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In the Internet Cafe

The internet cafe is a lovely thing — not this particular one, I mean, but the general development. Give the folks behind the counter one unit of the local currency, and receive in exchange some quantity of time on a high-speed connection, to catch up with what you need to catch up with. Today, the currency is pounds sterling, and the unit of time is an hour, which seems to me generous in the extreme.

So, since I have time to burn, a moment from my day: I finally got to see in person three paintings that I’ve stared at for hours in reproduction — Holbein’s The Ambassadors and two Rembrandt self-portraits (the portrait of the artist as successful bourgeois, from his thirties, and the portrait of the artist as old and tired, from his sixties). It took me a while to remember that the primary locus of the reproductions at which I spent so much time staring was John Berger’s Ways of Seeing. And then I wandered around for an hour or so, caught in a brain-loop in which I attempted to reason out the import of my being so moved by seeing the originals of works I’d previously seen in reproduction in a text so underwritten by Benjamin’s dismissal of the aura of originality and the mystification it wreaks.

And then I decided that I’m still jet-lagged, and cut myself some slack in the figuring-it-out department.

Anyway: National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, Lambeth Bridge, South Bank, Hungerford Bridge, Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street, Oxford Street, Baker Street, Marylebone.

It’s been a day.


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