Observing the world all around
without a smartphone
Without a mobile phone
Being one with the Nature
underneath the castle
breathing in the world
participating with the actuality
All is good
Fortresses have always occupied hills as strategic defence but they also symbolise institutional power.
Looking up at the castle or abbey that dominated your skyline reminded you that the mighty, and the Almighty, were watching.
Both religious and civic spaces crowd the horizon and command the upward gaze, provoking respect for institutions by making viewers feel small.
But since Copernicus, humankind has questioned what we’re really looking up to. The more we have scrutinised the heavens, the more indifferent the universe has seemed.
So we’ve refined technologies that turn our conquering gaze down, down, down.
Telescopes, microscopes, balloons, aeroplanes and satellites have enabled new ways to understand our world and govern social relations.
Aerial photography grants us the god-like experience of surveying an environment instantly, rather than within the limits of human sight lines.
Helicopter or drone footage swoops us through built environments like an angel or superhero.
We no longer identify with the “little people” looking up but with the powerful people looking down.
It’s a forced perspective.
We’re still surveilled but this time, by the glowing lozenges we cradle in our palms, the ones that keep our heads bowed and shoulders aching.
Progress is often framed as self-evidently virtuous, in contrast with conservative stasis.
But in 1940, as the world consumed itself in war, despair gripped the German critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin.
He imagined history through the gaze of a melancholy angel caught in widening gyres, impelled inexorably into the future while staring helplessly at the wreckage of the past.
However, the Romantic philosophers, poets and artists understood the sublime subversion of looking up.
During the rapidly industrialising 18th and 19th centuries, they sought profound thrills in primal experiences of nature.
They reimagined the upward gaze as an escape into another dimension of feeling – away from the relentless forward momentum of modernity.