visible

The Saturday photo, part XIV: Alcatraz with its various clearly visible overlapping inscriptions, from the strident disciplinary to the militant indigenous to (below, rather more subdued) the museal sanctification as National Park:

Alcatraz is definitely a ruin that bears the multiple traces of its repeated reinscriptions. Even what might otherwise have been a rather sober audio tour has to take note repeatedly of the way in which the rock and its prison have been figured by Hollywood. Much is made of the escape attempts, which threatened drama but ultimately failed to disturb the penitentiary regime. In the end, it was a combination of banal economics (the place was too expensive to run) and the slow 1960s move towards different philosophies of incarceration that did for the showpiece of America’s disciplinary regime.

The prison’s internal architecture does not follow the panopticon model: it has but a single cellblock, with the cells laid out in parallel thoroughfares rather than radiating from a central core. But the rock itself, in full view from the shores of the bay, offers a literally spectacular fable of the price of criminality. Much is made of the fact that prisoners could see the city, and occasionally hear (for instance) the sounds of New Year’s festivities at the Yacht Club. But nothing was said about the effect that having a prison in such plain view must have had on the psychic life of San Francisco itself.

Mogadishu

The Saturday photo, part XIII: I’ve been browsing some of the photos of Mogadishu on Flickr. It is, of course, a quite spectacularly ruined city. But, as with (almost?) all ruins, not without its beauty. This is the old port:

Mogadishu old port
Recently I ordered my own copy of Robert Ginsberg’s strange book, The Aesthetics of Ruins. It’s strange for many reason, and that strangeness is no doubt enhanced by the fact that it’s apparently a self-published labor of love. But it is to my mind the most interesting book on ruins yet written.

Samaranch

The Saturday photo, part XII: Juan Antonio Samaranch, recently deceased former president of the International Olympic Committee, performs a fascist salute in 1974.


Samaranch is fourth from the right.

For more details on the photo, see this article from The Times. See also Andrew Jennings, “Why Juan Antonio’s right arm is more muscular than his left (It’s had more exercise!) The Love that Dare Not Speak its Name”.

Hat-tip to my friend Jaume Subirana.

Calatrava

The Saturday photo, part XI: The Milwaukee art museum at dusk.


The last rays of the wintry sun hit the museum’s folding roof, designed by Santiago Calatrava.

I was in Milwaukee thanks to an invitation to speak at nearby Madison. I took the opportunity to look up old haunts (I did my MA at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and stay with old friends.

In a brief tour of the city, piecing together my memories of fifteen years ago, realizing how much I had half-forgotten, and looking at what had changed, I found myself downtown and headed towards the museum.

I suddenly realized that I’d got there just in time to see the roof close. It was majestic, especially in the low sun surrounded by snow and looking over the lake. And it was also quite magical.