Monday, October 15

Wall Whisper

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Susan Sontag wrote, “Photographs (can) give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal.” She goes on to suggest that photographs are, “a way of certifying experience.”

The walls of Castle Gondolfo reflect both the implacable force that Urban VIII breathed into them in 1624, and the current fashion of genteel seediness which coats their façades in crackling layers. From the image we can we grasp either the enormity of the past power of the men who peered down from this window upon Lake Albano, or the situation of its current tenant. Is this a photograph of a past, a present, or a future?

As I leaned against the afternoon warmth of this wall, it was like a rock. And see the etchings in the stone window frame? Beneath your fingers they’re as crisp as yesterday, the artisan’s message left there at the end of a day some four centuries ago.

Odd how imagination’s so one-way. Beneath my fingertips I could feel what his hand felt as it wiped across this surface. And I can picture him packing tools, walking a cart half a block to the town square, getting wine, and wondering where his next job would take him.

I can imagine all of that, yet I cannot image the guy who might come upon this little story in 2507, yet he will know as much about me as I do about the man who made Urban VIII’s window.

We are all something's history.

NOTE: You will often find in-depth descriptions of this Italian visit among the comments below both as I add onto them and as you prompt my memory. I'll try to restrict my thoughts exclusively to the image here on the main site. Those comments begin here.


Bill said...

Ted, welcome back. This is a wonderful detail of the castle, a study in colour line and texture and it does a great job of communicating the age of the building.
I look forward to many more images from your trip.

Ted Byrne said...

(Bill) This image is a companion to yesterday's. Gandofo's a huge place. I wonder what a paint job will cost?

But somehow I don't think that it's the potential bill which is delaying the painters. Nope, I have the feeling that today's world is a bit less forgiving of the opulent spending in which the church historically engaged. I'm guessing that the interior of this castle is a lot better kept than its exterior. After all the church is a business, and businesses position their brand hard. I have the feeling we'll be back to this theme as the images unfold.

John Roberts said...

It must be amazing to be among buildings so old and full of history. Here in America, we think a 200 year old building is "old". That's just a pup in Europe.

I haven't been checking your site because I thought you were still away. As much as I'm interested in what you saw (buildings and such), I'm also curious to see how (and if) the ambiance of Italy affected your vision and style, as compared to Lancaster.

mcmurma said...

Hiya Ted,

I have always wanted to visit Europe. The exact place was never of concern, as there is no single destination that calls to me more than another. It's the overall feel that these places tend to evoke that I'm after. The antiquity, history, humility, along with the grooves of the local footsteps.

As Bill noted, these places are far older than those in our fledgling culture, and it gives every historic corner the smoothness and comfort of so many years. There just isn't anything quite like it around here.

This image shows this well. The passage of time is highlighted, colored, and rich. The exterior of the building has probably been redone dozens of time already. But it took every single layer to get where it is today. It's something to savor.

Ted Byrne said...

(John) I thought I'd feel similarly John, and yet it didn't happen. I wasn't so much affected by antiquity as by culture which seemed to vibrate from the ancient ruins, or from the currently maintained five and six century old structures. Each reflects first the technology of their builders, and then their tastes - all modified by the functions they intended the structures to serve. Taken together, they are important foundations of cultures which are different yet familiar (there are only so many ways you can build a box or a pillar). Ancient buildings are probably more an exploration of comparitive culture in general and technologies in particular, than anything else.

(Michael) Your points are to me so close to John's... I agree that awe emanates from antiquities, but the most recent post on your blogsite (see the links bar) makes me wonder about your wonder.

The image you've posted of that ancient mesa humbles all human constructions. Regardless of what the Romans were doing 2,200 years ago - the geology of all of our world humbles that trivial time span. We live in gnat time as compared to the stuff we walk upon. Considered in those terms, the Romans are contemporaries who did what they did last week. Odd how we look at human history and geological history so differently, eh?

advman said...

In fact, we can't even imagine our lifespan, and that's for good. Thus when thinking or talking about time, we always need a special mode, one for our own past, one for the time we can trace our immediate family, one for historical events, one for the Romans, one for the Dinosaurs, one for the solar system, ..., you get it. Each mode is nothing but a projection of a certain class of time spans onto our own life, or at least the part of it that we have consciously experienced. Crutches, of course, but very effective.

Basically this is the same mechanism of relativism that governs our whole self-consciousness. Things may be not only OK, they may be really splendid - objectively, but none of us is ever objective. We measure everything in relation to where we are. Why should this be different when we experience time?

On the other hand, scales lose their absoluteness in Italy. I have never been to a place where so much of history exists concurrently, where everything can be at the same time as everything else, where time fleets and stands still at the same time. Italy is unique.