Odessa steps

This seaside gateway to the city of Odessa has been known by a series of names, including the Boulevard steps (situated as they are at the end of a grand boulevard), the Giant Staircase (they are, after all, big), and the Richelieu steps (after the first governor of the city, an expatriate Frenchman whose sculpted likeness stands at the top of the steps). They have also been called the Primorsky (or “Seaside”) Steps, which, since Ukrainian independence, stands again as their official name.

Under the Soviets, the steps were renamed the Potemkin Steps to honor the revolutionaries of the 1905 uprising commemorated by Eisenstein in the film Battleship Potemkin (which also served as source material for filecast 55270 suddenly). The famous scene of massacre on the Potemkin Steps from this film is likely a fictionalization, one that is representative of a series of killings that took place in various parts of Odessa during the uprising.

The steps themselves consist of a series of ten flights of twenty steps each, the flights separated by landings. The architect designed the steps as an optical illusion: from the top, one can see only landings, while from the bottom, one sees only steps. The wikipedia article contains many more fascinating details, and I won’t reiterate them all here.

Like an optical illusion, my perception of the steps is likewise refracted by the various cultural meanings associated with them. Historically, they symbolize an important event in history, as mentioned above. Artistically, they lie in the afterglow of their graphic and symbolic importance in the making of a renowned work of art. Steps themselves are imbued with symbolic qualities, such as rising and falling, progress and its opposite, or even heaven and hell.

Functionally, steps are conceived as a way of easing motion in space thru discrete, evenly spaced, small, predictable and ordered stages, much like the frames of a film create the optical illusion of movement thru sequential still photography at a fixed rate. The cinema makes time plastic; then we can splay it and get a different sense of the sense that it makes.