Graves Past the Present

Headstone, Eyüp 15 April 2012
Was wandering through a research library the other day and stumbled across an evaluation of the work of the art historian Mieke Bal -- whose work, in the interest of full disclosure, I've never read -- and this passage jumped out:
But for Mieke Bal, the art of the past exists undeniably in the present, where it continues to generate powerful social effects... The present life of images is part of their ongoing history; if we cannot describe that, our sense of the span of images in history will be drastically truncated.
There's a Faulkner line, I think -- the oft-quoted one -- to the effect that the past is never the past because it's never really, well, past. It seems to tell a similar story.

As for what this has to do with a headstone on a grave in Eyüp, maybe this: This is a marker of a particular historical moment, a woman -- based on the decoration, we can tell more or less immediately that the grave marks a woman -- who was herself implicated in a social moment. But we're now in a moment in the present in which her gravestone -- written in Ottoman -- is more or less illegible to most people who pass it. Yet despite the illegibility of the marker itself, the grave -- probably more properly the graves -- has a social effect. The fields of the dead in Eyüp have something to do with the way the neighborhood is variously understood, experienced, visited, and -- in this case -- photographed.

Graves, Eyüp 15 April 2012
It's not quite the concrete visible that I was playing with the other day, but maybe there's a thread beginning to be spun.


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