As the new year begins, I will be sharing some images that I hope might engage your interest. This first one is from this past year’s Bastille Day in Piermont, NY, which celebrated a community which was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy just a few month’s later. A vibrant village right on the Hudson, Piermont is home to several of the best restaurants in Rockland, as well as galleries for artists and craftspeople. The town has pulled together, and worked hard to rebuild, and if you have the opportunity to visit, it’s a short trip up the Palisades, and well worth the drive. Happy 2013!
In my last post, I referred to a column in the New York Times of Michael Kimmelman’s visiting public spaces in New York with Alexander Garvin. They ended their tour in Grand Central, and I was taken that they used an interior space as their exemplar of the public realm. To me, it described an attitude about the city and its communal and social life which can be traced back to the Nolli Map of Rome of 1748. Commissioned by Pope Benedict XIV, Giambattista Nolli surveyed the entire city to create a map which is iconic for architects and urban designers for its depiction of the public realm. Nolli drew the interiors of great buildings-public and private-as open civic spaces, incorporating them into our collective understanding of the life of the city. It represents an ideal city described not merely by its physical form, but also by how it is experienced. Wherever citizens come together as part of their common life becomes part of this public realm, as Nolli defined it in his depiction of the great piazzas of Rome, the courtyards of the noble’s palaces, or the colonnades of St. Peter’s.
(A personal note: I have owned a reproduction of the Nolli Map since the 80’s, and it has hung in all of my living spaces save one since then. At almost 6 x 7 feet, it fills a wall and has limited my ability to display other works I own, but I never lose interest in it.)
Writing in “Treasuring Urban Oases” in The New York Times last December, Michael Kimmelman praised those often accidental spaces that encourage people to claim and activate their own little piece of the urban realm. Re-reading it yesterday, I was reminded of this couple we encountered outside of the walls of La Recoleta Cemetery when we visited Buenos Aires a month earlier. With a boom box for an accompanist, and passers-by for their audience, their performance of the tango transformed this little square of sidewalk into a theater of memories
In The Origins of Knowledge and Imagination, Jacob Bronowski describes how our knowledge of the physical world is shaped by our senses, and how the sense of sight dominates our outlook on the outside world. While an image is an object, imagination is an activity, the making of images in the mind. This uniquely human ability to imagine, which Bronowski considers the meaning of “free will,” allows us to visualize alternative modes of being, and to choose between them. In the creative process, we constantly draw upon our visual memory to make connections which enlighten and expand our experience of the world. This idea that image leads to imagination is the inspiration for these posts to come, a collection of visuals that might somehow strike a chord, and lead to some unexpected road.
Salk Institute, LaJolla, May 2003