a few things I’ve seen and me seeing the few things I’ve seen … since getting back from India
still in residual shock … but steady … moving towards …
In part 1 of Three Stones from Three Cities, I discover a series of mysterious broken stones
in Mauerpark, Berlin, Germany, as my friend, Helena, and I walk around one Sunday afternoon,
looking for a place to stand
to watch Karaoke in the
The next afternoon I was compelled to go back to Mauerpark with my camera because of the mystery of these puzzling breaks, the Unexpected Field of Trauma as I call it. The Karaoke singers and gawkers are gone. The park, once a strip of No-Man’s Land when the Berlin Wall was functional, is nearly empty. I walk the full length of the dead-straight road, which is about the length of two American Football fields and runs the full length of the park, parallel to where the outer and inner walls of the Berlin Wall used to run. The eastern facing, or outer wall is to my right as I walk North up the road, and a section of this wall is still standing.
After my inspection along the whole road, I see that the only area of trauma, these strange fractures in the cobblestones that I described in the previous post, is where I initially saw them – by the Karaoke amphitheater.
“Hmm … interesting.”
I kneel down to look closer: yes, the breaks are mostly on top, fractures on the surface and some of the stones are worse than others and the breaks sort of go around the stone, and then there is the softening of the sharp edges, similar to how the sharp edges of ice, as with an ice cube, soften as it melts.
The pattern of breaking has no radiation out from a center, as what would occur with an explosion or a downward blow of a hammer. Nor are they directional, like let’s say if a force ran over the top of the stones in one direction, breaking the top layers, like I fantasize would happen with a tank tread or some piece of machinery capable of directing a powerful, continuous force. And, significantly, the stones aren’t disturbed within their housing. However these breaks happened, they didn’t happen in a way that disturbed the position of the stone. My guess is that this happened a while ago, i.e … at least not last week … debris has filled the cracks. But, how? Still not convinced it is the natural cycle of freeze and thaw, I snap a few quick photos. It begins to rain. I run for cover and then leave the park. I take shelter at Friendly Society, a Boutique–Coffee–Bar–Gallery, that is a few blocks away. I talked with Gregor, one of the co-founders, as I sit out the downpour. (If you’re by Mauerpark, take a special detour to have some great coffee and to see their line of clothes you won’t find anywhere else!)
I go home and I forget about the Unexpected Field of Trauma at Mauerpark. I have other pressing issues. Two days later, I am looking through the 5000 plus images I took while in India, because the real reason I have cloistered myself in a Berlin sublet for the summer is to come down from these India Travels, clarify my own questions and develop what next for Cairns – Shards – Pieces.
A significant aspect of India – and it is rather extreme in Varanasi – is that everywhere you go, to one degree or another, people are living or lounging outdoors, essentially camping, and that includes all the concomitant activities such as building fires of all sizes and for various reasons. It is like there is a fluid, but perpetual, state of camping all around you. With few exceptions, even I could have built a fire just about anywhere and just hung out, with impunity. In one of my images of the ghats, I notice someone had built a campfire right next to the ghat steps and, to my surprise, the stone was fractured to the point of not really being a functional step anymore: the heat had burst and broken the stone,
making them … not steps … rather a slope … and … Wow … That’s it …
“How, Now, Watson: make the connection…”
Yes. Fire breaks stone in this way …
… I know, because I’ve done it with an acetylene torch early in my art career; I also have made plenty of campfires that have heated stones and fractured them. Yes, that’s it: a campfire! People built campfires along that cobblestone road in Mauerpark. Fire is the answer. Fire breaks stone, and that’s what caused the Unexpected Field of Trauma. Has to be! It’s my inference to the best explanation, at any rate; and seems to conform to Ockham’s razor.
The wall comes down. No-man’s Land is no longer No-man’s Land. People reclaim the space and turn it into a gathering place. The park is built, the amphitheater is built, the cobblestone road is built and the strip of land is reinforced as a natural gathering point. People hang out here, late into the night; at this time, Berlin must not have subtle, oppressive cultural powers executing rules of arbitrary propriety and people make campfires for their fellowship around the amphitheater and on the cobblestones. That has to be it. I’m sure of it. I go back that afternoon to confirm, but will spare you the analysis.
So, this Unexpected Field of Trauma was created by campfires build on top of the stone road. Although all three are important, neither material nor history nor action links the Unexpected Field of Trauma at Mauer Park to my cobblestone in New York City; but rather, it is a question: how did it get that way? And, that is the connection.
The real reason why I write this post is that there is another undercurrent to this inquiry. That is I had another notable, albeit at present unexplainable, experience with another stone while in India. It is an approximately 6 x 2 foot paving stone at one of the Ghats that I discovered during my first walk, ever, along the ghats, during my first day, ever, in Varanasi. It, like all the stones that comprise the ghats, is subject to the yearly rise and fall of the Ganga where it is covered by Himalayan sediment and then, when the river recedes, the people clean it off by spraying river water at it. For some reason this stone got singled out and I haven’t been able to write about it, I haven’t been able to process it, I haven’t been able to make sense of it – I still can’t – I don’t know what questions to ask! India was too overwhelming, and there are too many factors beyond my own empirical and anecdotal evidence collecting that makes me truly uncomfortable because I just don’t know enough about them. Some of these factors revolve around the socio-economic forces at play in India as well as the country’s conquered and colonialist history. All of this has inhibited any rapid-fire posting (of the sort social media is biased for) during my travels and is partially what I am referring to when I say that I don’t know what I am looking at.
I won’t try to explain the Indian paving stone; except to say that this discovery is a cross between the punctuation I experienced with the New York cobblestone and the puzzlement of the Unexpected Field of Trauma at Mauerpark, times the first 7 primes in the base 12 number system and a Goat in a sweater (or something). That’s it. That is all I can say. It is at Rana Mahal Ghat, and here it is:
I write this post to you today as a way to ease my way back into writing about and telling you about
my India experiences and the things that caught
my curiosity …
Going down to Bangalore, the wild ride filled with shenanigans and welcomed surprises that accompanied it, allowed me to work and achieve much of why I came to India in the first place. A big thanks to everyone I met and who helped me, who supported me and who followed me on my vision. Thank you …
Thank you …
Thank you …
you know who you are … and I look forward to seeing you again.
Here is a brief look at what I did in Southern India:
Project I – Cairns
I came to India to find quarries that would allow me to work with upwards to 50-ton blocks of granite – done. I made a series of Cairns out of 10-30 ton blocks of various types of granites. In total, I visited 4 quarries and moved about 120 tons of granite. The Cairns below are each about 15 feet high and are just a sampler; and there’s more. I have two additional companies who are willing to work with me, and 10 MORE quarries to visit; I just didn’t have the time this trip. Would love to make 10 more Cairns! These Cairns will go through another process of transformation to relocate them. To make this possible, I am looking for suitable locations and people interested in furthering this field of sculpture.
Project II – Shards
I took the discards – the unwanted, the dismissed and disowned – and gave another look. I focused on a few shards of stone – castaways, really – and ended up developing seven. The first two shown below can fit in the palm of your hand; the third, better use two hands. These seven deserve additional attention through drawing, video and performance. I now need the time and space to take these seven through new stages of development that will run a gossamer thread through a series of triads, cycles and opposites … and … um … a bunch of other stuff I’m curious about …
Project III – Pieces
In addition to finding quarries where I could work with large blocks of granite, I needed to find people who understood the delicacy and finesse and care this material requires; and I found them … and spent much time with one man in particular … He knows …
Potential Project IV
As we were finishing up with Project II and III at his place, I decided to describe my Project IV to him to see if it was possible at a later date, to see if he and his studio could handle it; and, of course, he could (he’s making a 20 foot high Shiva sculpture, way out in the countryside – he drove me out there – with seven jumbo cobras, each of which seems like it could swallow my whole head. The block of granite must have been 60 tons when he started 3 years ago). But, he then beckoned me to a hidden section of his field, which houses scores and scores of blocks from the size of a shoebox to the scale of a Range Rover. At this point with my process, I see these sorts of stones, and I know immediately what to do with them. I could still be down there working. This man hardly speaks English, but we worked together long enough to have our own kind of communication. In his Indian-English pidgin, open brachial gestures, and, most importantly, a gaze in his eyes that connected with my own, he made it know to me: “Use whatever you want. It’s all available to you.” Wow. I, now, look for the means to go back there, and soon … more to come.
Have another view of this work here:
India Portfolio: Strategic Placement with Social Media
I decided to check on my neighborhood cobblestone (which I featured in One of the Greatest Insights in the History of Our Species) on Monday, Jan. 28th to see how it fared the bone-chilling weather we had in New York City the week before, when temperatures dropped to 10˚F with strong winds and no precipitation … for days.
When I took this photo, the cold had moved on and it was a balmy 33˚F with a light dusting of snow. Today, three days later, the high is 59˚F!
This manic weather is strange, and is indirect evidence of a new climate state and a warming globe.
Yes: I am reporting on a local weather experience, and weather is not Climate.
Good: I’m glad you thought that.
But, when we look at climate: we are on an upward warming trend and there is much evidence to support the fact that the earth is entering a new climate state,
where local weather just gets weird.
Some recent and compelling
evidence is the record-breaking ice loss in the Arctic this summer.
But, let’s say you were in New York last week, and could hardly walk outside because of the cold and you were wondering:
What are you talking about “a warming planet”? What’s up with that extreme cold?
Well, the extreme cold followed by balmy weather is explained easily with our climate models and conforms to what we know about global warming,
and it has to do with a weakening jet stream.
We understand this about as well as we
understand the rise and fall of the tides … which is to say: we know what is happening.
The temperature differential between the cold Arctic air and the lower latitudes creates a stream of air, high in the atmosphere, called the jet stream that flows in, basically, a circle around the Arctic region. Normally, this air current is robust and acts like a barrier, keeping all the cold arctic air bottled up on the top of the planet.
Because of global warming, this temperature differential is decreasing, which weakens the jet stream.
As a consequence, this air current will meander in broad S-shaped patterns and reach far south,
bringing fridge cold air with it, and, because this current is weaker and slower,
it has a tendency to get stuck in its pattern.
Eventually, the jet stream may shift and move and meander, and can dip elsewhere bringing a cold arctic blast to another part of the globe.
As low as the S-curve can go, it can also creep northward, creating a very warm regional area.
This is why, in America, half of the country can have bone-chilling cold
and the other record breaking heat.
I’m glad my little broken cobblestone is still there and triggered another idea…
I recently came across this video that has an interesting way of breaking stone. It is a very purposeful technique and necessary for understanding the melting of Glaciers – I find this fascinating.