Monday, October 21, 2013

Something fishy

A few years ago, I went to Paris for vacation. I'd actually gone to see U2 in concert, as I had purchased a ticket on a whim because I could. I flew to Paris, spent a few days there, flew to Beirut, spent a week there, and flew back to Paris to spend a few more days.

At that time, I hadn't been to Paris in a decade. The thing about Paris is that it's Paris. You're not going to return after a decade and find the place razed and rebuilt looking completely different than it had on your last visit. But you see things differently, at least if you open your eyes.

My previous trip to Paris was right after college. I had been hired as an intern at the Glencree Center for Peace and Reconciliation in Ireland and went to visit my friend Matt, who was teaching English in Tours, before heading off to Ireland for three months. By this time, I had already been to Paris five or six times, all as a college student. But I had yet to experience any real post-graduate life and was still traveling through as an inexperienced human being.

Fast-forward to 2010, when I had gone through a stint in the Army, learned Arabic, moved to Washington DC, worked in international development, lived in Bulgaria and Lebanon, and fell for digital media. In that time I had also gained a fascination for ancient history, comparative religion, philosophy, and literature, among many other interests. I went to Paris and knew what I was looking at.

The picture above is from one of two fountains at Place de la Concorde built in 1840. This one is the Maritime Fountain and represents the maritime spirit of France. The nude woman holding the fish as if it were her lover represents the fishing industry.

I'm sorry, but there's no way anyone back in 1840 didn't look at this statue and laugh under his breath. I'm trying to look at it through a historical lens, and knowing a little about art understand symbolism and that sexuality was a major theme in the art of the ancients on which this fountain is modeled. But good lord. Disturbed is the woman who wants a fish for a lover.

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