In The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, there’s a word for the realisation that ‘each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own […] in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.’ But there should also be a word for the places we pass through, places that are nameless, unseen, unconsidered because of their unspecialness. They exist, year in and year out, and you may have stood there at the bus stop daily, until one evening the street lights blur in the drizzle and something unfolds inside you, an exquisite mixture of melancholy and joy that hurts and yet you want to keep hold of it. Your train slows down near an anonymous building in a large city and you notice one miniscule green square in the myriad of windows and balconies, a square that echoes the impossibly green tangle in the foreground. Your pet dog, unaware of the striking contrast between its fur and the red carpet, for a moment becomes merely a perfect, ornate comma. Your dozing reveries are interrupted by the serenely muted light sifting through a lace curtain. Unassuming situations reveal new aspects. And Annika allows us to glimpse what she found there.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
‘I sometimes think of that line by Blake. About seeing the whole in the part,’ says Annika. She has an almost tender awareness of the unseen, the ephemeral, the accidental, salvaging them at the last minute from oblivion. Rivoli and the Louvre as demolition sites denuded of their usual tourists, the strangely inverted image of fish appearing to float in a starry sky. Ice crystals, crafted overnight for no one and soon to evaporate. At first seemingly terse and smooth in their graphic purity, the images slowly uncover a transience, and, paradoxically, a timelessness, like the vanitas paintings of yore.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? philosophers ask. And if no one is there to see it, is it still visible? The absence of humans in these views suggests that the places go on existing, vivid and complex, even when there is no eye or lens to record them, and that we are the random passerby.