Author: Kunal Rakshit

The One Who is Memorious

I met him in the dining room of a hermitage I was visiting. He was mopping the floor as I was waiting alone for my lunch. Sun was blazing outside, letting know all beings of its ominous presence. From where I was sitting, I could see across the green meadows, until my eyes hit the dry shrubs and mountains beyond. From inside, it was a hermit’s retreat. From the outside, it was a group of stone caves. The lush green campus with few stone cottages was perched atop a small hill, one of the countless hills and mountains that constitute the Sahyadri range in southwest India near the city of Pune. I came here once before. Later I came to know his name as Shantaram. He remembered seeing me four months back taking photos of the place. This would have been totally fine until he ventured, “four minutes to ten on the thirteenth day of February.” I was amused, “How do you know?” But he was a stone-deaf idol, simply dressed in a khaki shirt …

Hélène Binet’s Chinese Landscapes

Architectural photographer Hélène Binet’s new book capturing her photographs of Suzhou Gardens of China, a UNESCO World Heritage Site has portrayed something which very few photographs can convey- the transcendental meditative qualities of these gardens. While paging through the photographic essay, I found myself immersed in the tranquil nature of the gardens around the stucco walls, telling stories of yesteryears. It reminded me of the importance of shadow. With modern aesthetic obsession with everything neat and clean and white, we have lost the charm of growing old with ageing. The walls of Suzhou Garden are reminiscent of graceful ageing and that is what make them so timeless. The ephemeral quality of photographs have a dream like imagery which take the viewers beyond what is seen. It is upto us to dream, imagine and dwell in what Gaston Bachelard has called revery.

Cafés and Country Houses: Vincent van Gogh’s Enduring Appeal

There are things, some of them passing strange, what happens when one confronts a work of art: (i)unfolding of the heart; (ii) its expansion; (iii) its agitation; and, finally, (iv) vibration.    — from a reading of Kavyartha (Theory of Poetry) Introdution: Vincent van Gogh was a complete and utter failure in everything that seems important to his contemporaries. He was unable to start a family, earn his own living, or even keep his friends.[1] Yet in his paintings, he was able to establish his own concept of order against the chaos that apparently surrounded him. His art was an attempt to come to terms with a world in which he was endlessly ridiculed and laughed at. In the face of harsh criticism and bare recognition, his aim was not to escape the real world or suffer by renouncing it, but instead to make it tangible in an inclusive sense. In this way, his art enabled him to accept the once so hostile world as his own. His artistic talents were only recognized after his death. …

Autumn Sonata – Ingmar Bergman

Autumn Sonata (1978) cuts deep into a woman, even if she recoils from it. We are all some mother’s daughter, whether we were cherished or abandoned, spoiled or abused. Both of the film’s stars, Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Bergman, had daughters as well as celebrated careers. But when Bergman left her husband for Roberto Rossellini, she went years without seeing her daughter from her first marriage. As for Ullmann, just the year before she had written, “Success in one’s profession and trying to write a book do not compensate for domestic shortcomings as obvious as mine.” She was referring to her relationship with her daughter, Linn, whose father was Ingmar Bergman. The director later said that when he conceived Autumn Sonata, he considered no other actresses for the two main roles. He didn’t say why, nor did he need to. Filmed by Sven Nykvist in the haunting palette sug­gested by its title, Autumn Sonata uses Bergman’s signature technique of tightly focused close-ups in an almost claus­trophobically small setting to tell the story of a daughter, …

250 things that an Architect should know

Michael Sorkin, the noted architectural critic and educator who passed away last month in covid-19 wrote about 250 things that an architect should know in his book What Goes Up . I have to admit that I myself don’t know probably 50 percent of items listed. but it’s fun to go through this list once in a while and assess our knowledge and position in this regard. Hold your breath. Here are the 250 things: 1.The feel of cool marble under bare feet.2.How to live in a small room with five strangers for six months.3.With the same strangers in a lifeboat for one week.4.The modulus of rupture.5.The distance a shout carries in the city.6.The distance of a whisper.7.Everything possible about Hatshepsut’s temple (try not to see it as “modernist” avant la lettre).8.The number of people with rent subsidies in New York City.9.In your town (include the rich).10.The flowering season for azaleas.11.The insulating properties of glass.12.The history of its production and use.13.And of its meaning.14.How to lay bricks.15.What Victor Hugo really meant by “this will kill …

Architecture of Memory: On the Relevance of Memory in Architecture

The link between Architecture and Memory is quite ancient. Numerous accounts have been written on how architecture was used as a memory tool. We learn from stories of the Greek poet Simonides, who identified from his memory every visitor in a banquet associating them with architectural setting. This art of memory often called “memory palace” was transmitted from Greeks to Romans and then into European tradition of storytelling. It was common to rehearse speech associating it with the landscape, the porch, the steps, the bedroom or balcony. Hypneretomachia Poliphili, a fifteenth-century Italian text shows Poliphilo in a dark forest, describing ancient marvels “deserving of a place in the theatre of memory” who encounters ruins of classical buildings in search for his beloved Polia in his dream. After the invention of the printing press, with books readily available, memorization techniques were less in demand. Later, memories were distrusted and frowned upon as an unreliable source. Frances Yates claims in Art of Memory that we, moderns, have no memory at all. Giordano Bruno, a sixteenth-century Italian polymath, …

The Bow and the Lyre

The Poem. The Poetic Revelation. Poetry and History. Why poetry is important in everyday life. Taking a leaf out of Octavio Paz’s book to make a strong case for poetry in our daily life, culture and society. Octavio Paz, the author of this book was a Mexican poet, writer, and diplomat, recognized as one of the major Latin American writers of the 20th century. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990. This book The Bow and the Lyre contains timeless and profound ideals for our life, society and culture. The Image Images are product of imagination. We use the word image to invoke several different meanings. Each image or a poem consisting of different images contain many kinds of opposite or disparate meanings. Saint John speaks of Silent Music where two incompatible terms are put together. According to Paz, the image is key to human condition. A child is surprised to know that a pound of stone and a pound of feather has the same weight. It is the character of the matter …