Comments, EdgeNotes, In Focus

These are times of the signs

Surrealism lurks in the city – resting, hiding, waiting to be noticed, observed, called forth into recognition.


Steve Latham


These are times of the signs, random suggestions, inviting us to enter the serendipity of found significances, a conceptual equivalent of ‘found art’.

To locate the oddness, even amidst our rationalistic urban locale; that which cultural theorist, Mark Fisher, described in his book, “The weird and the Eerie”.

Let me share three encounters with (physical, literal) signs, which prompted a reverie of expansiveness, down the rabbit hole of urban dreamings.

‘Urban atmospheric observatory’

Along the Marylebone Road, I saw a shed-like building, with this sign on the door, and young people entering and leaving. Perhaps it could be a site for budding urbanologists to discern the ‘atmosphere’ of a city, its psychic, cultural, artistic meanderings? But actually, an explanatory noticeboard revealed it to be a research base monitoring air quality along this busy thoroughfare.

‘Evoking potential room’

This was the information on the door of a hospital room. I thought, how wonderful to have a place where all my personal potential could be evoked, drawn into the open, and realised. In reality, my daughter went there to have her arm examined after a nasty accident, to see how much movement and strength she retained in her damaged limb.

‘National Rail Possession Centre’

Something I saw on a small run-down brick building along the rail line outside a station on a journey to the north. My interior fancy conjured images of Voodoo Rites, or Nigerian Orishas. But although I googled it, I found nothing, and genuinely have no idea at all what this one meant. But that is after all a summons to mystery

Of course, we may come down with bump, when we grasp the mundane meaning of these initially incomprehensible wordings.

Nevertheless, some might claim that the scientific truth about these signs, demonstrating the wonders of human ingenuity, is more exciting or interesting than my fantasies.

But there is also the wonder in the unknown, inherent in revivifying the fetish flesh of Cthulu from Lovecraft’s fevered imagination.

These subjective experiences, cerebral hallucinations, delusions, represent, for me, disjunctures within the urban quotidian.

They are openings, rips, tears, revelations of the elsewhere, the otherwise. Through vision, other realities, alongside, parallel to, are disclosed to our inner eye.

Aweful, or awful, these encounters unveil occult, that is, according to its original definition, concealed, realities, a metaphysics of alterity, of possibility.

William Blake’s art is another illustration of this mystical strand in our, otherwise mainly empiricist, English tradition.

When he was eight years old, for example, while he was walking on Peckham Rye, Blake saw “a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars.”

It’s debated whether his supposed visions were actual spiritual experiences, or if they were intellectual conceptions, conscious expressions of artistic creativity?

But does it matter? Would that we could all perceive this angelic dimension within our apparently boring, ordinary, lives. (The Prisma’ memoirs. September,2012)

(Photos: Pixabay)

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