June 10, 2011

The Wall Project: Fear, A Wall in the Temple

Excerpts from an image-text piece I created about a wall that I photographed in a Jain temple in Jodhpur, Rajasthan:

This image above is of a wall in a Jain temple in Jodhpur an hour before twilight. I took the photograph when I was inside the temple. The wall was newly painted white as were the shards of glass protruding from its upper surface. If I had gone at noon, I would presumably have had to shadow my eyes from the glare of the white and the glittering glass pieces themselves, the latter reminiscent of a sea surface during the day. At dusk, the wall was calmer, more plangent, shadowed a warm gray. Even so, usually, when I take a stand-alone photograph of a space and then view it after some time, I am mentally able to jigsaw the image into the larger picture of the place of which it formed a part. Here, I have to remind myself that I have photographed a wall in a temple and that it essentially functions as a fortification of stone and glass, both warning and forbidding. It is a different matter altogether, though, as to whom it forbids and to whom does it warn: those on the inside or the outside?

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When I look at this photograph, I first see a canvas of white, the inflections of light not withstanding. My favorite color happens to be white: it represents peace, stasis, and calm to me. For me, staring into white is akin to drowning in nothingness: a white black hole, you could say. Eventually, as my gaze reluctantly travels upwards, I encounter the glass shards, thickly and bluntly littered across the wall surface, as if someone had shredded a square of glass over the wall. Whoever painted the wall also thought it wise to paint the shards in white. If the shards had not been painted, the juxtaposition of all that variegated color against the unrelenting white would have formed an arresting visual contrast though. In the photograph, the fact of the shards being white renders them paper-like, investing them with an origami beauty. There is a delicate fragility to the wall in the image that is notably absent in actuality. In reality, despite being cloaked in white, the glass shards still glitter gray-green, reminding you that theirs is a functional, not aesthetic, presence.

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