Humanity is exalted not because we are so far above other living creatures, but because knowing them well elevates the very concept of life. E.O. Wilson, 1984

16 Jun 2013

Regarde le ciel

I have sat huddled over calculations and formulae, focused on equilibrium, parameters and above all results. Advanced biological statistics require a certain detachment from reality, positionment in a box to shield the mundane minor miracles of daily life. Narrow winding streets, replaced by high stacked book-shelves, the open mouth of the metro to the opened page of Lebarrier & Robin: Exemples d’application du modèle linéaire. Channelling the complexities of life into straight lines, streets, corridors and lines of calculus. And so it takes a funeral to shape new found perspectives. Four more lines perhaps, the rigid edges of a casket, but held within a myriad of unending spirals. Following the pathway home was hard, the shadows of the apartment blocks rising to frame my sides. Here then, a mundane graffiti tag takes on new meaning. Unlike the spiked capitals of my note books, the curving consonants shaped by l'école française:    
And so I did: Summer in Paris. Up until now, the sun barely reaching the cold corners of my lab or library. And so I climbed, to the greenery of a Parisian cemetery, or the open air of the banks of its waterways. To now, still surrounded by lines on paper, but with my view on the horizon unhindered, on the roof of my apartment, the roof of the city. The lines of brick and steel peter out to the terracotta tips of chimneys and the final reaches of iron ariels. To an open swirl of white and blue.


7 Jun 2013

Nikolai Astrup - Soleienatt

Urnes: Church of the Viking King

From a high point across the valley, gazing down into the black mirrored waters of the Lustrafjord is like looking up at the sky, with the treetops reaching down to the depths. When the water settles, and the ripples still, a tarred black steeple is discernible amongst the spruce spires. Looking out of the waters and up into the air, the Urnes church is positioned on the hump of a hillslope, so that from its turret, one gains a sweeping vista of the surrounding fjords and valleys. Its position in the furthers arm of the longest of Norway’s western fjords is no coincidence, given the strategic value of this highway into the countries interior, and the importance of catching marauding Vikings before they catch you.

The first incarnation of this monument dates back to 1040, when Norse mythology merged with Christian ideology to create something of an enigma, an edifice between past and present, between sky and sea. The swirling carvings on the exterior walls date back to this time, a writhing mass of dragons and snakes, their tales slender vegetal forms, fought by the fanged Urnes animal. These elegant forms blend the dragons of Viking folklore with those of Palestinian poetry, but also encourage the congregation inwards, to escape the endless battle between the forces of nature, and to seek solace with God. 

And it is inside where the magic of this place is revealed, six columns of dark red pine rising to the roof, topped with further carvings of animal and vegetal matter. The grace of god has kept this place standing above the waters, in that he blessed the timber with the strength of iron and the carpenters with the brains of Thor. For these columns bear the hallmarks of Viking craftsmanship, the very masts of their ships. A tree is stripped of its leaves and branches, but left to die in a vertical position, roots still attached. And for ten years it remains: the resin rises to impregnate the timber, the blistering cold of midwinter dries the wood, and the already compact slow grown rings of the trunk are forged like chainmail.This wood remains today, almost one thousand years later, when the trees that bore it are long dead and decomposed, when its carpenters are beyond dust, but whose powerful message rings true today, life as a perpetual battle between the forces of nature, of water and wind, of tooth and claw.