue taking photos of things that cost me a bomb to record in the old film days, but have added a few. . .

In my cycle trip through Germany, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands at some point I started taking photos of hotel interiors. They range from hostel bed shots – of the mattress above from a lower bunk in a hostel – to rooms, hallways and stairwells. . .and in one case the skylight of an atrium, and a strange sculpture in a hotel in the Netherlands. Some are modern, and some older. . .

It struck me that there is probably an endless elaboration of the division of labour in hotel design too, that if you can’t get a degree in hotel hallway design now, it won’t be long away.

Here is a selection, just for you.

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This hallway is in a “Scandic” hotel in Malmo, Sweden. The carpet is not one that would suit someone somewhat the worse for wear in my opinion. But maybe, given that it’s Sweden, it’s about sex:

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Below is a hallway in Jonkoping, Sweden. The colours are cool, though I was not too taken by the carpet.

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This stairwell in the hotel is not at all bad.

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Here is the view from above, with a certain derelict cyclist’s machine locked up:

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But the room! Wow! For the unfit guest, or the guest who is superfit and just forgot to bung a set of barbells in the luggage:

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I used them. I did! You wouldn’t know.

In Gothenburg, which is spelt many ways, here is the atrium of one of the Scandic hotels (there are heaps of them):

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Below is another corridor from a Danish hotel in a chain that wants guests to feel they are in a ship. The prices are very reasonable.

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Somewhat more elegant, a revamped historic hotel in a small Danish city outside Aarhuis.

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A window from same:

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This amazing work is in the lobby of a hotel in Apeldoorn in the Netherlands. I have tried, and so far failed, to discover what it’s about, so have in the interim made up its story, which I will share with you.

The hotel is opposite a memorial to the Canadian soldiers who fell in the campaign to rid the Netherlands of  the Germans in World War II. Quite a few died – it was a very hard campaign. The Canadian headquarters were nearby – the palace where the King and Queen of the country once lived.

My theory is that this carving was a gift from Canadian natives who had served in the campaign, either to the royals or the hotel. It symbolises – according to me – the hunting prowess of the subjects, the warrior standing on the head of the bison revealing this, plus the warlike success and failure of the people, symbolised by the head in the one hand. . .there is more. I would be grateful for any information that either debunks this, or adds to it.

 

 

Onward! Here is a lift in a Leipzig hotel. . .

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and here another window in a hotel near Dresden, in the area known as “Saxon Switzerland”:

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There you go. This is a teaser for some other “themes” that will surface eventually.  If you haven’t enjoyed this one – sorry! Maybe one about gallery installations that are art in themselves (fire hydrants for example). Yes or no, thanks for reading this one.

 

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Sittin’ here wonderin’ will a matchbox hold my clothes?*

Winter, or at least autumn, looms heavily in the air in the small town in New Zealand I make my home. The colder seasons here are never so severe as in the northern hemisphere, but also lack the fun and distinction of snowy climes.

The development of the device known as a heat pump has changed how people in New Zealand keep warm over the cooler months, but some, including your unworthy correspondent, go for the freestanding woodburner. New Zealand has a lot of trees, many of them not really useful as much other than firewood. That’s how I do it – indeed, that’s how I am doing it right at this very moment!

For a good fire, a match. And for a match, a box of the buggers.  And for the boxes. . .

While in Jonkoping in Sweden last year, I visited the local match museum. It may be the only one in the world. Sweden once dominated the match industry globally, and the museum, located in a factory that itself dominated the Swedish industry, is an eye-opener about the history of this useful invention. For many years production of “safety” matches was terribly unsafe – the chemicals involved meant children were used because they would never get old enough to be anything else.

Talk about yuck!

Eventually some of these problems were solved, and Swedish matches, organised and spun into an empire by the remarkable “Match King” Ivar Kreuger, pretty much took over the world. Kreuger fell to earth and either killed himself or was murdered in Paris in the early 1930s.

Meanwhile, someone was keeping an eye on those matchboxes and the museum in Jonkoping has a glittering array. They invite photos.

Though New Zealand also has a lot of trees, and though many of them would also be suitable for match-making, Sweden was in there. . .as this photo of a “Maori chief” shows.

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All the way on the other side of the world. . .Samoa too! And some French Polynesian beauty. . .

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Africa. . .

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Here is a trio of young English speakers, presumably.

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Did you say “elephants”? You did, didn’t you?

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More. . .

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A peacock struts:

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A kookaburra might these days take exception to this box:

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Herons are happy. . .so elegant!

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The devil:

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Women. . .

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and children. . .

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This next one did give me a pause. . .imagine reaching for a match 60 times and seeing this. . .or even more, if you bought a carton of them. . .takes all kinds I guess.

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Here is a provocative sculpture from the museum. It seems to say something about our inability to live within the nature we are a part of. We burn it – and ourselves.

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Outside the front door is a wee place to sit. . .not bad.

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There you go. While I’ve got you, Jonkoping is pronounced something like Yonshuping. Swedish people have their own way of doing things. Don’t we all?

Jonkoping is also the home of the well-known brand Husqvarna, whose sewing machine empire is now offloaded to a licensee, but was the replacement for a firearms business. Husqvarna still makes stuff in Jonkoping such as chainsaws, weedeaters and motor mowers – including especially robotic mowers. These and more feature in a museum in the conurbation. I’m not going to bore you with it – today. Another time, maybe.

Thanks for taking a look at this one. Enjoy your day.

 

*No. Blues great Blind Lemon Jefferson had it all over me in so many ways – that he could even ask that question among them.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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There is a point to it

Dear reader – hello. It occurred to me that you might labour under the delusion that I spend far too much of my time haunting public toilets, and that this is an unhealthy preoccupation.

Fear not. I also spend a lot of time in cemeteries.

Cemeteries have a way of getting under your skin. . .of teaching how we look after, or don’t look after, those who came before us. I was astonished to discover this last trip to Europe, that in Germany, unless a grave is special for some reason, that local authorities in some places leave them for 20 years, and then, unless something is paid for their upkeep, disappeared. How the remains beneath are dealt with, is unclear. If you think there is a life after death, and that this is somehow retained in the bones of the departed, what do you think they think, to see the marker of their time up above calmly removed and tossed aside? I shudder to run down this line of thought.

There is more of course. There always is. Some cemeteries have a wonderful aroma of decay, just as they should. They give off a bouquet of passage, of “this is all part of the grand scheme of things”, and it is not at all a measure of forgetfulness, but of respect of how life is, and how death too. Another time, when it seems appropriate, I’ll do a post with some photos “cemeteries and graves of the world”!

In Gotha, in the German state of Thuringia, I chanced on an isolated grave built by its occupant, one Hans Adam von Studnitz. He put it in his backyard awaiting the time he would need it. Studnitz – go on, google him, you know you want to – never married, had no children, but had friends I guess, and was the director of the theatre in the nearby castle/palace. Studnitz died in another place in 1778 but his body was brought back to Gotha and interred in his remarkable tomb.

Here it is!

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And here, the casket behind the iron bars, skew whiff as per your unworthy correspondent:

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Until Studnitz hit on his inspired idea, pyramids were not the done thing when it came to graves in Europe. They were common enough as we all know in ancient Egypt, but a backyard in Gotha? Studnitz was well ahead of his time, and no one thought to repeat the feat for another generation. It is still far from popular.

Studnitz’ marvel was neglected until early this century when it was restored and is in a quiet street near a high school. It is no longer a backyard but a wee park, and students congregate by it during breaks and before and after the school day to smoke and play around.  If you want to shoo them away, just turn up with a camera. . .

Gotha is a significant city in European history, even in world history. It is the home turf of the royal family that now occupies the British throne, and several others. The Brits changed their name to Windsor during the first World War to make their sympathies clear.

It is also the burial place – somewhere else in the town – of the founder of the Masonic-affiliated fraternity Illuminati, and we all know what symbol they used to show they were in touch with the throbs and gestures of secret universal urges. Go on, google them too and see what turns up!

Yet more! Gotha is the place where a supposedly Marxist political party hammered out a programme during Marx’s life. Marx wasn’t impressed and wrote a critique that was published after his death a decade or so later.  You, dear reader, can easily find this then-private despair on the part of Marx using the wonders of the search engine: Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme. It’s waiting for you.

I chanced on the Studnitz pyramid while searching for the hall where the programme was negotiated. It is still there, but shows the moribund state of the impulses that for so long sustained it.

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On a weekday – closed. The fellow in the photo was smoking and waiting for someone as he had something to pass on.

Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard, who spent time as a child elsewhere in Thuringia, wasn’t impressed by the whole socialist project as it had degenerated to his day:

…I always thought socialism was a temporary nervous disorder that was basically harmless but in reality it’s a deadly disease. I mean the socialism that prevails today….a spurious socialism that relies on shameless pretence. Today we don’t have socialism anywhere in the world, only the mendacious, simulated variety…today’s socialists are not real socialists but devious dissemblers. This [20th] century has succeeded in dragging the honoured name of socialism in the dirt to such an extent that you want to throw up. The inventors of socialism, who actually believed in it and thought they’d established it for all times, would turn in their graves if they could see what their unspeakable successors have made of it…

Where was I? Oh, pyramids! The last word in this line must be reserved for American philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who was not at all impressed by the Egyptian versions. This from Walden, the masterwork of the supposed nature-loving pacifist:

“As for the Pyramids, there is nothing to wonder at in them so much as the fact that so many men could be found degraded enough to spend their lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby, whom it would have been wiser and manlier to have drowned in the Nile, and then given his body to the dogs.”

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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P*ss-take

For twenty years or so I have taken photographs of public toilets,usually urinals. Their attraction, if that is the right expression, is their variety – today, and over time. For a biological function that doesn’t actually change all that much, there is a wealth of means to provide an – ahem! – functional service. Dear reader, you would be very surprised. Honest.

Last year in Groningen in the Netherlands I ran into what has been described as the most beautiful toilet in the world. The walls are of milk glass decorated with a photo gallery of a man and woman in “Carnival” costume enacting what the photographer called “the battle of the sexes” as part of a theme of “Birth of a star”. This is described as “fun”, and it is clear the pair are play-acting by the way they prance to the lens.

Sadly for me I guess I don’t see this as fun really. Reading the explanatory material, the pistol the man points at the woman is apparently a toy:

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But does the viewer know this? I’ve got bad vision, but that’s not entirely an explanation. Elsewhere, the woman gets her licks in with a boxing glove and a rolling pin. Here is the boxing glove:

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That makes it OK, then. And this?

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Or this?

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Here is the “star” being born:

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Dear reader: it is true I am a definite non-entity, and it is true, too, that I have written my share of erotica, and possibly your share too, even if you are viewed collectively, but this loo art just looks to me to be misogynistic, and validating violence, and the final view above has to me the suggestion of something other than a star.

This toilet has been in place for more than 20 years, and does not seem to have evoked any disquiet, or not any that I have been able to find. “It’s fun.”. “It’s beautiful”! Even, “the most beautiful toilet in the world”!!!!

As Lisbet Salander says to the man she’s got hooked up to a power cable in The Millennium Triology, “My bad.” I must be reading too much into this. My sensitive soul is too easily bruised.

Or maybe not.

It not only doesn’t bother me that in France an elaborate and intrinsically violent form of dance known as Apache dancing** is a popular club attraction, or that Rainer Fassbinder’s last film, Querelle***, involved a depiction of this art form with murder as the outcome, but I think those arts show or imply the reality of domestic and other violence. This toilet by contrast triviliases it and it is not going to stop bothering me.

Here is a toilet I think is genuinely beautiful. It is in Scotland, in the village of Rothsay on the Isle of Bute:

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Here is a quirky statement from Wellington, New Zealand. A few hundred metres from the capital buidings, it has been displaced by the not especially excellent Supreme Court building. Just love the full stop!

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Another nostalgia trip, from Glasgow:

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I would go on, but it would dilute the point. Toilets are worth having a look at, but all really isn’t fair in love and war.

Thanks for reading and looking.

 

*A “piss-take” is “Commonwealth” (including British) usage, and will be found in serious newspapers as well as in common crudity. It has a variety of meanings. Consult Wikipedia and decide which is intended here.

** Nothing to do with Apache “Indians”. Check Wiki.

***Based on a novel by Jean Genet, it is a weird film. The staginess of the action does not at all diminish or trivialise the subject. The colour palette is amazing.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Irony in the sole

aa1Sometime on my travels I realised, with a bit of a start and a bit of shame in that it took me so long, that the ironwork in the streets where I walked was worth looking at, and hence recording. Much of it was a form of local self-promotion, using city icons or logos to show off the charms of the locality. Other bits were just interesting, nice designs and possibly nicely placed in a framework of cobblestones or mosaic tiles. Sometimes they were crowded with weeds. . .So I started taking photos of them, and at the end of my 2017 northern European journey had several hundred. The best ones, discounting the photography, are dotted around this post.

The towns and cities whose ironwork I photographed include Malmo and Stockholm in Sweden, Kristianstad, Aalborg and Aarhus in Denmark, Bremerhaven, Hamburg, Berlin, Munster, Detmold, Gotha, Erfurt, Jena, Leipzig, Dresden and Meissen in Germany, and (I think) Prague in the Czech Republic.

Why do they do it? What is in it really for the town or city, or the designer, or the worker who sets them in stones or in a larger framework? The lowest motive I can figure is to discourage theft, but there is also – and I sooooooo want this to be true – satisfaction.
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The one on the left is from Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city.  The central design is featured in a range of covers.

 

 

Last year the city was a European Capital of Culture along with Paphos in Cyprus, and it went all out. Along the shore new paving got a fine drain. Here are three images, each a bit larger to show the detail.

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It just looks like an ashtray.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It isn’t one really. Nor is it a planter. It definitely breaks up what would be a boring feature footpath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is another Aarhus round cover, much different from most:

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Even the most pedestrian – sorry! – shape can be turned into something imaginative.

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On the left is a grate for an air vent in Dresden.

 

 

 

 

 

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And another grate for a drain.  Simple, yet elegant, no?

 

 

 

 

 

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An arrangement of covers with a drain in a courtyard of an arts institute in Dresden. Rust was a feature here, unlike elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A fire hose connection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trapdoor. . .nice!

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Outside the Dresden opera house, a prosaic rectangle encased in a fine mossaic design.

 

 

 

 

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Cut and place.

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Just grate!

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There is probably a totally functional reason why the inset in this square a shaped like a tear, or perhaps an alien. . .you may find out, but I suspect I shall never know. It’s just beautiful to me.

 

 

 

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A mysterious design, hieroglyphic-like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another.

If you’ve had enough of these, here is a nice range of city logo covers:

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Berlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Munster

 

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Hamburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bremerhaven

 

 

 

 

 

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Gotha

 

 

 

 

 

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Erfurt

 

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Leipzig

 

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Meissen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s enough, you say? OK. There probably is too much of a good thing when it comes to street metalwork, though I am not really sure about that. If you don’t like it, as Dionne Warwick famously sang, perhaps with this in mind, “Walk on by,” but remembering, with Robert Johnson, that there are “stones in [your] pathway”.

Once I got started on this, I discovered that British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is also interested in what backward people call manholes. He allows this is “odd”. I don’t know. I don’t think it’s odd. Eccentric – fine. Jeremy, you may not believe this but you and I, geographically and otherwise poles apart, share an eccentricity! Electric rust forever!

There is more! As John Major supposedly exclaimed, “Oh yes!”

While these cast iron creations are interesting and often elegant, the Japanese have leapfrogged their European counterparts. For example:

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Ironworkers of Europe! You have worlds to conquer!

Thanks for looking and reading:

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*This is a pun on the title of a novel by Jean-Paul Sartre, Iron in the soul. If Jean-Paul’s soul is out there somewhere – I have my doubts – J-P, I’m thinking of you!

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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