Friday, March 9, 2012

Matryoshka World

Staring between frames, into that invisible gutter separating the panels of paintings, I stumbled on the feature of museums that I find so wonderful. Consider this: even if you don't like or can't connect with every painting you see, just the fact of walking into the box that is a museum and alternating your attention between its sides is like time travel. At any one point in time, the wall in front of you is a more or less two dimensional surface but contained within that surface are whole worlds of indiscriminate time periods piled into neat little frames, worlds you can access merely by fixing your gaze.

Reading a book is another activity often likened to entering a different world, and with this in mind bookshops are magical by default. That said, the experience of exploring a bookstore is unique still. While with a museum, the interaction between the viewer and the work, the emotional passage through time and space, transpires within the same moment, a bookshop functions on the teasing aspect. You don't experience the books while you are browsing; everything hangs on the anticipation--studying all those spines, seeing the dust leap from them and gather in little clouds you must dismantle to get to the next shelf... Indeed, the electricity in the air, does it emanate from the books or is it a projection of your own excitement? No matter the cause, the atmosphere crackles.

So while the paintings and the literature fizzle with the secrets from within their distinct worlds, the universes which contain them--museums, libraries--are not without their own charms. 

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