We’ve all had that moment of panic, and despair, as the screen on our computer suddenly goes blue. Marooned. Computer hell. And pretty common. The geeks have an acronym for this condition – BSOD – the Blue Screen Of Death. It might look like this:
When this blueness shows up, your situation is suddenly very problematic. You are in big trouble, at least for the moment.
In the world of buildings and cities, there is an equivalent blueness. This blue signals catastrophe, abandonment, change and transition, temporality. The blue tarp.
After Hurricane Frances, Florida.
I got to thinking about this the other day as I was looking for something in my now gigantic image files, collected over the last year of blogging here. I found that somehow I had dozens of images of blue tarps – in slums, after disasters, during storms, during periods of change and transition.
And I realized that the blue tarp has become an international symbol. On Google Image, 121,000 pictures. On flickr, 2,880 images. They are from every corner of the earth, and a few show funny blue tarp uses (a dress, a blanket, a purse, a camping shelter). But mostly they show misery.
After a tornado in Georgia.
A Louisiana Christmas display, after Katrina.
Slum housing in India.
A dwelling, in Vietnam.
Dharavi, a slum in Mumbai.
Acqua alta, in Venice.
Blue screens. Blue tarps. Kind of gives me the blues.
All of which reminded of a quote by Ralph Ellison: “The blues is an art of ambiguity, an assertion of the irrepressibly human over all circumstances.”