Bryn Cymro

Words and images from home and away

Illumination

Moving from southern hemisphere soon-to-be-summer to northern hemisphere winter-coming-soon, what strikes me immediately is the light, or the lack of it, or should I say the subtlety of it. The sky might be dimming after 3:30 in the afternoon, but there is light everywhere, in all sorts of intriguing and beautiful ways. I love cycling down the Lakes late in the afternoon in the gloaming—crossing the trippy neon lit footbridge from Øster Søgade to the western side, with the oil-slick water lapping beside, and the lights of the buildings on shore glimmering like a thousand eyes.

It’s hard not to notice that Christmas is a little over a month away, and all the streets and shops are now being decorated with illuminated santas, garlands of fairy lights, candles and Christmas trees.On the weekend we went down to Nyhavn where a Christmas market is now set up beside the canal. It was pretty nippy around the ears—despite the rugs and lanterns on the outdoor tables there were very few souls going al fresco on the restaurant strip. Just round the corner at Kongens Nytorv, Magasin du Nord department store is picked out in lights—very 19th century, reminds me of the illuminations for royal visits that turned city buildings into fairy-palaces. At the Torvehallern market, there’s something primal about the large braziers that are now set outside to keep the night and the cold at bay.

Look up as you are walking along any street and you are likely to see a candle or two burning in an apartment window. It is striking to us how everyone seems to have curtainless windows—it takes a while to get used to the fact that whether you are outside walking by, or inside looking out, there’s a kind of permeability of the public and the private which is quite different to what we are used to in Melbourne.

Light/ Dark is one of the deepest dualities in our psyche. In the urban setting, while the technology of delivery may have changed over the centuries, light has long been a metaphor for luxury, civilisation, order, control. The iconography of lighting company letterheads from City of Melbourne archives attested to the moral power of illumination as well as the wonder of technology. I’m looking forward to reading Peter C. Baldwin’s new book In the watches of the night: life in the nocturnal city, 1820-1930 (University of Chicago Press, 2012).

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This entry was posted on November 20, 2012 by in Denmark and tagged , , .
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