Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Bramante Staircase, Vatican Museum

Today hello let's going to have a look we're The Bramante Staircase, although it's not actually the actual staircase; the actual Bramante Staircase was built in the early 1500s by Donato Bramante but isn't publicly-accessible whereas the thing that everybody calls the Bramante Staircase (not the real thing) was built in the 1930s by a chap called Giuseppe Momo, no relation, so I suppose technically it should be called the Momo Staircase (real thing), but there's already a museum called the MOMO and it would confuse people.

The not-really Bramante Staircase is in the Vatican Museum, which is where I was. I went there. I was there. I knew about the staircase and decided to photograph it with the Peleng 8mm fisheye lens covered in this post here, because the staircase is a big swirly enclosed thing that lends itself to a fisheye lens.

I'm a man! As a consequence the staircase's enormous symbolic value immediately jumped out at me because it's basically feminine, isn't it? It's a gigantic vagina. I explored its smooth walls; a man and his camera, sucked into the spiralling feminine vortex.

If I was in charge of the Vatican I would fill a bunch of barrels with pig's blood and pour them down the Bramante Staircase so that all of the visitors using the stairs would arrive at the bottom screaming and covered in blood, as if they had been born again. Some of the older tourists would die of heart attacks but that's okay because women are lethal. This post isn't going to be like the others because I'm taking more painkillers than usual.

The Bramante Staircase is duplex - it's essentially a pair of staircases arranged in a double helix, so that people going upstairs don't have to pass by people going downstairs. Catholics probably understand why. I'm not Catholic. Probably something to do with sin.

Unfortunately the uphill staircase is blocked off, so the whole thing is just a big waste of time and money. Giuseppe Momo is probably turning in his grave, but he did get paid (hopefully) and that's what matters. It would not be the only thing in Italy or indeed the world that doesn't work and was created entirely so that money could be transferred from one institution to another.

Kids are like that. Parents have kids purely so they can qualify for a council house, or so they can parade them on Instagram for "likes". The kids themselves are just a means to an end; no-one cares about them. Kids get to have their revenge when they grow up, but by that time their parents are senile old dead people, so instead they take out their rage on their kids, and ultimately the world is just a series of people trying to scratch their itch by taking revenge on blameless victims. And yet humanity continues, and will continue, so on a fundamental level it works.

NB There are other parts of the museum. Not just a staircase. It's quite big. I'm not a huge fan of classical art; the artists were commissioned to illustrate a narrow range of topics, either to impress the plebs or make the clergy feel good about themselves; the context is so distant as to be unknowable to contemporary audiences, with the result that the original meaning of the art is lost; if I approach the relics in a post-modern death of the author sense it still doesn't work because classical art is frustratingly straight.

I learn that the ancient Greeks believed erections were caused by an accumulation of air within the penis, a view challenged by Leonardo Da Vinci, who after dissecting a man who had been hanged came to the conclusion that erections were actually maintained by blood. Surprisingly for something of enormous vital importance the physiology of erections wasn't fully understood until the 1980s.

Entry is €17. There was no queue whatsoever when I arrived. Although the main entrance is signposted for tour groups only, it's the main entrance for everybody. You have to put your bag through a metal detector. When I was there the ticket counters didn't accept cards, so just in case I advise bringing some old-fashioned physical currency. There is at least one small cafe. I had a coffee, which was unexceptional, shown here with a spoon because I crave a measure of control over my life:

I have no sentimental illusions about Italy. The country has been gouging tourists for literally thousands of years. I imagine the modern Italians are irritated that so many people come to see the rubble of their past, as if modern Italy had nothing to offer; except of course it does have a lot to offer, e.g. pizza, nice scenery. The Vatican Museum(s) has(ve) an assembly line please-move-along quality. I found myself sandwiched between several tour groups, unable to break out of the trap, but isn't that true of life in general? We're boxed in by strangers in an unfamiliar environment, unable to break out.

I think I've finally calmed down. The museum has some contemporary works, linked by the theme of Christianity, although sadly Jeff Koons' Michael Jackson and Bubbles was absent. Because he is a modern Christ. The Jackson family gave him to the world, but smashed his sword before they threw him into the arena, and we watched him die.