message on a wall


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“why are you here now and not somewhere else?” whispers a message on a wall.  this interesting question causes me to pause as i flick through old photos. staring at the image, memories start coming.  the here was berlin, and the now was a day, three years ago, that i spent wandering the city streets with my friend jane. but the question moves me beyond the second dimension of digital fragments on a screen….. like the reflection of a mirror in a mirror, the image resonates infinitely back in time and forward to where i am now, all the while whispering the same mantra: why am i here now and not somewhere else……..?

 remembering is retracing steps through the complex history of now. is it of any use? what is to be gained? by their very nature memories are revisionist and subjective. i wonder about the ways i/we revise and repackage happenings ~ perhaps understanding how i do this is where the learning lies. where was i when i stopped to take this picture? it was a spot on the footpath in front of a section of wall where other people’s thoughts, questions, anger and hope had been given the space to congregate in the late aftermath of a war that i only know about from books and movies (speaking of revisionist……). since that time, these streets have picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and moved on, yet the wall remains~ a nexus between the past and the present, a space where leftover kinks from that strange chapter in history can be smoothed out via public discourse. to me, berlin is a testament to recovery and how the infinite entanglements of politics, time and people can sometimes come together in humanity’s favour, giving a space the luxury to produce something truly interesting. when the wall came down in 1989, peace vibrations made it all the way to australia, and i remember being at uni when it happened. i remember watching the images on the news and feeling hope. berlin and its’ walls symbolise the breaking down and transforming of a thing into its’ opposite: an expression of freedom as opposed to oppression.

back to this moment in question. i remember sharing a day with a very dear friend, and i remember that there was something rather romantic about experiencing a momentary collision with her in another country. together, we drew bittersweet pleasure from the finite reality of goodbye. well, at least that is how it was for me, jane might tell a different story. i remember the taste of the delicious drip coffee that we drank in a quaint shop early in the morning (2 cups!). i remember strolling, chatting, our conversation shifting then settling then shifting again. quirky traffic lights. a band of eastern european men playing music on the street. a museum where we saw an exhibition by a (mexican?) artist and an installation of marine debris. meandering down grand streets. eating a perfect ice-cream. sitting at the brandenburg gate imagining times past. sitting in silence contemplating peace. watching bubbles burst in a park. eating sauerkraut and sausages and drinking beer. saying goodbye. walking back to wibke’s without a map ~allowing myself to be guided through the night streets by intuition.

to remember all of this, i became a butterfly collector. using a camera i selected, captured and pinned fluttering memory fragments, freezing them in time. i moved the fragments of my memories into a mysterious little black box for safe storage. and there they lay ~abandoned, dormant~ destined to be brought back to life at a whim.  released, the fragments now flutter to life on my computer screen, colouring and transforming the grey boredom of routine. flesh forms between pictures, resuscitating the narrative. i collect these fragments so that i can remember that there is a world out there, and a world in here. i am not interested in remembering details, or historical facts really, what interests me is remembering possibility and placing the narrative in the context of what came before and what came after. i collect to remember that life moves and changes~ i was there then, and now i am here, i am still here. the colours and the words make me want to move. they bring me back to life.

but the history of moments goes back further still. this one begins to really come together at the same time that the dregs of last century are gurgling down the drain, 11 years after the breaking down of the wall, when my brother visits me in florence after travelling to berlin. at that moment i am aimless, working as a waitress in a pizzeria, living in a doomed relationship with a greek/german artist. i have no idea or direction. i am treading water, waiting for something interesting to happen without the understanding that something interesting is already happening. my brother’s recounting of the experience settles in my mind, undigested. it thus lives in the bucket (list) for some time, collecting dust. in mumbai thirteen years later, in the train ticket queue for foreigners, i meet wibke, a berliner who travels to goa every summer. we hang out in mumbai, becoming friends. a year after this, my friend jane is living in london. i travel to spain for a conference in the summer. there is money and there is time, so i jump on a plane.

wandering back through the architecture of this moment, inspecting the structure ~as the question asks me to do~ i remember that there are no straight lines. in my memories and constructions i attempt to tame the reactive randomness of my interaction with life, to impose my will upon it, but still, everything just depends. each moment depends. i suppose that the act of taking photos is another act of creating straight lines inside which i can encapsulate nice, neat little narratives of what an experience was. but there are infinite threads stretching back that i will never see or understand. how i came to be here, and not somewhere else, at this moment in time, remains a beautifully intricate mystery, despite my identification of the road signs along the way that pointed me here. this moment is unique, unable to be predicted, or repeated……………………………………….

 

 

 

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