Caspar David Friedrich, Greifswald in Moonlight, c. 1817
While Greifswald sounds like a place in Germany (Google confirms this), the seemingly sand-swept panorama (probably just the effect of brushstrokes) and the illuminated Babel-esque tower in the distance together exude a Middle Eastern gothic vibe — a time-lost but dangerous mysticism that is reminiscent of the Prince of Persia franchise (/geekmode on). Then again, I’m probably appealing to (and reinforcing) the collective Western fantasy of hypertradition and Orientalism.
This is a strangely alluring work of art, nonetheless. There is something about representations of hidden/liminal space that intrigues me. After all, do aesthetic representations of secret places demystify the spaces themselves by presenting them to us, the readers? To represent is to make present in an observable medium — does presence necessitate knowledge?
Or do these representations simply re-present these hidden spaces as how one would present another with an archaic puzzle box? There is a difference here between knowing that A exists and knowing A: we may know that a box exists without knowing what is in that box. One concerns knowledge of brute existence/presence, the other takes into account knowledge of constitution.
In the case of art that depicts uncanny spaces, the art seems to consist not so much in its haunting aesthetics, but in the seductive epistemic chasm between what is seen (presence) and what is (constitution). In fact, the merit of all art appears to be premised on this interstitial void, which can only be bridged (albeit transiently) by nothing other than the reader’s exercise in back-alley divination and tea-leaf hermeneutics, otherwise known as the act of interpretation.