Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Strangely Usual Experience

Today as I was walking home from the metro station something happened that I suppose may seem quite strange to some people. At least I gathered that from the stares I got from a confused passerby. You see on my route home for the last few months there has been this rusty oddly shaped piece of what must have been some sort of bolt in the same spot on the sidewalk, just siting there staring at me. I have wanted to photograph it ever since I first saw it, and even more so now that I has withstood the test of time for so long without being fastened to anything. Well today I had my camera, and by chance I actually remembered that I had it with me so I stopped to get a picture. Unfortunately my camera was out of batteries, thus I was unsuccessful. Nonetheless there I was standing with a camera in the middle of the sidewalk trying to take a picture of a rusty bolt.

I think it was the well dressed commuter, staring at me from across the street that caused me to pause and wonder how I had come to this point. Upon reflection, this was really just one small occurance in a long fascination that I have with rusted metal. I know that it sounds strange, but let me explain myself.

First of all aesthetically I just really like color. That attraction I can't quite explain, but the rich interplay between red and orange that spring out of a velvet like dark brown background seems both soft and harsh all at once.

However, more than the color what really attracts me to rusted metal is the decay. The way that we encounter pieces of rusted metal in every day life is as a set of man-made forms that have begun to fall apart. Slowly being eaten away, rusty metal is a long slow death that surrounds us. A reminder of our mortality and the passing nature of creation, especially man's creation, is a worthwhile thing in itself. Yet, I do believe that there is more to the beauty of rust than simply a morbid preoccupation. Something special happens when someone takes that decaying form and removes it from the normal context of experience. This removal can be taking a photograph, or placing the object on display, or even just looking intently at the thing. When photographed the thing becomes more than it once was. Rather than simply an object which is moving past it's usefulness, the piece of metal is now an invitation to reflection. And not simply a reflection on decay and impermanence, but more so, a reflection on that uniquely human capacity to discover lasting truths in the passing world. As the beings that create art we are elevating our surroundings to an intangible plane. The capacity for this act is what I find the most beautiful about the rusty bolt lying on the side of Michigan avenue (and also, one of the most promising aspects of the challenges that we face today with the definition of the term "art".)


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1 Comments:

  • n: I can't say i blame you either...rust is cool. Part of my admiration for it is that those cold metal utilitarian things seem so immutable--and sometimes very cold and terrifying because of it. But rust shows that all things (even fire hydrants) pass--which is good to remember.

    I must say, my favorite metal in the world is "rusted" (oxidized) copper. that is--ah! c'est magnifique.

    By Blogger WondrousPilgrim, at 8:29 PM, August 23, 2007  

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