The city Breathes

Large format Image

Large format Image

architecture that breathes and shakes in the force of human interaction.
The city as an emblem that moves us to remember what humanity can be and should approached with a sensitivity of a gardener that plants sweet peas in his garden in the cold bleak mid winter, he plants with hope, just as we should construct with hope.

The city is confusion, a tirade of an interrupted symphony which repeats and degenerates. We muse that we understand it. We cannot. It is permanent flux, a state a permanent transition. The dictionary does not understand the city as a name; it is a thing with no fixed identity. Crushed it tries to reshape itself, to the mould of London, Trying desperately to conform to all the books which state what the tourist should be excited to see. Nelson’s Column. Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Oxford Circus. Soho. Little Italy. Canary Wharf, the Isle of Dogs. Places. Not people. Not the individual marks that allow such areas to have an identity.

I fear the loss of identity the city has to encourage. The sudden coldness that cannot be mapped but exists as emotionless zones. We are all robots in a fallen utopia. We march because we have to march we shout for we fear to cry. This is a science experiment, city dwellers in a Petri dish who are all seeking lost love and a free ticket to paradise.

So, now perhaps you ask what is all this leading to, what reveller in such rants. There can be peace in madness. To note such things Is a way is to create a personal response to such absurdity. To draw your own map from fragmented realities and half drawn conclusions. A ruler, some string and a heap of old photographs neatly traced on to browning paper. This game is absurd I hear them whisper in the morning crush of departing bodies and souls. But still we continue through the tunnels and arrive dishevelled in a shattered maze of distilled illusions. The city yearns towards a broken dreamscape, we march through with bleeding toes, place ballet has broken us today and we yearn to soothe softly with green scenes and a different paradise.

There are key projects which have allowed a little softness to merge our heavy hearts. I wonder what it is that consumes a thousand weary souls. A parade of discordance, a dance of the souls that are consumed with the art that is the every day. The elegance of concrete that burns in the over high lit sun sculptures.

The street translated into neat black walls, we now make signs neatly marked in chalk that washed away in acid rain. Our bodies hold bruises of the cold concrete streets

Police on horse back, riots, the city goes mad, it enters the asylum, quickly released on false charges as it changes its colours and no further comment is issued. The gun baffled and the corner shop shuts.

Endless symphony of trains
Tirades of confused sentiment
We enter
Counting grass stalks in the afternoon
A picnic from the garage
The flakes that fall out of Ali Baba’s Van
Luring us like fallen angels to tempt
Struggles to depart
Drink coffee be consumed.
Warm feet in broken beds
Stumbling a noisy maze
A herd of led sheep
Gems of knowledge in rubbish heaps
Dawn walks us.
Jesus loves you.
Get on with it.
Certain memories rise
I remember you
We depart
Singing to strangers
Flying through congested lungs
No certainty of repetition.

This is a suggestion of a certainty that can exist in glass houses where children throw stones in angry tirades. This is the city that cannot sleep for fear that it will not remember the form that it must take to adhere to the guide books. I wonder then why we must send so many postcards. Why do feel the need to repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat. What happened to simple effective communication? The city cannot display its symbols with clarity. The city that forms and reforms, a simple digestion

Walking, looking, smelling, seeing and observing the city as I was not supposed to according to the development agencies, stumbling through fallen palaces, skipping amongst the barren wastelands, an interest continues city to city to unearth the realities of the effects of modernity. Wandering with intrigue through the backstreets, the unmarked place that the map cannot quite locate and the sat nav pauses for. Amongst people who murder pigeons as a warning of where not to pass. A wall of broken glass shatters slowly. A city that I have only known briefly, arriving with no particular routes in mind and no map to dictate a way. Rolls and rolls of film, a late rise and I commence.

What is important about arriving in a city, how to find routes, where to find where the city starts and ends, which buses, which roads, are there such things as good and bad parts, can we know a route in a day. I have maps, tucked into my pocket, unread, reconstructed, cut to pieces and reassembled to make the city I see.

My eyes are interlocked, holding steady a loving gaze towards these ruins, I ask for no love in return. The city is tired and I do not want to place burden on the heaving foundations, subdued by weighty waters. My Farwell takes place in silence. I wave the white flag, to moon light, this sad city knows only departures, and I can offer it no support. Leaving the city of dreams. Leaving love. Knowing perhaps that I will fall in love with another city. The city exists as this; it has a simple secret, which I can shed no light on, only pay homage with my images. Silence but with tears. The shoe of the urban heart rests. The sea brings but a moment of solace, a fast water taxi, racing waves as a dream chase in calm stop mode, I am departed. ‘Cities that can never be rebuilt or remembered. Falsehood is never in words, it is in things.’ (Calvino) My construction through images of an altered reality, a city that flees all moral high ground. The city scared. This is a city of odd colours, paints with no name. Spider webs of intricate relationships seeking form, contemplating with fascination their own absence and seeking at once to love. ‘Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words are erased.’ (Calvino)

Perhaps these images are a way of making my ideal city; fragments of realities pieced together that forge a new reality. ‘A city without figures and form and that generates itself on a basis that allows cities to believe they are not work of the mind or chance but neither one nor the other suffices to hold up their walls.’ (Calvino)

Welcome to Cheapside. This is the city where you can get anything and everything in the pound shop. Pilchards, spam, cup cakes, sausages, a map of the world in the corner shop all lay out in bright colours in lit alleys off consumers’ paradise. The communities are congregated in neat forms, geometrical lines of population diversity; Cheapside is a place of new bricks over old rot. Crumbling walls are propped up by classic symbols of destruction, drug users are shadowed by council statistics of rehabilitation success, and they are clothed in new suits and propped up in cheap centres of overt display of confused identity.
Technique of mass production, mass communication and rapid movement from one part of the city to another have made it easy for us to assume the identity of a wanderer, a lost soul that hides in shady places. Assuming an identity for the day is simple; appearances come ready made in cheap packaged ready made kits.

Flashes of the city on reflection that haunt. The smell of hot tarmac on humid days that lingers dry in the throat. A cursing of the man who cant get the last bit of change. The sea of tired consuming faces through alleys of shops that vend al you need to be perfect, yet always the last ingredient is sold out, return home on the bus waiting until the next day to complete the recipe. The falling and tumbling of buses through crowded areas, the solitary night walkers, a proud rooster and his chicken walk through streets heavily lined with trees and bricks. Cycling the north south divide a heavy fly over punctuates with a series of beautiful views of the concrete river. The council have forgotten to add the north to all of their regeneration plans, leaving it to the hands of the residents who make all the shops their own and talk and child’s play can be heard in the streets once more, commercialism has not reached this haunt and streets are filled with families who I feel would not enjoy the synthetic air pumped in the new malls opting for their own home cooked one instead. There are places which lure us, to the wastelands where our bikes are stolen seamlessly still inked and neat track marks left across the pseudo desert. We follow only briefly, some wars are not worth the fight. The ownership of space once so lucid now is marked out with pigeons, thieves and needles.

The drug den. The home of man who asks all the users to clean up. the modern drug escape the view, drink pink milkshakes and shoot the jewellery corner. Now I see scenes in my head of the burnt out fire and hoards of half human roaring with rage at my invasion to their paradise. What lures me to these haunts, what smell, what image makes it the right path, meeting a drunk with a trademark can and realising that we are all the same, hanging out for our daily fix, only mine is a camera not a needle. a sadness that realises this is not the city of dreams, there can be light other than a tearful eye in the morning dew, this is another’s paradise and I am far from finding my own in such haunts. pausing a moment in a sea of litter, old sofas foreign cigarette wrappers and a used yellow condom I feel giddy, wanting if momentarily never to see this place again, only then to dream of it in nightmares.

The nature center a brief relief from such thought. A stream of lizards and Meer cats softens the harsh taste of harrowing scenes. The camera used now to reflect the joy of the city and its fun zone. More to the point the realities of life in Birmingham if you are having a nice day and not marching round death traps of varying guises. The centre is filled with laughter, awe and amazement, a woman comments how the creatures look like wise men.

The city does not await my return; I doubt if it ever noted my presence, I was careful not to leave traces, not to rearrange scenes I stumbled on, not writing on the walls, the camera was my only weapon, capturing shot by shot all I wished to see. The city now will flow seamlessly on; more births more deaths, rising falling decay and all the inevitable. The modernity is infectious I imagine it seeping into the healing wounds of decay, ripping the beautiful peeling paint and replacing it with a tacky gloss, age and decay do not sit close to future, all trace seeking a hiding place from the contractors gammy hands and desperate not to be removed. There was a man I saw twice, unusual for twelve days in a new city, each time I saw him he was still, paused and watching. He was old and it seemed like he was rooted to his spot like a favourite old tree, the most important thing in the looming of this fictional future where soon people will be virtual is the familiar, the worn and the effort it takes to exchange a friendly glance with a stranger.

~ by beatricejarvis on April 15, 2009.

One Response to “The city Breathes”

  1. If only I had a quarter for every time I came to… Incredible article.

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