Saturday, July 03, 2004

musings on an umbrella....

The weather doesn't know what to do with itself. I am walking to the gallery and one minute I am sweating and fishing out my sunglasses, the next huddled under my umbrella as the rain thrashes down as I walk the deserted campus. The umbrella has become an icon to my time with this part of Left. Discussing it with people, it is interesting how this iconic yet simple and almost domestic object can actually be quite powerful. There are a number of things which arise when I consider this.

Having a long standing interest in what we wear and how it offers a form of non verbal communication between us and the world around us, I am fascinated by the lack of ingeniuity or concern over the umbrella. There is standard issue black and a few variations in between. People balk at the idea of wearing an uncool rain coat but would often not think twice about what this appendage they are holding might say about them. It has long been an icon of the British gentleman, the sturdy black umbrella with a wooden handle and in times past it was an essential accessory for the woman to have a specific parasol in the sun or rain. Now it seems to be a necessary evil much of the time and I can't understand why you should want to put a black piece of fabric over your head when it rains, surely you would want something to brighten up the otherwise dull day?

When it rains your vision is framed by the umbrella. Should you choose to use one you become instantly restricted in your field of vision and you are also intwined with the elements as you have to fight the wind and rian to hold it steady and keep dry. The city becomes framed by the fabric and your presence within the city defined by it.

This leads on to the point that came up which mosts interests me, the idea of personal space. When one walks in the city there is an undetermined amount of personal space which you are designated by society. This is sometimes disregarded and can cause upset or anger, but it is a highly personal thing and can be different from one person to the next. But when you put up an umbrella this space is instantly defined physically. You suddenly have a set boundary around you and people do not cross this, even when they know you. As the curator at the Met Gallery was saying yesterday, when you stop to talk to someone in the rain they won't come under the umbrella unless asked, it is a visible boundary in the city space.


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