Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tick Tock

I've been reading tons about material culture  and the innumerable ways we as humans relate to the objects around us. While on vacation, and attempting to lose track of time, I read a caption about clocks as an invention by man to make time more concrete. 

Industrialization needed a clock to produce a world of measurable sequences and synchronized action and capitalism depends on regimenting human time and human bodies to succeed.

As mentioned in the caption, all around us timekeeping is ignored. Not only do birds and dogs work by their own rhythms, but figures of the past did also. Knights showed up for duty at sunrise. Siesta happened when the sun was high. Indigenous peoples worked by the lunar cycle. Only contemporary humans seem to concerned with the 'chimes of the hour'.

This caption showed up in my mailbox by chance - a product of a website my daughter subscribed me to called Stumbleupon where you're presented with serendipitous links to all sorts of information.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lisbon's Flea Market

Lisbon's flea market is called locally the Feira da Ladra, often thought to mean "Thieves Market" (in Portuguese "ladra" is a woman thief) but it actually derives from "ladro," a bug found in antiques. A market of this type is thought to have been in place in Lisbon since the 12th Century and the name Feira da Ladra was first mentioned in the 17th Century. 

Imagine my delight when I found this! A real resource for some material culture field study. One interesting observation was the delicate care each individual took in arranging and displaying their wares. 

As you can see from the photos the commerce is not valuable - very ordinary and in humble terms - a lot of junk. But the objects weren't treated as such. They had implied value for the vendor who was counting on a consumer who agreed. I was moved by this and compelled to photograph as many as I could given the weather conditions.

I'm struck by the subversive placement of unlikely categories of objects. These juxtapositions bring more meaning to the objects than if they were displayed by themselves. The glass, beige sandals and plastic figures play off each other above.

Deodorant in context with gold tone watches. An iron with outdated CDs and polyester baseball caps. A red handled pliers and rusty coil sitting in marked contrast to the soft sweaters and white sunglasses.

These things are so omnipresent in our world, here and there (Portugal), that we stop seeing them and they become background. At the flea market I saw them for what they are and wonder. Where did they came from? How were they were found? What were they were used for? Who desires them and why? Where are they going?