Around 4 p.m., I was sitting on a sofa on the second floor at home, looking out at a window, wondering what I should do for today’s project. I could see our cats going to and fro in the ground, and I thought that from upstairs the size of each cat contrasts pretty conspicuously from one another’s. I seldom got to see a cat from that angle (There are a dozen cats around my house and there are not domestic ones. They just enjoy the shelter and food we provide…. So usually, I see them from a distance), and it was very interesting. Things look different from high up.
And there it comes, my topic for today’s project. Upstairs. (or from high)
Maybe because I spent my teenage in an attic, where I had to climb up and down in a ladder, there is some feeling of peculiar uncertainty or precariousness. Of course I could climb up and down even with my eyes closed, lights out, and with a bunch of stuffs on my arms, but still it was a 90 degrees ladder and I would fall down from time to time. But I was always proud that I had my attic, a very small but mysterious and secret place of my own. It had a small window, so the room was always dark even with my lamp on, hence not really good for studying, but I liked that atmosphere. It was like experiencing what I read in books! Protagonists stuck in their own secret places (unwillingly or unwillingly)!
A…..nyway. Precariousness. Steep. Stepping down into the outside (=not my secret space).
A funny thing is that regardless of my skills with climbing, I always felt dizzy when going down the stairs/ladders. This picture makes me feel dizzy all over again. Again, precarious and uncertain! A bit of anxiety possesses me. It could be for hope (e.g. my parents coming back from their absence, meals, Mom’s cakes, etc.), but usually, for me it had more to do with hesitance. I wasn’t very willing to go down. I went down half asleep every morning and I wasn’t thrilled to go to school instead of being in my cozy haven. Also a feel of loneliness.
Oh, yes, and of course, I have anemia. Anxiety, huh?
Hotel Torrance. Above three images from http://www.haikyo.org/abandoned/hotels/hotel-torrance/.
#2. Peeping! ….Or observing.
What a perfect place to casually (or intently) look around the downstairs!
Image from http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/1db758/
Above is Camille Pissarro’s Boulevard des Italiens, Morning, Sunlight (1897, oil on canvas, 73.2 x 92. 1 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) The painter is looking down on the busy street. (Some) Impressionist painters are famous for taking a flâneur-like gaze. The word voyeurism may have a sexual, perverted meaning, but, to contemporary artists and poets including Baudelaire, voyeurism meant something rather different. Well, essentially the same, in my opinion, but by taking a detached look away from the crowds, artists sought to capture the fleeting moments of everyday activities in the streets of Paris.
I think this gentleman-flâneur-stance naturally embed a sense of condescension. Well, to exaggerate a bit–I’m here, sitting, smoking, a hat on my head, looking down on (or around) the streets, observing you busying yourselves with daily activities, making a fuss over little things. I am over you and your are by objects of observation. And I am enjoying this gentlemanly and elevated exercise!
Wouldn’t be very pleasant to know about this as an ordinary passerby. Might feel like my privacy has been intruded for the entertainment of a voyeuristic stranger.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m not condemning those painters and poets–well, yeah, I admit that I am having fun making fun of them
I guess to a creator observing others has been regularly recommended. I too tried to follow that advice, but I just found that observing other people (not overtly, but still) uncomfortable. I wouldn’t like my looks and behaviors observed; others wouldn’t as well.
But I do enjoy observing nature, especially little animals–right now on the doorstep of my house are five little playful kittens, and it is a great pleasure for all my family to watch them grow (and to our disappointment getting nasty and indifferent and no longer playful). I also delight in seeing little children playing around.
…. This is getting too long. Let me just wrap up this point: upstairs–high up–observation–peeping–curiosity (out of innocence or voyeurism).
Oh, I almost forgot. If we take these notions a bit further, it is not difficult to reach this famous words–power (control) complex or God complex. Can’t really think of any specific movie right now, but we can easily watch a scene in which a protagonist or (usually) an antagonist looking down from a high place, often with his hands on the balustrade, with serious (malicious?) expressions on his face.
A desire to control the world! An ambition to play God over people! Yeah! To demonstrate that you need to climb up to the high place so that other ordinary people are all under you! (Well, not only evil schemers but also leaders knew that high places have psychological and symbolic power, and applied this tactic. Height is often associated with greater power, right?)
I guess It also has to do with observation. From the second floor things below look different; from the air, they look beautiful (or devastating :(). I can’t help but admire these aerial photographs. Seemingly random things or utterly ordinary things take special meaning as a bunch when seen from high above.
Image from http://fabuloustraveling.com/aerial-photographs-of-great-britain/
Islet in the terraced rice fields of Bali, Indonesia, photographed by Yann Arthus Bertrand
Image from http://twistedsifter.com/2011/03/25-mind-blowing-aerial-photographs/
Shopping mall parking lot. Never occurred to me that parking lots, to me the symbol of bad air, car accidents, and petty (or not so petty) crimes, could be this beautifully neat and colorful. I love neatness. I love patterns. They make me rapturous
Image from http://www.aerialphotosofnj.com/custom_aerial_photography/shopping_center_marketing.html
Bonnaroo Music Festival Aerial Photography From Helicopter On June.
Image from http://serbagunamarine.com/bonnaroo-music-festival-aerial-photography-from-helicopter-on-june-8/performanceimpressions.com*Bonnaroo_Aerial_Photos_Fri_2012*content*bin*images*large*Aerial_Photo_Bonnaroo_Music_Festival_opp1431.jpg/.
And the unrelated strangers who passes by one another indifferently look different. When a street is photographed from the ground level, it often appears so crowded with expression-less nonhuman people. A lot of movies and dramas contain such scenes, right?
People photographed or filmed from this high a level may also look mechanic, but at least for me, they look different. I see energy. It’s like observing ants from above; they are swarming, so busy with their work, going in and out of their small holes. I remember then thinking that they are so full of life. The scene was so full of energy! (And cute. Little figures moving around!)
At the same time, however, some scenes shown from the sky give more dismal feelings than those shown from lower places. For example,
Zug Island, Mich. The photo looks so beautiful but actually it is a result of terrible pollution. A waste pit near a number of Detroit auto factories fills with a rainbow of unidentified substances.
View more pictures like this in http://lightbox.time.com/2011/04/20/terribly-beautiful-industrial-pollution-seen-from-above/?iid=lb-gal-viewagn#7
The Time article was well-named: Terribly Beautiful. Even more devastating because, these natural sites, despite they were horribly damaged by greed of humans, somehow became beautiful again. Not healthy-beautiful anymore, but toxic-beautiful now.
Similar heart-breakingly beautiful pictures in: http://thumbpress.com/industrial-scars-aerial-photography-of-the-places-polluted-by-modern-industry/
And there are these types of photos. Do I like patterns? Extremely. Do I like this picture, a regular alignment of the exactly same houses?
No. This is not just patterns but a lack of individuality. Again to exaggerate, a lifeless picture of houses of countless people.
Upstairs seem to have a lot of contradictory notions. Hope and dream, then anxiety and fear; innocent curiosity and voyeurism and control, and patterns of life and death.
I guess it is some kind of privilege to be upstairs, to be above and look down over the ground to which you once belonged. I’d like to enjoy that little privilege well, whether I am in the attic or in the top floor of the highest building in the world.
Actually, I can’t wait to go up to our tree house and look down from its small balcony. The world I see everyday would look very different, only if I am eager to appreciate it.
————–By the way. This 365 project is becoming more like a weekly project than a every-day one. Blogging is currently not my priority and it tends to get delayed when I have other stuffs to finish, and it has frequently become the only item that I fail to check out in my to-do list every day.
I don’t know what to do about it. I have priorities….. But, well, a weekly thing is not that bad after all, only if it is done regularly.