Frontstage

Museum (I). © Chris Bronsk 2015.Museum (II). © Chris Bronsk 2015.

“In saying that performers act in a relatively informal, relaxed way while backstage and are on their guard when giving a performance, it should not be assumed that the pleasant interpersonal things of life—courtesy, warmth, generosity, and pleasure in the company of others—are always reserved for those backstage and that suspiciousness, snobbishness, and a show of authority are reserved for front region activity. Often it seems that whatever enthusiasm and lively interest we have at our disposal we reserve for those before home were are putting on a show and that the surest sign of backstage solidarity is to feel that it is safe to lapse into an sociable mood of sullen, silent irritability.” —Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

Idling

Stairwell.© Chris Bronsk 2015.

“Strange people. The kind that leave the merest blur behind them, soon vanished. Hutte and I often used to talk about these traceless human beings. They spring up out of nothing one fine day and return there, having sparkled a little. Beauty queens. Giggles. Butterflies. Most of them, even when alive, had no more substance than steam which will never condense. Hutte, for instance, used to quote the case of a fellow he called ‘the beach man.’ This man had spent forty years of his life on beaches or by the sides of swimming pools, chatting pleasantly with summer visitors and rich idlers. He is to be seen, in his bathing costume, in the corners and backgrounds of thousands of holiday snaps, among groups of happy people, but no one knew his name and why we was there. And no one noticed when one day he vanished from the photographs. I did not dare tell Hutte, but I felt that ‘the beach man’ was myself. Though it would not have surprised him if I had confessed it.” —Patrick Modiano, from Missing Person

A Certain Hesitancy (Three for Leiter)

Blue. © Chris Bronsk 2015.

Orange. © Chris Bronsk 2015.Red. © Chris Bronsk 2015.“The yellowish smoke that rose from the glowing coals and never entirely dispersed up the chimney mingled with the smell of carbolic pervading the whole house. I stood for hours at the window, studying the wonderful formation of icy mountain ranges two or three inches high formed above the crossbars by water running down the panes. Now and then solitary figures emerged from the snowy landscape outside. Wrapped in dark scarves and shawls, umbrellas open to keep off the flurry of snowflakes, they stumbled up the hill. I heard them knocking the snow off their boots down in the porch before they slowly climbed the stairs, escorted by the neighbor’s daughter who was now keeping house for the minister. With a certain hesitancy, and as if they had to bend underneath something, they stepped over the threshold and put whatever they had brought—a jar of pickled red cabbage, a can of corned beef, a bottle of rhubarb wine—down on the chest of drawers. Gwendolyn took no notice of these visitors, and the visitors themselves dared not look at her.” —W.G. SebaldAusterlitz

Creature Fear

Creatures (I). © Chris Bronsk 2015.

Creatures (II). © Chris Bronsk 2015.

CROW’S VANITY

Looking close in the evil mirror Crow saw
Mistings of civilizations towers gardens
Battles he wiped the glass but there came

Listings of skyscrapers webs of cities
Steaming the glass he wiped it there came

Spread of swamp ferns fronded on the listings
A trickling spider he wiped the glass he peered

For a glimpse of the usual grinning face

But it was no good he was breathing too heavy
And too hot and space was too cold

And here came the misty ballerinas
The burning gulfs the hanging gardens it was eerie

—Ted Hughes, from Crow

Veiled

Veiled (I). © Chris Bronsk 2015.

Veiled (II). © Chris Bronsk 2015.

Veiled (III). © Chris Bronsk 2015.

“The fact that human beings have created, and daily create, this self-directed system through which they divest themselves of their innermost identity, is not therefore the result of some incomprehensible misunderstanding of history, nor is it history somehow gone off the rails. Neither is it the product of some diabolical higher will which as decided, for reasons unknown, to torment a portion of humanity in this way. It can happen and did happen only because there is obviously in modern humanity a certain tendency towards the creation, or at least the toleration of such a system. There is obviously something in human beings which responds to this system, something they reflect and accommodate, something with them which paralyzes every effort of their better selves to revolt. Human beings are compelled to live within a lie, but they can be compelled to do so only because they are in fact capable of living this way.” —Vaclav Havel, “The Power of the Powerless,” Living in Truth

Small Enough to Save

Blue Commute (I). © Chris Bronsk 2014.

Blue Commute (II). © Chris Bronsk 2014.

Blue Commute (III). © Chris Bronsk 2014.

“There are ducks at Howard Beach, and herons farther on at Jamaica Bay, and odd watery vistas all the way from Broad Channel to Far Rockaway. The train travels on a causeway past sleepy fishing villages and wood frame houses, and it’s all ducks and geese until the train reaches the far side of the bay, where the dingier bungalows and the housing projects begin. Then, roughly at Frank Avenue station, the Atlantic Ocean pounds past jetties of black rocks, not far from the tracks; and at Mott Avenue is the sprawling two-storey town of Far Rockaway, with its main street and its slap-happy architecture and its ruins. It looks like its sister-cities in Ohio and Rhode Island, with just enough trees to hide its dullness, and though part of it is in a state of decay, it looks small enough to save.” —Paul Theroux, “Subterranean Gothic”

(for “Visitors,” a new series of photographs taken on the Boston subway)