By Stephen Barber
Extreme Europe explores the city extremes of Europe of their cultural, actual, geographical and legendary dimensions, contemplating the background and visible tradition of Europe within the decade after the autumn of the Berlin Wall. Barber's objective is to ascertain Europe's towns and their surrounding components as websites of a clash among the enthralling, all-engulfing energy of visible media and the hardly surviving lines of tenacious old tradition; his premise is that the "breakdown zones" at Europe's city edges are the websites the place its oppositional and most crucial photographs and languages are being created today.
Barber units out to discover and outline Europe's political and conceptual edges, first creating a circuit eastwards via Albania to Turkey, then south- and westwards alongside the Mediterranean coast, with stops in Crete and Marseille. The book's different sections movement, first, via a number of a long time of historical past as they are often learn in either the surviving and the reworked materials of Berlin, and, eventually, during the frayed, disaffected multicultural landscapes of Paris's outer suburbs.
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In its brief existence, in fact, Berlin had literally disappeared once before, crushed to ashes, its human figures decimated or hidden, as film and photographs shot by the Soviet forces in the first week of May 1945 demonstrate with acute power. During the following decades, the regimes on either side of the division of Berlin had implemented an enforced screening-away of the other side, literally cancelling its existence on their mappings of the city, each using intricate strategies to impede the path of any aberrant vision on the part of its inhabitants.
At night, the far side of the station extends the crooked line of prostitution emanating from the Charlottenburg boulevards, with each desperate boy waiting for a cruising car to transport him to the demolition sites nearby. The exclamations gutturally crushed or spat out from these encounters possess the cadence of voices from the eastern edges of Europe, and the gutters glitter at night with the debris from shattered bottles of sweet red Crimean wine. From Zoo station, crossing western Berlin, the atmosphere abruptly quietens, homogenizing into a silent swathe of apartment complexes constructed in the 1960s which emit only the slightest of pulses: an elderly widow out walking a dog, a scattering of children in a play area.
Every story of its origins is finally as bogus as it is intricate – a sequence of delusional fabrications about how a contested entity established its authority – but any such story of sensorial impact is worth more than a multiplicity of void images. Waiting by the roadside at Gortyn, in the evening heat of a cicada cacophony, for the bus back to the northern coast, I wondered about the likelihood of its actually stopping for me. All around, lost within the dense overgrowth, the ruins of the vast, annulled Roman city of Gortyn, whose power had once encompassed all of the territories of northern Africa, lay hidden from view.
Extreme Europe by Stephen Barber