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From outside

to other windows

Windows: Part 1

In some chapters, before discussing the windows of the residence, I will consider few visual projects that will introduce the topic and its components in a wider context. For instance, when André Vicente Gonçalves collects the ‘Windows of the world’ in his photographic project (2009), he looks at the shape of the windows and everything that surround them, whether materials, colours, balconies, architectural details, planters, curtains, objects, showing that windows of the same city have a lot in common. What the artist and viewer do not know, for obvious reasons, is what happens inside. However, when one lives in a building for years, one gets to know his neighbours, wondering who they really are and how they live inside. That is exactly what the artist Bogdan Gîrbovan shows when taking photographs of ten rooms being one over the other in a ten-floors building, exposing thus ten photographs of different people, including himself, from different social classes, ages and tastes, but who are all neighbours living in the same building (2008). In each room, one notes the same window on the right, which reminds us how windows are above all an architectural element to be repeatedly built at the same place from one floor to another for the aesthetic and functional coherence of the building. A third project that would combine the two previous ones would be to see people at their own windows from outside, which happen in Adas Vasiliauskas’s quarantine portraits (2020), as he photographs with his drone his neighbours in lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, one may not be able to work as these two artists to get people’s trust and consent to enter their private life, even less when social distancing is becoming a norm. This recent crisis has made more evident the window's function in creating a vital connection to the outside world in times of estrangement.

Therefore, I started wandering the alleys of the residence taking in pictures dozens of windows, being more attentive to the architecture in daylight, through perspectives and repetitions, and of social life at night. When the sun goes down and the artificial lights of some households are on, life suddenly appears and may be observed by the curious passer-by. However, most windows do not have curtains and that could rise ethical issues of entering people’s intimacy by looking discreetly to their windows and then intrusively with the camera without their approval. Hence, for the sake of the project, I oriented my interest for the lights and the few objects disposed on the edge of the windows rather than people in compromising situations. Moreover, I have often observed that after a day of work, this contrast of cool and warm lights mingled with the night’s darkness has always captivated me as one feels insignificant in front of such presence of life. The lights are to be contemplated as artistic compositions but they may also trigger one’s imagination as inside could be a family having dinner, a father telling a story to his daughter, people doing sport, a couple watching TV or making love. A lightened room may hide infinite possibilities that do not necessarily need to be seen, but rather imagined, as lights often mean a still presence that is more than abstract when seen from a certain distance, but become more realistic around the lamps that they come from when seen from closer.

Most of the photographs taken during my walks across the residence show ceiling lights as it is what I see by looking up from the ground floor. Further, many windows of the residence reveal that we are in a Chinese city. The windows belong to high buildings set in an urban environment, and certain decorative details as red lanterns or red stickers with the 福 (fú) character, symbol of good fortune, are all visual evidences of the country’s culture. Further, some interiors dispositions accentuate this particularity of Beijing modern households, such as interior terraces with bay windows and ceiling clotheslines, which could be regarded as urban and cultural markers. Thus, I have begun taking long shots of several windows to close-shots of single windows, looking for details that could narrate a brief story of my residence.

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