Once upon a time we traveled by train. In compartments seating maybe eight people, four facing another four. Sometimes there would be conversation, even intimate confessions, as if the speaker were talking to her therapist, convinced none of the other would ever see each other again. It was persons interacting with persons. Going even further back there might not even be compartments, but rows of wooden seats. Third class.
Now, well, now communication all takes place virtually with each individual immersed in talking to an invisible someone on an iPhone. The person across from you no longer exists. And the landscape outside the window? The world has shrunk yet somehow also become unlimited in size and scope.
Reflections on reflections in a moving train
Back in 1990 perhaps.
The journey is about to begin. We find a seat next to a window. There’s a girl across the way, filing her nails, and she could be pretty if she used a bit of makeup. She might be Russian, surely not Italian. She laughs, hands the girl across from her a printed paper. We glance outside at the usual view of tracks, other trains. Not all that interesting unless one thinks of how Sheeler might have drawn it, with a ruler and a T-square. The train begins to move. Slowly. The station is left behind, giving way in the bright sunlight to low buildings then to fields and green grass. The girl gets up, opens the window at the top (one could still open the windows then) and takes a picture. Even though there doesn’t seem to be much to take a picture of. The train moves faster, we catch fleeting glimpses of countryside. If only we could reach out and pick some of those red poppies, or the roses turning the shell of a half-ruined station along the tracks into a romantic subject. It is all out of reach, untouchable. There’s the glass between us and the world out there. What we see is an elsewhere, a continuously changing elsewhere.
Then suddenly the train enters a tunnel. The outer world disappears and the world we see is somehow thrown back at us. Real reflections in the window, reflections of the touchable reality, which is still untouchable. Moving, we now are the ones moving, changing the way we see ourselves and others. Till suddenly the train emerges from the tunnel and we disappear, swallowed up by the brilliant world outside. Those fleeting scenes outside are constantly changing, defined by the window frame, inside we have the reality of what we can see and touch, the reflection is the world thrown back at us in that interface of glass.