Friday, 8 October 2010
For the story on this space, you might have to get through to the end today's blog, somehow it represents the day in a single shot better than most though, so it deserves to be at the top.
What a great surprise Martigues was, nestled in a small town square I sat for an afternoon and was greeted by locals from neighboring shops and restaurants, kids who lived nearby, people walking by on their way home and the odd person who heard there was a little house somewhere in town and came to check it out.
So what is local knowledge? We tend to think of local knowledge as the best place to buy sausages or the secret swimming location, but perhaps it's closer to home than that. Perhaps it's knowing people like Jenny (below on the right) who walks to school everyday to the town next door, plays in the street or the square here and has friends from all over.
Or perhaps it's knowing people like Ada who is a self-realised mathematical talent. She managed to do this cube puzzle in about 2 minutes (which is approximately 6 minutes and two coffees less than most adults can do).
A painter called Felix Ziem came to Martigues a hundred years ago and decided to never leave, despite his love of Italian painting. It's up to this woman (I'm sorry I have forgotten her name) to keep the collection in order and run the museum than houses his paintings.
Aside from historic art, she is also responsible for a smaller designer whom is yet to make his most important work. Below is a diagram by Theodore who, with the aid of his his mother I assume, has labelled each of drawings with a short confirmation of what the picture represents. Most interesting of all is the way the elements come together like some kind of graphic novel.
Is this local knowledge?
Some people have very exotic stories that cross seas, borders, languages and even lifetimes. Alexandra here is someone who casts her eye further than most, exploring the many dimensions of the human soul in it's ever changing form. We had one of those conversations that travelled miles and miles then arrived somewhere back here and now with no effort at all.
And finally the kind of local knowledge that people mention with a kind of simplicity that makes you feel there is still a whole lot more to discover. This is behind the church that Bernard (who also came to visit and is the local pastor) looks after. What made it such a beautiful find was that this is the place I was offered to construct my house out of it's freight box (which I carry in the back of a car). To enter an absolutely breath-taking space like this as a functional space with walls and a roof and a door like any other, brings new understanding to the way we must use the things, places, histories that we are given and get on with life like normal. Today was a day of stopping to look around me and see the amazing things we are constantly passed on.
It's October. The rest of Europe is rushing between closed doorways with a woolen hat and a scarf, wincing slightly from the wind. Not Marseille. Welcome to autumn Mediterranean styles.
The buildings on the old harbour crowd in like a football stadium, the vast collection of pleasure boats hugging one side or the other like two teams ready for the whistle, then through the narrow entrance toward the sea streams this golden light. It's as if the whole thing was designed by Christopher Doyle (the cinematographer for The Mood for Love) turning everyone into some kind of glamorous spectator. Perhaps this time of day has been especially chosen for me.
I parked here along the harbour front (assuming this is the best real-estate in town) not long after the fish market had disappeared, leaving an aromatic presence and a wide open gap facing the busy shopping street on one side and the harbour just behind me out the back door.
It's a mildly strange thing to be in a completely new city yet surrounded by my own familiar things, to be welcoming people to my tiny space when I'm surrounded by people and places that have passed by here for years and years without me.
Yesterday I met a man who immigrated here many years ago from Tahiti (in fact I met very many people who had moved to Marseille from distant places) and he sat a while speaking with me about what I thought I was doing here. In fact the answer to that question doesn't get any easier since there is always a new reason to be in a new place... anyhow, he reminded me of how the house is a spiritual place, it is the home we give to ourselves, intended to complete us. The house, in so many cultures, is a physical trace of ourselves. It may be run-down or pristine, big or small but it always remains a necessary part of who we are.
Small is Beautiful (the festival who invited me here) is, as it's name suggests, small but well formed. This means I was inundated with good conversation, people who wanted to know why or how or at least hear what I had to say. To be honest I don't think I do have much to say, the point is more to hear the questions and to be here listening and asking back. Every now and then I meet someone (like the businessman who was making his way back to his car after being at an Expo of some sort) who asks me questions and expects that because I have put myself here that I should have some kind of statement or message. And for everything that I have collected, spoken about, discussed and seen, I still remain at a loss to answer him. He tells me the expo was not so good this year (partly caused by the economic down-turn). Perhaps next year will be better. Perhaps two years ago will be the best year in his memory of the Marseille expo.
Evidence that the harbour with evening sun must have been designed by a sophisticated lighting designer. In actually fact, this guy is aged 35 under florescent lighting.
This is looking back up the main shopping street, here are some folk that were hanging out on the front lawn for some time during the afternoon. Of course, my view of this is totally different, I have Nisha to thank for the photos... my view is still all knees and shoes... scroll down for more on that...