You are on page 1of 19

:: RuiNs ::

:: one ::

:: covered by the soft calming reassuring blanket of rare white


stuff – one of only two such events i remember :: like a
tranquilizer shot :: opium on the tumors of history :: muting
the madness of history :: a shroud hiding untold atrocities
lurking in amongst the smashed pieces of history ::
:: but ::
:: architects swarm over this debris like wedding dancing
bees :: anglo-saxon architects licking up the history as
if it were their very own :: as if they and only they were the
designated rightful heirs to that history :: as if even the
romans were not worthy of that history :: as if
vitruvius had been born in the bronx :: steadfastly ignoring
the truth crushed beneath those pointless columns sticking
up into the cold crisp air :: steadfastly ignoring all those
sanguine dictators aka caesars and/or emperors bent
on absolute dominion :: now covered by snow :: a makeshift
veil :: briefly protecting the wounded hearts of the nameless ::
protecting them from the hurt :: but make no mistake :: i am
unapologetically roman :: through and through ::

1
© francis safaie-brown :: early 1960s :: detail {for some obscure reason the image appears to be
reversed}

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::
:: even on a dreamy sunny summer’s day
saturated with the spirits of romantic
shelley’s and keat’s and byron’s
rome’ing through the meadow-like
tranquility :: on such days even the most
atrocious of pasts turns a melancholy shade of
mellow :: dissipitated by the minutest
perturbations of blundering butterflies ::
mesmerized by the constant murmur of insects
:: hypnotized by the lazy concert of cicadas ::
what killer caesars :?: what murderous
emperors :?:
:: but ::
:: architects :: art historians :: and other
dreamy eyed self-proclaimed historians ::
they who only see beauty :: they who don’t
see the human suffering :: the endless
daily tragedies :: the hunger :: the anguish of
the mothers :: they who don’t want to see the
downtrodden :: they who don’t even want
to care about the misery of the unsung
masses :: they applaud the blood tainted
works :: these decaying fountainheads of
crippled intellectual beauty ::

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::
2

2
© francis safaie-brown :: early 1960s

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::
:: three ::

:: sort of like an army medusa’d to


marble for all eternity :: pointless ::
facing the palatine :: hoping for the
reincarnation of romulus :: or
remus :: but not both at the same
time :: the memory of sibling
bloodshed :: terrible :: but :: studiously
ignoring the future :: ignoring the
gaggles of architects passing
through :: praising something ::
something they never were a part of :: a
relic they’ve placed at the heart of some
vague eurocentric culture :: a
manifesto :: a justification for all
their imperialistic atrocities ::
committed in the name of roman
godlike dictators :: from caesars to
czars :: may i remind the reader :: i
am unapologetically roman :: through
and through ::

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::
3

3
© francis safaie-brown :: mid 1950s :: detail

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::
:: four ::

:: what a beautiful panorama :: cradle of our civilization :: wonderful ::


columns :: lovely columns :: renaissance churches with roman porticos
:: such delight :: architecture :: architecture everywhere :: and
zeus :: sorry :: jupiter :: jupiter’s confused spirit wandering amidst
them ruins :: somewhat forlorn perhaps :: trying to make sense of this
elaborate jigsaw puzzle :: but really is nothing but a field of useless bleached
pieces of marble :: punctuated by bizarre structures :: actually bits of
structures :: structures with no context to anything :: especially with
no context to time :: a delightful romanesque campanile in front of the
colosseum :-: christians’ sands of death :: a delightful temple to
virgins :: yeah – right ::
:: or ::
:: the romans :?: they don’t really care :: now as then :: as for me :?: for
me as a child it was a wonderful place to climb over things :: i was told there
had stood buildings here :: in some golden age of humanity :: fantastic
buildings :: draped in gold :: so i stood awhile :: peering through the
viewfinder :: and captured confusion :: not gilded buildings sparkling in the
roman midday sun :: things that supposedly were magnificent remains of
temples of astonishing beauty :: adored and venerated :: then as now ::
but looked more like a mess of amputated corpses :: so make no mistake :: i
might be an expatriate :: but i am unapologetically roman :: through and
through ::

4
© francis safaie-brown :: mid 1950s

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::
:: five ::
:: skeleton of a temple to a
fierce and angry god :: dictate by
figments :: the curia ::
temple to the people ::
dictate by politicians :: and a
church :: temple
transformed:: dictate by
divinity :: and the people :?:
where are the people :?: not
even shadows :: just useless
chunks of marble :: and a brick
box :: emergent strange
attractor of republican
ideology :: get down on your
hands and knees :: kiss the dust
on the ground of our political
masters :: kiss the
architecture of that brick box
for it is a shrine ::

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::

5
© francis safaie-brown :: mid 1950s :: detail

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::
:: six ::
:: really paradoxical :: a temple
portico with a church added on ::
weird :: an homage to god stuck on
to a pantheon of make-belief ::
the church builders obviously couldn’t
care less about those columns :: in
the ideological name of
renaissance it was a great
argument :: an absurd illogical tromp
d’oiel :: an amazingly twisted
argument :: gave them popes
absolute power :: absolute power to
terrorize the populace :: as i
peered through the viewfinder i
couldn’t see what i was supposed
to :: a graham greene’s power and
glory :: instruments of utmost
cruelty in the name of gods :: how
could i see that :: i was a child ::
once more :: i am unapologetically
roman :: through and through ::

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::
6

6
© francis safaie-brown :: mid 1950s

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::
:: seven ::
:: centuries upon centuries ::
layered :: rising like vapors through
the murky dusk before the
etruscan dawn all the way up to
the pathetic pinnacle of italy’s last
king :: a triumphant wake-cake of
history :: rising up from the surreal
secret of the lapis niger ::
curling through triumphant arches
and chariots of untold myths :: like
frankincense :: air smokefilled with
the aroma of rome :: but not the
real – the livingrome :: no :: a
rome that had never existed :: not
as all those pathetic historians
want us to believe ::
architecture historians
confusing architecture with
tacked on art :: more like a rome
in joyful adoration of beauty :: a
rome where even the poorest
citizen know of the meaning of being
a roman ::

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::

7
© francis safaie-brown :: mid 1950s :: detail

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::
:: eight ::
:: beneath that shoddy lean-to :: the lapis
niger :: the cradle of all that romantic drivel
oozing down the centuries :: this lapis
niger thing :: like washed up by a sudden
flood :: dropped by the tiber into the swamp
between the hills where not even an
etruscan ventured for fear of death :: the
mons palatinus :: the esquiline :: and
the twin peaks of capitoline hills :: they
had already risen to modest prominence yet
the future forum romanum was still a
malaria mosquito ridden swamp :: the lapis
niger :: perhaps romulus’ or remus’
tombstone :: allegorically speaking :: but pillar
of worship to intellect starved architects
and art historians of graeco-roman
delirium ::

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::
8

8
© francis safaie-brown :: early 1950s :: detail :: terrible snapshot :: but amongst the earliest i
remember taking ::

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::
:: nine ::

:: such power :: overwhelming :: mons


palatinus :: such arrogance :: stunning ::
the magnificence of absolute power :: the
power of absolute exploitation :: with
architecture on its side :: sure :: we love
this sort of thing :: the amazing gobsmacking
superlative of architecture :: classical
architecture :: for a mad man and his
cronies :: and the people :: slaves :: with
their vocal cords ripped out ::

9
© francis safaie-brown :: i remember inching my way towards the edge, expecting to go crashing
down through the debris of time at any moment ::mid 1950s

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::
:: ten ::

:: of all the ruins this one is the most bizarre ::


a monument to the history of
holocausts :: the kkk-like burning of
christians :: the entertaining disembowelment
of slaves :: and more :: to the thunderous
applause of caesars :: like some fun-filled
made for hollywood extravaganza ::
demented violence feeding upon violence in
hyperbolic self-referential feedback
loops :: ok :: so it’s a triumph of
engineering :: no doubt about that :: but not
really architecture :: so why are
architects all stir-crazy about this
monstrosity :?: as for me :: it was a climbing wall
:: in those days before there were climbing
walls :: and you didn’t have to wear helmets :: i
just clambered all over that thing :: just like those
holy-poly renaissance folk helping themselves
to all that marble :: for their mundane profane
palaces :: they didn’t care about those stones ::
so why do we :: once again :: make no mistake ::
i am unapologetically roman :: through and
through ::

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::
/
10 11

10
© francis safaie-brown :: mid/late 1950s :: view from domus aurea ::
11
© francis safaie-brown :: mid 1960s :: amongst the last snapshots i took – crawling around the
palatine ::

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::

:: eleven ::

:: brilliant :: not architecture :: way


beyond architecture :: way beyond
structural engineering :: an immense
testimony to immense power :: on a scale
hardly rivaled even in these days :: like
some on the verge of becoming animated
dali’esque surreal object :: set to lumber
across the dreamy countryside :: coming
from nowhere :: going nowhere ::
:: let us remember ::

12

12
© francis safaie-brown :: early 1950s :: and yes :: that’s me :: {my mother took this picture :: my
father :?: he would have taken a picture of just the ruins}

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©
:: RuiNs ::

:: twelve ::

:: let us remember ::


:: palladio :?: nice guy :: but not a
roman :: me :: unapologetically roman
:: them ruins :?: we love them ruins ::
we hate them ruins :: they are in our
blood :: we have inhaled the dust from
them ruins :: so, we don’t write all that
nerdy stuff about them :: we integrate
them into our fabric – the fabric of our
freudian id – the fabric of our homes ::
we live in them just if they were modern
architecture :: like a poor family
overlooking the railroad tracks lived in a
gutted tomb down the road from where
we lived :: like a millionaire family lived in a
tomb on the via appia anticcha :: so why
am i not living in amongst them :: well ::
what do you call it :: duodena :: doesn’t
sound right :: diaspora :: that’s better ::
i’m a single person roman diaspora ::
every roman is a single person roman
diaspora :: so :: i make no apologies for
being roman :: i make no apologies for
the quality of the images :: i received my
first camera before I turned ten :: so my
abilities as a photographer haven’t
improved over the years :: but i saw what i
saw :: strange chunks of marble :: littering
the environment ::

: :fRaNcis-safaie-bR0wN::
©