Searching for Symbol

Ma Petite Chambre Rose, Hotel Amour, Paris, 2014

So a Symbolist and a Decadent walk into a bar. The Decadent drew a sketch on the bar napkin for the Symbolist… Don’t know that one? Imagine that. I very much wish I was clever enough to make up the rest of the joke, but even if I was, I’m fairly certain that it wouldn’t be funny.

On my walks throughout Paris, I have spent some time thinking of the conversations they might’ve had at le bar in my mind, much more interesting than debating foreign policy or discussing your television series. The Decadents privileged artifice and ornament and the Symbolists sought not to represent beauty, but to evoke a state of mind, “to depict not the thing, but the effect it produces.” This is, incidentally, in part what is attempted by seesearch: to add value through the exploration of memory and experience – with stories – in order to move beyond a thing or place or idea to, well… the effect it produces.

On my first day here, I had the pleasure of visiting the Musée de l’Orangerie to see Les Nymphéas, fulfilling a childhood dream of gazing at Monet’s waterlilies. I also saw a beautiful exhibition of Émile Bernard, including his Post-impressionism Symbolist work, beginning my pondering of the daily dialogue between our own inner Decadent and Symbolist.


The day brought other French clichés besides Monet: La Tour Eiffel, Maison Ladurée for macarons, tartare de boeuf for lunch, champagne… However, in the midst of everything that is supposed to be beautiful, it is possible that nothing is evoked and there is no effect. This is not to say that it wasn’t a lovely day, but rather that the next, composed of a chance encounter with a friend, watching the rain from the window of ma petite chambre rose, un café by myself, a walk, created a simple canvas stripped of artifice, which often allows one to more clearly see meaning and possibility. This is the beauty of travel and the beauty of this city: you can embrace the ornate, which is often the planned experience, or you can enjoy the simple and unplanned, which often allows you to better feel what underlies.