This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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The future was great

atomium-1Once upon a time the future was all about space, both outside of planet Earth and in the minds of people. It was about scientific progress, with a joyful look at the future of humankind. This time was before anybody spoke of acid rains, holes in the ozone layer, the end of oil, and how tobacco kills. atomium-2Future would be great, and the progress of science was great. It was as if the human mind was too youthful to worry about the heavy responsibility we carry towards our planet and every living thing on it.

Sixty years later, in the world of uncertainties regarding nuclear threat, fossil fuel, and the use of the power of genetics, stepping into the Atomium in Brussels feels like a happy memory from a time I never experienced, left behind by people with an unwavering faith in the future, and total ignorance about the effects of their actions.atomium-3(Brussels, Belgium; May 2017)


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Gilded ceilings and electric lights

hallwyl-2Imagine the splendor and style of Versailles – with original electric light fittings. The bustle of a country castle downstairs kitchen – with modern, white tiles stretching over the walls and the ceiling. And an electric kitchen elevator, and three water faucets: one for hot, one for cold, and one for rain water.hallwyl-1This was all highly unusual in any wealthy, traditional-style house in Stockholm at the turn of the 20th century. But the Hallwyl couple seem to have been unusual, too: they built a palace with all the modern, sometimes experimental, luxuries of the turn of the century. They then proceeded to decorate it in the style of what can only be described as flitting from good taste to extravagant kitsch. During that time, who really chose their salon decor to mimic French gilded rococo?

The lady of the house sure did not hesitate when she bought 15th century tapestries before she even had a house, and designed the living room to fit the tapestries. She also did not hesitate in general, as she collected almost anything and everything she considered art: from china to paintings and to swords and pistols. She then proceeded to convert her newly built house to a museum for future generations, and produced a set of 78 printed books cataloguing all her possessions.

One cannot help but wonder whether this was truly the passion of a lady interested in beauty and the world, or a well-planned project to gain power through magnanimity? And how did she fit into society? Her house surely must have been the cause of many curious rumors and stories. Perhaps this was just as she liked it?hallwyl-4(Hallwyl House, Stockholm; April 2017)


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All the world is a stage – but what about the backdrop?

vienna-29What we see on an opera stage truly is only what we are meant to see. The thing with stages is, what is in view is always just a tiny portion of the entirety. You see, there is a backstage. And a side-stage. And an above-stage. And a beneath-stage. vienna-30Because a single show may require five different sets, and they all need to be wheeled in and out of sight in a matter of seconds. The backdrop is hardly rolled like window-blinds – it is simply winched up – still hanging.

It is the depth in every direction that deceives. And all the ropes and props and invisible men (and some women). All the world is a stage, Shakespeare said. But he never mentioned the backdrop, and everybody in it helping us play our part. vienna-31(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)


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At the opera

vienna-32Opera houses and theaters were like bars and nightclubs today: places to see and be seen. And because cities were much smaller still in the 19th century, and the ruling class even smaller still, everybody did know everybody. Thus, going to the opera was like going to one grand party where you know all guests.

And what better than to go to a party held in a house decorated in splendid gold, mirrors, and red carpets? So thought the Emperor of Austria-Hungary as well, and commissioned the work of a new opera house in Vienna. vienna-33When the glorious building was finished, the architect and interior designer proudly showed it to the court. But their hearts were broken: the emperor thought it rather simple. He proclaimed it resembled a train station. The interior designer committed suicide before the opening night, and the architect died of a stroke not long after.

Life sucks sometimes. But the opera house is still standing. And, viewed through today’s minimalistic eyes that usually encounter bare surfaces, it is quite an extravaganza. Everything is relative.vienna-34(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)


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Perspective

vienna-24Why would one make a simple brown or gray tiled roof, when one can decorate it green and gold? And finish with a great two-headed eagle, just for the flair?

Those who lived their lives in the gutter in ancient Vienna most likely never saw this beauty. It was probably visible only for those who either could afford a penthouse apartment, or were daring enough to climb onto the roofs.

Perspective. In this case you can buy it, but in most cases it needs to be attained by struggle.

(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)