Extreme Europe by Stephen Barber

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 parts as websites of a clash among the enthralling, all-engulfing energy of visible media and the hardly surviving lines of tenacious historic tradition; his premise is that the "breakdown zones" at Europe's city edges are the websites the place its oppositional and most crucial pictures 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 flow, first, via a number of a long time of historical past as they are often learn in either the surviving and the remodeled materials of Berlin, and, ultimately, in the course of the frayed, disaffected multicultural landscapes of Paris's outer suburbs.

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Berlin is an extreme in time, and every media voice that approached that temporal precipice was stridently demanding a moment of purification in which the atrocious historical entity of twentieth-century Europe would be expunged forever. This entity’s great malediction – whose source, throughout the century, had been Berlin – would be removed. But out at the other side, at the start of the 21st century, Berlin’s disquieting presence proved to be intensified, its human content erased, its visual-media power consolidated.

For several successive nights, in the summer darkness, great crowds gathered to sit in front of the building on expanses of grass that would be supplanted by building sites by the century’s end. This population of spectators created its own cacophonic soundtrack to the existence of Berlin as they gazed in awe at the spectacle of nothing. The darkness transformed vision into individual intersecting trajectories of imagery and memory, and from that void surface, images from the past, present and future of Berlin were incessantly generated in a revelation of the city.

To the scanning eye, the southern extremes of Europe melt into space: they shift and appear porous. While the northern cities are unremittingly evident – their presence ground by atrocity into the very earth – the southern ones wheel into and then fade from sight: they operate within the realm of peripheral vision, their essential substance compounded from figments and mirages, placed just outside the range of vision. I took one last ferry ride to try to pin down the edge of southern Europe, through the act of standing on its southernmost point: the island of Krissi, off the coast of southern Crete.

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