Monday, 2 July 2018

PP #37 A Celebration of Brashness!



'Because things don’t appear to be the known thing; they aren’t what they seemed to be neither will they become what they might appear to become.'

Posted by Tessa den Uyl and Martin Cohen

A postcard presentation of Times Square
      
Times Square, New York.
‘The soft rush of taxis by him, and laughter, laughters hoarse as a crow’s, incessant and loud, with the rumble of the subways underneath - and over all, the revolutions of light, the growings and recedings of light - light dividing like pearls - forming and reforming in glittering bars and circles and monstrous grotesque figures cut amazingly on the sky.’
During the so-called Jazz Age, that is the optimistic time after ‘the Great War’ and before the Depression, the rise of Nazism and the Second World War, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s metaphor in his book The Beautiful and Damned, reflects so well the human despair combined with hope.

Acts of freedom and expression intertwine to be heard and noticed, to forget and to distract, to employ, and to  hope... In those days, Times Square must have appeared promising, like a colourful stamp on the continent. But what did its message say?

Ideas about segregation and freedom brought ‘silent’ new horizons and made former distinctions tremble. With all there was to come, in those years of the Roaring Twenties, all the layers that combine to make a society were looking for ‘a voice’ and the call echoed, near and far. 
 
People rather grandly called Times Square the ‘crossroads of the world’ and in those days, that might have well been so. And today, on the edge of the square, the NASDAQ controls a good slice of the world’s wealth and the New York Times does likewise for the world's news. 
 
Yet it is after dark, after the office day has finished, that the square really comes alive. Doubtful is whether that liveliness today, is filled with the same complexity and struggle, or with that necessity literally and symbolically to survive. While it once stimulated a proper voice, ‘light dividing like pearls’, now Times Sqaure embraces more of a homogenisation and offers monstrous grotesque figures cut amazingly out of the sky.


5 comments:

Keith said...

I think it’s eye-popping that Times Square — comprising only a few blocks — can tout some 50 million visitors a year. Both domestic and foreign, paying homage or not. Fifty million is roughly the population of other entire countries. Fifty million is like the entire population of a Spain, or a Colombia, or a South Korea, or a Kenya annually trekking through Times Square. To gawk and be bewildered. Times Square might well be ‘brash’, as suggested here — even in its re-polished, pedestrian-serving makeover. Times Square is one of the few signatures of humankind seen from space. However, Times Square’s siren song is, I suggest, complex. Neighborhood. History. Demographics. Entertainment. Distraction. Community. Landmark packed with landmarks. Object of popular culture. Unapologetic icon of free enterprise (capitalism). Plain, ol’-fashion fun. And more. Plenty to satiate an anthropologist’s curiosity.

Martin Cohen said...

I'm scaptical about that figure, really. But the Square is iconic, no doubt about that. The point for me in the picture post is that where once it represented a 'brave new world' of mdoernity, cinema and technology... now it seems curiously dated. Like the word 'Broadway', its become history not the future.

Tessa den Uyl said...

Tourism has transformed entire cities, countries. We can make a distinction between visitor’s who come to participate to a city, and visitor’s who are only entertainingly passing by. The left-overs by the latter can be quite devastating on the long run. (Thinking of places like Florence, Italy). The tourist’s fugitive looks replaces historical (complex) contexts, escaping daily life it relaxes by standing in line for hours, to participate for a few hours in something to which the connection between what is looked at, and how it got there, is often absent. Especially when the host community has escaped the site, and host-stories cannot be listened to, al that remains are representations where flickering lights become the enchantment. Has the image of Times Square surpassed the threshold of its continent? (Influenced tourist behaviour?)

Martin Cohen said...

"Tourism has transformed entire cities, countries. We can make a distinction between visitor’s who come to participate to a city, and visitor’s who are only entertainingly passing by."

I suppose most of Times Square's visitors to the ACTUAL SHOWS are American, and probably from within easy travel, though. The ads and the news boards are aimed at an Ameican audience, aren't they? But doubly because of that for the rest of the world, the millions who 'pass through' they became iconic.

Thomas Scarborough said...

And so perspectives change. I thought of the words that Charlotte Brontë has one of her characters say. ‘I looked on my cherished wishes, yesterday so blooming and glowing. They lay stark, chill, livid corpses that could never revive.’

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