A few weeks ago I happened into the office of Aslı Beslek who is the number one medically qualified, English speaking, complimentary health doctor in the Muğla region of Turkey.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered behind her desk a large, stark, monochrome photograph of Manhattan. Everything else in her office pointed to her practice as an acupuncturist, and an allergist, as well as some more conventional medical disciplines.
I discovered that Dr. Aslı had inherited the Manhattan photograph with the office and had just never bothered to change it. Why was it obvious to me, then, that the image was completely wrong for her sensitive personality or, indeed, her medical practice?
According to the ancient art of Feng Shui there are some fundamentals about setting out your office. For example it’s not a good idea to sit with your back to a door, perhaps because you are in danger of sitting in a draught, but more likely because it’s harder for someone to enter and ambush you.
Another significant idea is that it’s a good idea to be supported by a mountain. This is really military logic. With a mountain behind you once again it’s difficult for someone to come up upon you unexpectedly. This provides you with a sense of security enabling you to relax and recuperate between engagements. It also keeps you committed because its easier to fight down a hill than run away up a mountain.
These are fanciful considerations based upon the idea we evolved from nomadic people who had developed instinctive patterns in order to adapt and survive in hostile terrain. It seems illogical that some of these distinctions may be hard-wired into the parts of our brains that give rise to involuntary behaviours.
There is an ancient Taoist story about a rainmaker. She was once called to a village after over three years of drought. Animals had died, crops failed; men, women and children starved. On arrival the woman asked to be allowed to rest in the seclusion of a hut. She remained there for three days. People began to worry about her, but on the third day it rained and she emerged.
When asked how she achieved this she said it was not her but Tao. When she arrived she was not in harmony with Tao and so experienced separation. After three days of rest she recognised once more that she and Tao were one. As a consequence the clouds burst and the rain, so long separated from the villagers, fell in abundance.
I feel, somewhat, like the rainmaker when thinking about photography and healing.
Today it’s not always possible to locate your office in such a way that there’s a mountain behind you. One remedy is to install an image.
You could argue that the Manhattan skyline, with all its towers, is the contemporary equivalent of a mountain. It’s man-made to be sure, but it is high rise, isn’t it? Indeed the New York Observer describes it thus: “Like a great mountain range, the city is arrayed around the twin peaks of Downtown and Midtown.
I can’t really argue with their conclusion BUT although the bedrock for New York is good to support skyscrapers the area was originally swamp, which is a very different metaphor from that of a mountainscape. Maybe this is why, whilst some make their fortune in the city, a large proportion simply get bogged down and lost?
For a sensitive soul, such as Dr. Aslı , the Manhattan skyline is at odds with her practice, especially when placed so prominently behind her. Indeed I can think of nothing worse than a photograph of an area full of confusion, crime, and complexity, as the backdrop to a therapist’s desk.
So I replaced the picture with this one. It’s a more local mountain near Dereözü, and one that I’ve exhibited before. A small version is located as part of a collection at the Turunç School, but the new version made for Dr. Aslı measures 100 cms x 140 cms. It looks great – I hope it will support her, and who knows if it works maybe we can try her with something just a little more dramatic?