a new DIVINITY!.
The perspectival horizons formed when crossing over Brooklyn Bridge offer a series of ever changing surfaces, slants, edges and outlooks on the city. A frame of receding perspectives and diminishing angles continually guide the eye towards along the bridge and hence towards an imagined future in the form of one’s destination on the other side: a point distant in time and space that invokes a kind of “mathematical” knowing in advance (Heidegger 1977) that emerged with the advent of modern technology. Like all imagined futures it remains undetermined and is open to philosophical, scientific and religious interpretations, for example in the way that the geometric ratios of perspectival horizons of the bridge provide evidence of divine design for some people and the triumph of science for others.
Italian Futurist, Joseph Stella, began painting the Brooklyn Bridge after an intense experience one night around 1919 as he stood on it alone listening to the noises of the modern city:
The Voice of the City of New York Interpreted: The Bridge (1922)
“Many nights I stood on the bridge – and in the middle alone – lost – a defenseless prey to the surrounding swarming darkness – crushed by the mountainous black impenetrability of the skyscrapers – here and there lights resembling suspended falls of astral bodies or fantastic splendors of remote rites – shaken by the underground tumult of the trains in perpetual motion, like the blood in the arteries – at times, ringing as alarm in a tempest, the shrill sulphurous voice of the trolley wires – now and then strange moanings of appeal from tug boats, guessed more than seen, through the infernal recesses below – I felt deeply moved as if in the presence of a new DIVINITY”
(Stella 1928: The Brooklyn Bridge (A Page in My Life)
Stella’s futuristic assemblage of arches, angles, materials and sky anticipates of the metropolitan future imagined and depicted in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. It looks towards the secular age and shape of things to come but has an equally strong affinity to centuries gone by and the stained glass windows of Europe’s Gothic cathedrals. For Stella, it seems the Brooklyn Bridge is not only a bridge between past and future, but a bridge that spans science and religion. Caught between the “infernal recesses below” and “astral bodies” above, Stella sides for the moment with religion, asks for redemption in a secular world and discovers a new divinity.
Excerpt from Brooklyn Bridge Blues by Jack Kerouac
so silly & stupid, the blind woe world,
all things endlessly living and dying,
in ignorance—-and I thought:
“Whether as impalpable powder
or as great cities visible from bridges
in these great universes, what
I realized I was going to save th’world!
I sand & marched: “This is the
that we were looking for!”–
and:– “I am the perfect man,
the Buddha of this world.”—-
already perfect! — I forget the details!
——Ruined dead buildings, with signs
reading, “Varnishing” already vanishing
I wanted to call my mother
on the phone and say “I didn’t say
I was going—-I’ve crossed the river
now, I’m over the bridge now,
I’m on the other shore now, I’ve
reached the other side!”
I Wish that I were Dead — Absolutely Nonexistent
(Hand Written Note on Paper Fragment found among her possessions)
Oh damn I wish that I were dead — absolutely nonexistent – gone away from here — from everywhere but how would I do it ? There is always bridges — the Brooklyn Bridge no not the Brooklyn Bridge because. But I love that bridge (everything is beautiful from there and the air is so clean) walking it seems peaceful there even with all those cars going crazy underneath. So it would have to be some other bridge an ugly one and with no view — except I particularly like in particular all bridges — there’s some- thing about them and besides these I’ve never seen an ugly bridge