Sunday, July 19

A Shadow of the Ancient Ways: Paris 6

Brisk winter afternoon.

It was 1887 when the French erected this huge relic from the edge of the iron age. Maybe that will save it in this moment of statue and history smashing? Cultural churning's sparked a fashion for ripping stuff down. History's got veins of bad... so it's the 2020 fashion to rubble-ize all of it. 

But the Eiffel's neither a triumphal arch, nor a tyrannical warrior on horseback. Maybe the mob'll pass it by? Uh, well not so fast. The 19th century wasn't France's best. And it was ending after the Germans had smashed their armies leaving them with gaunt borders and, until 1871, the Prussian occupation of Paris. They needed what some called a tiara-of-accomplishment as 1800s sand tumbled to its hourglass's bottom. 

So a scant decade later, Gustave Eiffel built his tower as a Freudian-wand to re-engorge French pride. Which makes it the greatest historic monument to nationalism. Gustave himself called his tower a "300 meter flagpole." Uh-oh, will that ignite internationalists'-history-looting blowtorches? After all, they've declared that nationalism is definitionally about racism. Especially in Europe where - unlike the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand -  national borders were set to exclude diversity. 

Mobs are usually lazy with short attention spans. It'll probably take more determination than they've got to pull this gigantic gadget down: unless their backers can implant a correct load of explosives under each of its footings. Hmmmm... Can you imagine shadowy rooms of black-clad,  Guy Fawkes mask-muffled plotters? 

I've worried before about the future of the future, especially since tens of thousands are toppling history's past


Cedric said...

Let me start by saying that this image is one of the most original compositions of La Tour that I've seen in quite some time. It is delight to look at. Truly. I lived in Paris for a number of years as a child and never went to the Eiffel Tower. I think it was on my fifth visit back, when I went with my kids that I finally went there. My cousins, who have lived in Paris all of their adult life have never been there. That's kind of amusing to me. I suspect that if my own kids had grown up in Paris then they too would not have visited it. I doubt this was Gustave's original intention but it is something that has become more of an attraction for tourists than a symbol of national pride. At least in my experience. I do wonder if Parisians would be overly upset if it was brought down somehow. Notre Dame certainly saddened many locals when it caught fire and I can think of a few other landmarks that would upset people if they were to somehow no longer be, but La Tour? I truly do not know. I think I would be a little saddened by it. Despite having only been there once, I have always gotten a thrill at seeing it from unexpected vantage points, in between buildings or reflected in the window of a café, or at the end of some little side street as you've done here.

Ted said...

I grew up on Philadelphia and only once to appease visitors went to Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and other historic bric-a-brac. Years spent in and out of New York and I've not seen the Statue of Liberty (speaking of Gustave). I worked in and frequently visit Washington which is not a far distance from Lancaster yet have never visited the Smithsonian but business did bring me frequently to both the White House and Congress a lot. I regret that business in Dallas never brought me to the Texas School House where Kennedy and Oswald may have come together. And while I live in Pennsylvania's most visited tourist county, like most of my neighbors we avoid Route 30 East's winding miles clogged with Amish stalkers. Familiarity's not a big breeder of curiosity, huh?

And yet Rita and I travel a lot, and goto the places which locals avoid just as we do Route 30. Go figure.

In Paris for just three cranky winter days I got on bus which toured the sites. Almost everything I know first-hand about Paris's great monuments then came through dirty, reflective windows. By the time we arrived for those days we'd just finished exhausting weeks in Morocco. Plus, I'd caught some sort of flu-like bug. The bus stopped at the tower, and I hopped off for maybe fifteen minutes. But, just like everyone else I know that Gustav's metal working is welded to the Parisian name. So I took too many pictures of it... all by itself... trying to find that relationship. All of those pix are stereotypically awful. Clichéd dung.

Then, as the bus twirled through the surrounding streets there was that little dead-end throughway book-marked by large apartment buildings and BAM! - the marriage of tower and city. The hugeness of the thing which, like to you and other Parisians, is invisible. How can the brain not see see it? Well, how can I not notice an Amish cart on a clogged road of vehicles? How can Big Ben, the Coliseum, the Hagia Sophia, Straits of Magellan, The Great Reef, The Rhine, Rick's Café, The Prada and on and on fade into a local's background?

Look at the massive invisible tower... Invisible until... unless... one morning it's gone. And abruptly, like the Notre Dame.. it will become an astonishing presence. Just now throughout the United States there's a passion among mobs to rip down invisible sculptures. Which is making them visible.

Because it takes too much energy to repeatedly notice, the brain erases the ordinary. Until something else does.

GEEK STUFF: In this image I've avoided any trace of romantic painterly impressionism. Its realism is meant to be sharp enough to shave your chin. It's supposed to SCREECH .... LOOKIT ME DAMNIT! LOOK AT MY MUSCLES! SEE MY METAL! FEEL, TOUCH, SMELL, HEAR ME!