Polishing The Earth

Photograph by Tanya Cottingham
Photograph by Tanya Cottingham
Photograph by Tanya Cottingham
Photograph by Tanya Cottingham
Photograph by Tanya Cottingham
Photograph by Tanya Cottingham
Photograph by Tanya Cottingham
Photograph by Tanya Cottingham
Photograph by Tanya Cottingham
Photograph by Tanya Cottingham

Obituary... Or How To Tell A City


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November 2009

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Photograph by Tanya Cottingham

A city does not have a beginning, a middle, nor an end. Neither in time or space. A city does not have a static fence, finite co-ordinates, a launch date or even a leaving party.

A city does not have a particular meaning. Its intentions morph and reform.
Our readings, palimpsests of our bodies desires and its own.

A city liberates and restrains. A city articulates one man while silencing another.

A cities main job is to house its citizens. Look after its living flesh.

And it also houses its dead. It houses its dead as an extension of its life. It houses its dead in fixed locations behind a perimeter fence.

Its dead are apportioned a limited space. But this small space is truly theirs (for all time if relations deem it). And it is in this space that entire lives are on display. Loves, longings, fears, failures, spoken for all eternity . Time cut in text or in the choice of a carved calla lily. Pristine starched funeral cloth or cobwebs as curtains. Vulgar resplendent monoliths or worm chewed. The hidden fact is on display. Intimate silence. The walls here ban the cities constancy, the sound of a cats pause.

The living perpetuate the dead. The dead demand this of them. A brass handle polished as glass. A crystal cut vase with favourite stems, roses and jasmine. White on white. Cream on cream. A slash of crimson.

The dead, who are now confirmed, complete, arrived, realised, have made a final gesture. Finite. End. Exonerated. The living can only dream of such delights. The last impenetrable.

And the dead. the cities dead. Are the only ones that truly get to meet their God. Smug behind their marble . The living can only guess at the riches they have yet to find. The gods of the dead smile down benignly. The white and the black. Stern and pliant. The father, the mother, the story.

And the dead. Only the dead. Can truly represent a city. For they are fixed in time and space, they have had both launch and leaving parties. Their tombs and texts are static for all eternity. And these stones tell their stories. Histories they do not say, but in the not saying, say more than in the saying.

The cemetery. The city's archive.



(Piece written on Recoleta Cemetery, as part of "The point at which two roads meet in uncertainty". Text piece. Buenos Aires. November 2009).

Photograph by Tanya Cottingham
Photograph by Tanya Cottingham
Photograph by Tanya Cottingham
Photograph by Tanya Cottingham
Photograph by Tanya Cottingham