Tuesday, 16 April 2013

I'm all right, Giacomo

I'm catching the train to and from Rome three times a week at the moment. The service is much the same as it always was: trains invariably late or simply taken off without notice, carriage doors that don't open or that require Herculean strength to budge, then block halfway or spring back on a suitcase or pushchair, toilets that won't lock, or that no longer have doors, or that have had the toilet bowls ripped out, leaving a ragged hole edged with faeces as the sleepers whip past below. Too many people, too few seats. Unimaginative graffiti inside and out. Windows that have been nailed shut at the service of air conditioning systems that don't work at all or that work too well, or that drip brown liquid onto people's heads. I've been using the train for at least eight months a year for the past eleven years, while promises have been made and unmade and remade, and nothing has changed. It's a disgrace, and a national one; in one of those rare exceptions to the rule that things get worse below Rome, regional trains in the north are as dreadful as they are in the centre and south.

Except that now people have started to react. They haven't reacted through official channels by complaining to Trenitalia, or the government, or the regional authorities, or, if they have, it's had no result. They haven't blocked the lines - only suicides and snow do that. They haven't taken to their cars in significant numbers. Many of them don't buy tickets, but that's always been the case, and is less a protest than common sense, given that tickets are rarely checked and offenders, when caught, are given the opportunity to simply leave the train, and wait for the next one. They haven't organised themselves into committees, or vigilante corps. They've turned to their sewing machines.

These days, men and women, young and old, students and factory workers (insofar as one can tell) get on the train, find a seat (if they're lucky), open their bags and take out a piece of cloth, a large scarf, or a section of sheet, usually tailored to fit the seat, with two ear-like pouches to hold it in place. They arrange it over the rest of the seat and then sit down. The first time I saw this I was struck not just by the time that must have gone into the making of what is effectively a prophylactic device, but also by its intentionality. An object like this is the result of experience, long pondered . Someone has taken measurements, found the fabric, cut and sewn, adjusted the final product to fit. Perhaps there are templates available at station bars along the line, those flimsy paper shapes my mother used when making dresses. Perhaps it's just been a question of trial and error. The range of fabrics is enormous, and I wonder if some fashion orthodoxy might lie behind the choices people are making, or if something deeper is at work. Either way, paisley designs exert an intriguing attraction on a lot of big rough men in southern Lazio.

Now that the novelty of this has worn off, though, what strikes me most is the attitude it reveals. It's as though the only way one can fight against the filthy state of the trains is to protect oneself not from the actual dirt on the floor and in the toilets and on the windows but from one's fellow passengers. The seats themselves are invariably clean, because most people are clean. These home-made, ingenious covers represent a willed isolation from other people - a non-verbal name-calling. What they're saying is: To keep myself clean I have to isolate myself from you. The practice might be connected to the increasingly high proportion of non-Italian passengers on local trains, although I'd like not to think so. But it's what I've come to see as a typically Italian solution in that it leaves the problem - dirty trains - unchanged on anything but an individual level. In this sense, and in this sense alone, Italy has understood the sneering, small-minded, mean-spirited core of Thatcherism: that there is no such thing as society. 


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

South African summer

I spent a couple of weeks this summer in South Africa. If you'd like to read some of my thoughts about the country, click here.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Cakes and literary references

Today's my birthday and this is the cake that Michelle McGrane has made to celebrate it. I'm beyond touched.

(And if you don't pick up the literary reference, click here. You know the next step.)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

In Context

Rob Redman, founder of The Fiction Desk, has been asked to guest edit this month's blog for Context Travel, a 'network of architects, historians, art historians, and other specialists who organize over 300 different walks in 15 cities around the world', including Rome. He's exploring the relationship between travel and literature and he asked me if I'd like to talk about my experiences as an expatriate author. I was delighted. You can see what I said here.

The Pantheon (illustrated left) isn't mentioned in the article and doesn't feature in any of my fiction either. Which is odd, because it's my favourite building.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

CSI Perugia (not)

Well, it's all over, for a while at least. Amanda Knox is back in Seattle, Raffaele Sollecito is at his family home near Bari, Rudy Guedé is in jail and Meredith Kercher is dead. The screaming mob outside the courthouse in Perugia yesterday evening will no doubt be looking forward to reading the reasoning behind the appeal court's decision to absolve Amanda and Raffaele of the crime. No, I don't think so either. That isn't, after all, how screaming mobs work. According to Italy's Sky News, 61% of its viewers continue to believe in their guilt, despite the fairly robust dismantling of the original verdict and the so-called evidence, forensic and otherwise, on which it was based. I don't have any particular wisdom to impart on the case, other than to say that no conviction built on such wobbly foundations should be allowed to imprison two young people for most of their adult lives, regardless of their actual guilt or innocence. I know that if I were Amanda or Raffaele and innocent, I would be looking into ways of taking legal action against the shoddy and wholly inadequate work of the people who investigated, or failed to investigate, the crime scene, not only for having deprived me of four years of freedom but also, and primarily, for having made it impossible for me to prove my innocence in a clear-cut and effective manner. I'd find that hard to forgive.

What's struck me most is the reaction to the verdict here in Italy. I'm talking anecdotally here (and I'd include the Sky News poll in this), but the innocentisti certainly seem to be outnumbered, and significantly so, by the colpevolisti. (And if you can think of a decent translation for these words, I'd be grateful.) The latter fall into several categories. The most populated is the one that thinks Amanda is evil, based on her cartwheel in jail and the the fact that she did some shopping the day after the murder. Oh yes, and unsubstantiated but highly memorable accusations of witchcraft and a general whiff of diabolic sexiness about her that I, frankly, don't seem to be able to pick up on. But it's the second category that interests me most. It's composed of people who smell a rat (the Italian word for them - also untranslatable - is dietrologisti). In this case the rats are various. Some people think they've been acquitted because they're rich (not that surprising in a country where the richest citizen is so blatantly above the law). Others think they're free because Amanda's American and Italy has been trained to adopt a supine position the moment Uncle Sam clicks his fingers (vide, other recent events I can't be fagged to google). Others, curiously, claim that the fact that both defence lawyers have been connected at some point with the PDL (Berlusconi's party) means that the acquittal has some sort of political valency, and is yet another sign of the politicisation of the judicial system. (This is nonsense; apart from anything else, Bongiorno is one of the most notable defectors from the PDL in the past year). What they all have in common is the conviction that the system - any system - is a sham, and that the motives that govern its actions will never be revealed unless we prod and poke about to see what's underneath. It's comforting, I suppose, to imagine that there is a truth, even if it's hidden. The flag on the moon that doesn't move despite all that lunar wind must give someone, somewhere, a reassuring sense that what we see is never what we get. And perhaps this is to be expected in a country where so many murders and acts of terror remain unsolved, so many crime scenes are utterly contaminated through, at best, incompetence and, at worst, intent, and so many convictions are finally overturned, for lack of evidence or sand in the hourglass of legal time. But when we're talking about individual lives, and the possibility of horribly miscarried justice, it's sad that people can't allow for a little more wriggle room in their own convictions, a little more generosity towards two people, who may be rich, and foreign (or southern), and who may be unsympathetic, or cold, or inappropriately energetic, but who do not, for all these qualities, necessarily have blood on their hands.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The memory of water, the power of words

These small white pills are homoeopathic remedies for back-ache. Anyone who follows this blog will know that I'm not a fan of alternative medicines, but this doesn't mean that the various metaphors of homoeopathy aren't as potent as the remedies themselves are ineffective and, in the wrong hands and contexts, criminal. Still, I'm not here to talk about homoeopathy in Africa, or talking to plants, or over-priced oatcakes or any other of Prince Charles's contributions to modern thought. I'm here to direct you towards my review of an intriguing new novel, whose central character is a practising homoeopath, and whose procedures, among other things, explore the metaphorical riches of the ideas behind it. Memory, energy, guilt, repression, love. Powerful stuff, and grippingly told. The novel is called Out of Sight, its author is Isabelle Grey and my review is here.

Monday, 26 September 2011


A couple of days ago a site called listaouting published the first of a series of promised lists. The list contains the names of ten Italian politicians who have voted consistently in favour of anti-gay legislation, despite being, according to the people who've put the list together, gay themselves. The idea behind the list is that the ten politicians deserve to be outed not as gays, which is nobody's business but theirs, but as hypocrites. It's not a difficult concept to grasp. When a bunch of right-wing politicians here in Italy organised an event called Family Day, with the aim of defending the traditional family (sic) against the destructive and disordered forces of civil unions, a number of journalists published the marital escapades of the event's promoters - most of whom had been divorced at least once, and many of whom were currently living with their partners, unmarried or in sin, as we used to say, in blithe indifference to the rules of the Catholic church to which they all, at least nominally, belonged. They weren't being exposed as divorcees or adulterers but, once again, as hypocrites. Nobody seemed to feel that this offended their human rights. People who say one thing and do another, in that case at least, were seen quite rightly as fair game. No magistrate investigated the publication of their names or suggested that some heinous crime had been committed. Nobody talked about defamation, or presumed that the journalists in question suffered some form of mental illness. Nobody talked about media lynching or the need to protect individual privacy. These men, with their talk of the sanctity of the family and their strings of ex-wives and illegitimate children, were politicians. Being exposed as phonies was one of the risks that went with the job. The church, to which all paid lip-service, didn't seem to mind, after all. So why should they?

So it's interesting to see how differently people have reacted to the publication of this list. It should be said at once that the list offers names, but no proof, but that's hardly surprising. What would constitute proof of gayness, other than a statement from the person in question or a compromising photograph? (Or a wire-tapped conversation? In the land of tapping, I live in hope.) The former ain't going to happen; the latter is likelier, and would certainly be more fun. So we can ignore the whole business or take the list on trust. Certainly, the reaction of the blogosphere seems to confirm the claims. Maurizio Gasparri, Berlusconi henchman and not the sharpest knife in the box, appears to be known as Culetto d'Oro (Golden Botty!). Roberto Formigoni, governor of Lombardy and leader of the cattolicissimo Comunione e Liberazione, an organisation that has sewn up more tenders for its members than I've had hot dinners, is rumoured to have had a quickie with George Clooney. Lucky Roberto. Gianni Letta, the power behind Berlusconi's throne, if that isn't too dignified a term for it, has had so many face-lifts he makes his boss look rugged. Roberto Calderoli, the charmer in the photograph and Minister for Simplification - something he does whenever he opens his lovely mouth - is the kind of man who keeps wild animals in his garden and wears T-shirts with Viva la Gnocca (Long Live Cunt!) written on them. If further proof is needed, it can, apparently, be provided. Paolo Bonaiuti, Berlusconi's well-oiled spokesman, is also on the list, as is Ferdinando Adornato, who started out as a left-wing intellectual and is now neither left-wing nor intellectual. Then there's Luca Volontè, also cattolicissimo and fetchingly jug-eared, who has stated that 'the founders of modern psychology describe homosexuality as a clinical pathology'. On the grounds that the lady doth protest too much, along with a whiff of the 'no smoke without fire' defence, I rest my case.

And, in one sense, the fact that they're gay or not is irrelevant. Because what's shocked me about the whole business is not the reaction of the people on the list. They've been lying (or refusing to answer questions deemed embarrassing )  for decades - why on earth should we believe them now? It's the reaction of others that worries me. Mara Carfagna, ex calendar girl and now government minister (and an old favourite of this blog), has talked about a 'defamatory attack'. Defamatory? In whose eyes? It's good to know that Ms Carfagna, whose mandate is to ensure equality of opportunity, considers an 'accusation' of homosexuality to be defaming. She isn't the only one. If I could have a quickie with George Clooney (just saying, Roberto) for all the people - on the left and right of the spectrum - who've talked about unwarranted invasion of privacy and the need to separate the political and the personal, and all this hogwash that's being used to swill away the central point - that the political actions of these men interferes directly and constantly with the private lives of others - well, George and I would be pretty much fucked out by now. Good night, George.

The worst offenders are, guess who? That's right, Italy's gay organisations. I won't list them here - they aren't worth it - but to hear them talk about the outing of homophobic legislators as though children were being thrown to the lions is the most sickening thing of all. Whose rights are they supposed to be protecting? The rights of men who deprive me of my rights? Of course people have a right not to come out, if they think it might harm them, sad though this is - I'd be the last person, for example, to defend a list of gay footballers (much as I'd like to see it). But that right simply doesn't exist when those same people, for the lowest and most squalid of of motives, use their power to cancel the basic human rights of others. The squirming sanctimonious behaviour of Italy's gay spokespersons as they fall over themselves to defend the hypocrisy of their masters is further proof that Italy remains a profoundly authoritarian country, terrified of raising its voice against the powerful, constantly in search of a crumb from the table, grubbing for scraps of advancement, ultimately behaving itself because it's only through submission to the dominant culture that privileges can be won. It's a lickspittle reaction and the people who represent the public face of gay Italy should be ashamed of themselves.

There are, thank God, exceptions. For those of you read Italian, here's a piece by Aldo Busi.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Not an advertisement for Walker's crisps

This is Tim Parks, one of my favourite writers, looking rather like a wiser, crisp-free version of Gary Lineker. You can find out more about him on his own website here. If you'd like to know what I think about him and why he's been an influence on me and on my work, you can click here. And if you'd like to know more about the South Tyrol - believe me, there is a reason for this - you can click here.

That should keep you busy for a little while.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

A regular subscriber

Every fortnight, from June 2010 to June 2011, a copy of the London Review of Books fell onto the stone floor of my house in Italy. It lay there until the person who fed the cats took it upstairs with the rest of the post and left it on an ever-growing pile on the kitchen table. I was in England. I could have changed my address but I had no idea how long I'd be away from home and it seemed an unnecessary fuss. Besides, I liked the notion that my copies were arriving, as they were intended to do, in my own house, as though their presence, in some odd way, represented me, and my normal life, which had been disrupted. I've been subscribing to the LRB since 1997 and, for the first seven years, my parents would give me, as part of my Christmas present, one of the rather solemn dark blue binders the LRB produces to put them in. I can't remember why this practice stopped and, in one way, I'm sad they did. The librarian in me, the part of me that wishes the binders had a space to write the year on the spine, would have liked to see the years add up in such a formal, discreet and ordered way. Since then, back numbers have been allowed to accumulate on the bottom shelf of a bookcase and have now reached the height of a milking stool. Before my stay in England, I would unwrap my copy as soon as it arrived and look through it quickly, to see what might benefit from being read at once and what might wait, and to admire Peter Campbell's cover illustration, one of the principal and most reliable joys of the review. What's extraordinary about Campbell's work is how, despite its almost infinite variety, it's so obviously his; whether the colours are bold, as they are in the one I've chosen here, or tenuous, whether the image is abstract or figurative, his hand is unmistakeable. One of the reasons I think I will find it very hard to throw away old copies, assuming I ever do, will be the loss of these covers, something no online archive can ever replace.

Now, as I work through the backlog in chronological order, a year late more or less to the day, I'm enjoying a sort of double vision of the past twelve, indeed, fifteen months. The actual reviews are pretty much untouched by this. After all, it often seems to take the LRB a year, if not longer, to get round to looking at a book (which means I live in the, albeit fading, hope that, one day, one day soon, Any Human Face will be given a page or two - Jeremy Harding, are you there?) My favourite contributors - Diski, Castle, Kermode, Campbell (again) - don't suffer in the least from being read twelve months late. It's the current affairs pieces that are both here and now, and there and then. There and then because the writers are talking about the future and the predictions that articles of this type routinely and necessarily make can now be checked off against events, and found, reassuringly often, to be spot on. But also here and now, because what they have are insights I didn't have, or don't remember having, that continue to inform and deepen my understanding of the present and beyond. It's worrying, but also perversely comforting, to see how often the direst forecasts have already turned out to be true. (I'm thinking Lib Dems and painting oneself into corners here.) To provide a little balance, of course, there are also several assertions about the future made with an assurance that would silence anyone and yet are so totally off-the-wall as things have turned out that their authors must be writhing with embarrassment and wishing what's written could be erased forever. (I won't go into detail here...) And, of course, there are massive gaps (although I may just not have reached the relevant issue). The imminent collapse of the Euro. The Arab spring. But whether what is written turns out to have been accurate or not, there's a lovely sense of eavesdropping on a conversation you've only just missed - if that were possible - or can't quite join, that illusion of depth that tricks of perspective inevitably provide. What I want to do now is slowly, slowly close the gap between then there and here, between then and now, as the year away is slowly absorbed, and made sense of in ways that not even the LRB can finally help with.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Paris - Delhi - Bombay

We went to see the temporary exhibition at the Beaubourg yesterday. It's called Paris - Delhi - Bombay and contains the work of around 50 artists, divided more or less equally between France and India. It's a fascinating exhibition for many reasons, not the least being that it's small enough to deal with in half a day or less and not feel that the crux of it has been lost. India's relationship with France is very different to its relationship with Britain and it would be interesting to see what kind of tensions a similarly themed show might have if Paris were replaced by London (and, for the sake of correctness, Bombay by Mumbai). Here, the tensions of colonialism and its aftermath, which might have darkened, and enlivened, such a show or, for that matter, one that examined the cross-cultured visions of artists in France and, say, Indo-China, are attenuated to the point of invisibility. The mood of the show can sometimes be respectful to the point of discomfort, particularly so in the work of the French artists. The tone is established by a large piece at the entrance, a flag made of sequins that combines the flags of the two countries and is animated by a fan. It shimmers and twinkles and is altogether a thing of great decorative charm, the last thing one might expect from its creator, Orlan, but it's also an acknowledgement that the kind of equality such a melding represents can only be decorative, and a nod de haut en bas from a culture that doesn't do decoration in the same colourful, glittering way.

This sounds more critical than I intend, because I'm not quite sure exactly what line should have been taken, other than Orlan's, and the show, in one sense, is riddled with doubts about stance and appropriacy. The opening image to this post is of the exhibition's centrepiece, a massive female head by Ravinder Reddy. It's the kind of thing, on a smaller scale, that can be found in Indian villages. This size, it's both Koons-like and not. It's monumental kitsch to us, but that might be because we have no sense of what it might otherwise be if it were small. Kitsch runs through the show in one way or another, with its masters Pierre and Gilles occupying an attractively camp corner with their usual stuff, as though Bollywood were something they'd thought of first (and perhaps it was).

But there's western kitsch, which is necessarily deliberate at this level of high culture, and perceived kitsch, which may not be. Tejal Shah has a series of elaborately set-up photographs designed to express the dream lives of India's transgender community (and here the word may be appropriate), the hijra; one of them (on the left) is entitled You Too Can Touch the Moon; another has a glamorously undressed hijra lying on a sort of raft, being punted along by a young man naked except for a gilded loincloth complete with impressively large prosthetic penis. It's contrasted with the adjoining installation, also by Shah, which depicts a hijra lying bleeding on the ground after having been beaten up and raped by a urinating policeman. What we can't know, finally, is how much the first image itself establishes a sort of fond, but also cynical and knowing, distance between the dream fantasy and some more genuine and complex freedom, as yet unimaginable, in which prostitution and the violence it appears to provoke are no longer the only option. Another example of what must surely be unintentional kitsch, in my eyes at least, is a large piece by Riyas Komu, composed of eleven pairs of footballer's legs supporting a hollow tube bearing the words God is Great in Arabic. Hmm. It's one of those pieces that does what it says on the tin so blatantly that, once looked at, the work comes to an abrupt end. Which is sad, because the legs themselves are rather splendid.

Tejal Shah isn't the only person to worry about sex, and it's interesting to see how Indian artists take advantage of this dialogue with France to talk about who and how we fuck, and what the whole business entails. Like Shah, Kader Attia looks at the fate of transgender people in a bracing and often touching video of three transsexuals, in India, France and Algeria, while Sunil Gupta produces a kind of fotoromanzo, as they say in Italy, of an Indian gay man in Paris, who enjoys the freedom to display his relationship with an older man, while betraying him by night in one of Paris's most popular gay saunas, Sun City, itself a kitsch recreation of India and its iconography. There's a lot going on in this work, but also not very much, as though the freedom of the artist to deal with his issues were as unsatisfactory and superficial as the freedom his protagonist enjoys to both live life openly with an (extremely good-looking) lover and then shag all kinds in an ersatz dark room. But maybe, as we say, I'm projecting here.

Talking about heterosexuality and the social constraints imposed on women - a major theme of the show - one of my favourite works was that by Atul Dodiya, Devi and the Sink (shown here), which uses quotation and montage to talk about women's lives and the ways in which they are represented and conditioned. The neatly reproduced Leger in the top left-hand corner, where the slab of colour applied to the woman's face is both abstract and a sort of blindfold, is a particularly successful correlative to the central figure, whose ability to speak - or express anything other than bewilderment - has been suddenly removed by the no doubt affectionate attentions of her partner. Horns, it should be noticed, are also forbidden. A darker work by the same artist shows a store-front shutter bearing the image of the goddess Mahalakshami, bearer of prosperity, half rolled up to reveal an image of the suicide of three sisters whose parents were too poor to provide them with a dowry. It's not the most subtle work in the exhibition but that's no bad thing when one of the roles of a show like this is didactic, as the rather textbook-like introduction to the catalogue makes plain, and one of its strengths is the way it finds two contrasting, and antipathetic, pictorial languages to make its point: the brightly coloured icon of the god and the neutral, almost crude depiction of the suicide, like something from a Victorian penny-dreadful.

Two of the works that most impressed me were by women and they confirm my feeling that for sheer edginess and emotional discomfort women artists these days are streets ahead of their male counterparts. (Bourgeois and Messeger are obvious examples.) Anita Dube, who lives and works in New Delhi, takes human bones she has 'found' (as the catalogue chillingly states) and covers them in red velvet, sequins, lace and pearls, transforming them into objects that might be necklaces or household ornaments, musical instruments or fans, except that, of course, they aren't. The ability of art to transform and the limits of that ability are being interrogated here, to unnerving effect. Sheela Gowda is also drawn to red. She has made heart-shaped patties from cow-dung (holy shit...), covered them in vermilion, and strung them up to hang like those strings of embroidered elephants or birds you find in charity shops in the west. Another artist, a man this time, to use red is Sunil Gawde, in a piece called Virtually Untouchable - III (see left), composed of garlands of painted razor-blades. Red is the colour of blood, but it's also the colour worn by Hindu women on their wedding days and I wonder if the catalogue's gloss on this work, that its subject is the assassinations of three members of the Gandhi family, is what the work might actually be saying, or whether it might not have more in common with the other two pieces that use vermilion so effectively. One of the best things about a well-curated exhibition, as this certainly is, is the way disparate materials, in this case bones, cow-dung and razor blades, can be united in conversation.

There's much more to be said about this show. The take of some of its contributors on consumerism, for example, with  works like Krishnaraj Chonat's wall of waste computer products, manufactured in the developing world and dumped back there as soon as they're no longer fit for purpose, which reminded me of one of my favourite works, a wall of battered suitcases by the Italian artist, Fabio Mauri, or the more ambiguous and thought-provoking bazaar of stainless steel kitchen goods, an emporium of cooking utensils of the kind used in every Indian home and a gleaming, highly reflective reminder that what counts is not the pot but what it contains, which is often, as we all know, very little. But my favourite comment on recycling is the work shown here, two vertical panels made of recycled waste and reproducing in hallucinatory detail a part of Mumbai called Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia, and also constructed in its entirety of materials no one else has any use for. The work, entitled Think Left, Think Right, Think Low, Think Tight, is an indictment of the living conditions within the slum, the verticality and narrowness creating a sense of oppression, as the catalogue rightly says. But it's also a massively ingenious and detailed monument to the human ingenuity of what it represents and for something that represents life at the lowest economic level imaginable, the kind of life most of us can't even contemplate, it's a work of extraordinary vitality and, even, optimism in the face of endurance, like those African toys, and coffins, so elaborately fashioned from discarded beer and petrol cans. As such, it goes dramatically beyond its creator's intentions, as good art should.

A final thought. Most of the work that impressed and provoked me was made by Indian artists, perhaps because they were telling me something I didn't know, or didn't know I knew, or didn't know I had the right to know. Perhaps if France's relationship with India had been more conflictual, or explicitly compromised by history, the work produced by its artists would have had more bite to it. As it was, the two artists who seemed to me to have dealt most successfully with the challenge the show offered were Stéphane Calais, who preferred to stay at home and use Indian ink to cover large sheets of paper with flowers and abstract designs on the principle that his 'Orientalism was as mutant as flu' and thus required isolation, and Leandro Erlich (interestingly, an Argentine artist who lives and works between his country of origin and Paris, and is thus neither French nor Indian), who has given us an installation of a typical Parisian bedroom (designed, incidentally, by Jacques Grange, who lives in the apartment that once belonged to Colette), through one window of which can be seen filmed images of a street in Bombay. They're fascinating to watch, as of course they would be; they're elsewhere and their otherness is reinforced by the frame of the window, which is both a limit and an aperture. As metaphors go, Erlich's installation, entitled, almost too neatly, Le Regard, is as apposite as they come.