Juxtapositions and the City


The other day i was very much in the mood for a romantic comedy, one of those very silly ones, that require very little use of the brain, so i reached for my "binder" in which i keep my movie collection and picked "Two Weeks Notice", with Sandra Bullock - who i love - and Hugh Grant - who i don't love but like very much, particularly in this movie. As the movie goes by, one specific scene took me back to a thought i had stuck in my head once while traveling through the countryside of Australia, and one which was never really a stranger to me, for whenever i am flying or even more so when the airplane is approaching its destination, i catch myself lost staring out the window, but never had i realized why, until these two moments came along; first in Australia, and then watching "Two Weeks Notice".

That specific scene in the movie, in which Sandra and Hugh are in a helicopter approaching Manhattan, was what specifically awoke me to that thought that always kept ringing in the back of my head; and that is of an uncontrollable admiration for the image that is created by the view of the city from the distance and these multiple angles created by an airplane as it is descending towards the ground, the beautiful juxtaposition created by different colors, shades, scenery and aspects.

I believe what caught my attention in that scene and made me think of it was the fact that this movie was the first movie entirely shot in New York after "September 11", I remember very vividly that Mayor Giuliani had a special ceremony to thank the entire crew, studio and producers for bringing life and entertainment back into the city. So this scene, in this movie, was particularly important, because it showed for the first time in the big screen, New York city's new sky line, without the World Trade Center twin towers, and it showed that skyline so beautifully and naturally that it made the city look just as alive as it was when those towers were there, standing tall and strong. It is a very quick and simple scene, but it is an important one, it was especially back then, and it showed that life goes on and there can still be beauty in the world.

Now, here is where i really wanted to get to: The juxtaposition. Juxtaposition is a great word on its own, but its meaning is even better, because it offers you the opportunity to look at things in a different light. I remember while driving through the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, of how many different shapes and colors that place had, how beautiful it was to see the shades of green going from the deep valleys to the high peeks of the mountains turning into a blue-ish green in the far layers of hills in the back to then mesh against the brightest and most majestic blue sky i have ever seen in my life, going for miles without having hardly any clouds. It was one of the most beautiful and inspiring things i have ever seen in my life, it was like the mountains sang to me. I also remember though, that when i was arriving back in New York i felt a crazy rush of emotions as i saw the overlapping of the skyscrapers against the river, given a certain angle, and then against the baby blue sky filled with beautifully spread and shiny white clouds, clouds that fit that scenery in perfection.

If you observe really carefully, the city offers so many different types of juxtaposition that you could go crazy. I can observe the layers of buildings, concrete, glass and metal for hours and never get tired; its different shapes and colors, the way the materials reflect one another, how some of the colors go really well together or even how they fail miserably by being side by side. A few years ago, in one of my first trips to New York i went to see a friend's apartment, at the time she lived in a great place at Park Avenue and in one of the balcony's i was floored by what i saw: building after building, behind building and on top of building, not an inch of anything else, no sky, no room for a view, the view was just that, the juxtaposition of the city, you could only see the sky if you looked up, and even then, it would be in a very limited space. That sight, that many people could consider horrendous, i considered beautiful, an invitation to the imagination, and so i took pictures. They weren't the most beautiful buildings, but they went very well together.

There is a Brazilian photographer, Bob Wolfenson, who has taken a series of photographs of just that, the city overlapping itself, the juxtaposition of São Paulo, a city at least twice as big and as populated as New York, and one that offers the same kind of feeling. Bob's work was brilliantly shown in an exhibit that pushed the at times confusing images to their maximum potency and made your eyes blink and focus in confusion and despair, trying to figure out which was what and how could that make any sense. To me, that kind of sensibility and ability to look at something that could be so ugly and turn it into a piece of art that is so overwhelming that makes you change your outlook to life and start admiring every little piece of your day, is a very special gift. Bob did not reinvent the wheel, he simply showed to the viewer another perspective, his perspective on the madness of the city, He showed us that we may be lonely, but we are never alone, most importantly, He showed us that we may be caged in a concrete jungle but we also can be free from it if we allow ourselves to think freely.

In a not so claustrophobic way, there is also the overlapping of the clouds, which when you are in luck and paying enough attention, can also be something quite beautiful. I many times catch myself staring outside the airplane window for hours, because a vastitude of the clouds can be quite an impressive thing too. Clouds go so high and so deep that they almost seem like discolored mountains, grand and pompous, almost like the Blue Mountains of Australia, but with a more heavenly feel. The clouds at times you can see going endlessly for miles, and it looks almost as if you could hop out of the airplane and walk on them.

From above or below juxtaposition is a word that i have welcomed into my life, as it opened my eyes to a much greater world to live in, one where the beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.