Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
After a few minutes browsing souvenirs in the gift shop, I find myself standing square in front of a picture window. Amazed, I stare at the view: the upper half of the window is a clear bright blue sky, the bottom half a vibrant freshly-cut green grass. A spiralling mound rises from the ground. A pond surrounds it.
After hours of looking at artwork, I feel like staring at another painting. It’s easy to forget how aesthetic windows can be, I say to myself. I’m reminded of Magritte, or Dalí.
In the distance, a lonely figure: a man in his fifties hunches over with difficulty to pick something up. Meanwhile, a tiny dog bounces and yaps at his legs, in that way that small, yappy dogs do: hectic, playful, careless. The contrast grips my attention. With his hand wrapped in a dark plastic bag, the man picks up after his dog, oblivious to the examining eye of a stranger watching him in the distance.
Something about this moment strikes me. I wonder how often this happens to every one of us. How many times do we feel left to the pure freedom of our own devices, unobserved, while a pair of eyes out there are set on us, scrutinising our moves from afar? Unconsciously objectified by a hidden strange subjectivity. In a country swamped with surveillance cameras, this idea bothers me.
At the same time, I can’t help but feel privileged, thankful. Sometimes, if we’re fortunate enough, we can get a glimpse into the strange yet wonderful quotidianity of other people. The naive vulnerability and the innocent nudity of just being, masks off. We can have a glance into the perfect intimacy of other people’s daily lives — when they feel they can be what they truly are, their naked selves.
And, for a brief moment, it feels like a miracle.
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