Serendipitous instance (PVG-DXB-BHX)

The day I flew back to visit the UK, Tuesday 3rd July 2012, was four years to the day since my Grandfather, my Mom’s father, who I called Poppa, passed away. It put me in a specific frame of mind for the journey that I couldn’t escape where being on my own on a long haul Emirates flight from Shanghai (PVG) to Dubai (DXB) to Birmingham (BHX)…my 20 hour plus from China back to the UK…was probably a good thing. He left us on the 3rd July 2008 when I was working and living in New York and I’ll never forget getting the call from my Mom on that super beautiful New York Summers day as I was sitting at my desk in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum offices on Hudson Street next to my colleague and now good friend Violeta (V has actually very recently left Shanghai for Madrid). Tears streaming down my face…taking the rest of the day off to lie in the park and stare at the blue sky in Central Park. July 4th was needless to say unforgettable, and now always, incredibly emotionally grounded year-on-year. He was (and is) an inspiration and driving force in my creative life as he was a photographer. He wrote to me since a very young age where I still have all of his cards and letters that one day I think I’ll shred, pulp down and make into one final sheet of paper…framed on the wall…ambiguous yet so conceptually embedded. I might scan the letters before I do this but then maybe the beauty is in the fact the words won’t exist in the same way anymore.

Whilst on the flights, I obviously watched a few in-flight films and listened to some audio books whilst snacking on my lacto-vegetarian bland meals (they sound horrible right? Usually they are pretty good but this time they were pretty disappointing I couldn’t eat some of them due to tomatoes, dressings and hard white carbs), whilst napping, having heavily disjointed sleep that you have no idea as to whether it makes you feel more rested or more exhausted, hearing the woman in front of me be repeatedly sick as she was unwell, dealing with chaotic children making tents out of blankets, completing the crossword in ‘The Times’ newspaper I picked up in Dubai airport, and typing on my laptop.

One film I watched I swear is one of the best art house, foreign films I’ve seen in a short while. Called ‘Medianeras’, it is set in Buenos Aires (I think my next destination in life, well South America at least for a little while) looking at the growing uncontrollable and imperfectly overpopulated state of the city…’how buildings rise arbitrarily into the sky where “a rational one sits next to an irrational building”…where “the irregularities probably reflect us perfectly, the aesthetical and ethical irregularities”…These building adhere to bad logic and represent bad planning, just like our lives we have no idea how we want them to be. We live as in this city as if it is a stop over. We have created a “culture of tenants”…The buildings become smaller to make space for smaller ones. Privileged apartments have letters A and B, the father back in the alphabet the less privileged you become.’ The film uses the notion of how architecture and therefore architects are directly responsible for the (mental) health of an individual, for communities and cities. It focuses on the lives of a young gentleman and a young woman who eventually find each other through overcoming their mutual fears. The male uses photography to overcome his agoraphobia, panic attacks, anxiety and fear of engagement. He uses a Leica D-LX 3, in addition to his “survival backpack”, as he goes round Buenos Aires re-seeing where he lives. The female has a fear of crowds and confined spaces such as lifts using an obsession with shop models and their inherent personalities, as if they speak to her, to help with her fear of people.

“How can I find a person when I don’t know what I’m looking for?”

It visualised how certain instances, situations and atmospheres in your interior and exterior architecture in life can affect your physicality for the rest of your life (something I certainly know)…the sudden realisation that the person you are with is distant from you and they feel like a stranger, a feeling that you realise will never change so you have to re-frame and move on…how the Internet brings you closer to the world but farther from life.’…and how people are brought together for a reason…for a real life changing reason. Frames in the film were constructed from hand drawn illustrations of the architectural delights of Buenos Aires that faded through animation into the “real” building. Beautiful. Another key strand to the film was the use of the renowned children’s book ‘Where’s Wally?’ (a personal favourite of mine) in order to reference the struggle sometimes of “finding” someone. Finding Wally in his white and red striped jumper.

“Donde estas? – Where are you?”

All the films I watched and audio books I listened to in the duration of my journey, which included the film above, a documentary on dancer and choreographer Tanja Liedtke, the book ‘Getting More’ by Stuart Diamond, and a couple of Hollywood films, all seemed to present the same notions…that there are no mistakes in life…life is incredibly short…that things do happen for a reason because of serendipitous instance…that perhaps we should let the world show us what to do and where to go and stop trying to take control…that people are brought together through the right time, the right place in the right situation because of fate…that people are brought into your life to show you something about yourself, to make you learn, grow, and experience…even if an experience is negative, you still learn from it…even if some experiences are testing they still bring things into question that you wouldn’t usually do…and most importantly, happiness…that you need to be with someone who believes in you and makes you into a better person…and surround yourself with people like this. Things I do actually believe in. I do believe in serendipity somehow. This is actually making me feel like a cliché writing this. A key indicator that I watched way too many films that day right? Feel free to smile at my whimsical musings here. I’ll stop there and try to start dealing with jet lag and transition times ahead. UK blue skies I love you.

1 Comment

  1. Gosh Rachel, what an amazing, beautiful, sublime post. So sorry to hear about Poppa. Doesn’t feel like the right moment to go on about serendipity, so I’ll just say that the tag on your tea bag, and your photo of it, are remarkable.

    TY for sharing this succulent fruit ball of life.

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