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Travelogue B9

November 19, 2014

Some days later I found myself in the main underground hall at Katowice, waiting for a train to Prague and from there to Dresden. For some minutes, I busied myself with an exhibit of three panels stationed in the middle of the hall. The panels are double-sided and show images of the future train station in Katowice, intended to replace the old station, which dates from the 1970’s. Texts and explications are included in Polish and English and define the images displayed here: main entrance, spacious boardwalk, main hall 1, main hall 2, aerial view, and modern service mall.

The display is largely unremarkable, indeed, almost indistinguishable from most artists’ renderings. Everything looks fake, bursting with simulacra. What struck me at the time was the portrayal of the travellers in the views of the main hall. They seem slightly transparent, perhaps real people or, at least, drawn from real images found somewhere, but faded slightly. As such, countertops peak through wrists. A doorjamb is clearly visible through one woman’s reddish torso. A plant in one corner sprouts from a bald man’s head, only slightly obscured by his white collared shirt and tie. All of them are arrayed in summer clothing, a fact not quite fitting for this occasion, Christmas Day itself.

I swiftly came to the conclusion that the various signs and shops and plate-glass have more constancy than the real people (albeit simulacra) moving through these halls, ghosts in the full sense. Why they are transparent is a question completely unresolved, perhaps even in the mind of the artist.

Several possibilities immediately occurred to me. They are travellers and hence transient. Or this station does not exist, and, hence, these travellers are hypothetical or conditional. Or they are very much real yet do not exist in this particular setting.

This line of thought did, however, raise the question of why the station should be unwavering and constant in a manner inaccessible to those who people it. Indeed, might it not have been better to leave the station empty? Or left the persons opaque? Perhaps, the artist should instead have made the people more substantial and the station less so? Would an empty station have been less ghostly, less unsettling?

Troubled by this enigma, I asked myself if, instead, I might be seeing the rendering not of a future station but of a state of the mind, an idea, the internal state of the artist, a place devoid of people, littered with plants and signage, backed with metal and glass and shops and counters, populated only by the faintest voices, which themselves sound from some unknown corner of this mind, the breath thereby expelled condensing into the shapes of these travellers, brought to life, half-seen or perhaps not seen at all.

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