Symbolic Shape   Martyn Blundell 2007


Imagine a friend is talking to you about a mutual friend, Rachel. Some time into the conversation you realise that it is a different Rachel that your friend is referring to, not the Rachel you first thought. What happens in your mind as you make the mental shift between one Rachel and the other?

What does a word like Chicago mean to some one who has never been there? What does the name Natalie mean if you have never known or met a Natalie? What do they represent?

Words have a negotiated meaning separate from the thing they are supposed to represent. Something like a sensation. A meaning that arises through acts of association, something like poetry.

“One can ask and answer questions about the various subway stations of New York or Paris only if these spots have become or have been assumed as mythical areas and such names as Canarise Line or Vincennes-Neuilly stand not only for physical places but become the catalyzers of collective memories.”

Umberto Eco, ‘Casablanca; Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage’, in ‘Travels in Hyper-Reality’, pg. 19

“She heard him pronounce several names : Belarab, Daman, Tennga, Ningrat. These belonged now to her life and she was appalled to find she was unable to connect these names with any human appearance. They stood out alone, as if written on the night; they took on a symbolic shape; they imposed themselves upon her senses. She whispered as if pondering: ‘Belarab, Daman, Ningrat,’ and these barbarous sounds seemed to possess an exceptional energy, a fatal aspect, the savour of madness.” Joseph Conrad, The Rescue, pg. 136