Here is a game. Take a moment and find a plain window and sit in front of it. Angle yourself so you can see your reflection in the glass. Then play, cycling through the different focuses of your eye, looking through the window, looking at your reflection in the window and finally look at the actual glass of the window itself. The best time to look at a window is in the morning is generally in the morning when the outside light from the sunrise is comes through soft and bright. This light illuminates the generally only semi visible residue which collects on the glass of windows, making the markings white and distinct.
Plainly put, a window is an opening in a structure which allows light to pass through. A window is looked through and its value comes from what it reveals on the outside. Any obstructions to this view would diminish the quality of the view on the other side and in turn the windows value. Which is why many people feel the need to clean their windows to a such a degree as to endanger the lives of birds or family members. But wiping a window clean is to completely erase a standing record of existence which gathers on the window.
The easiest and best windows to look at are the active but unattended. Windows which are used enough and are present to the movement of the surrounding environment. The window in my bedroom is perfect (see fig. 1) for it and yours may be as well, but don’t limit yourself to the home. Busses or street cars or storefront windows on busy streets are also quite ideal. Windows show the build up of existing in a space, a document of interactions between the glass and the world around it. My window is layered with evidence of being alive. The purposeful and heavy drawings of a passerby on the outside, strong curls made in as communication or perhaps boredom. This scrawl cuts through layers of dirt, rain and snow blown by the wind as well as mud and slush splashed from neighbours ascending the stairs. Even though the finger erases it in turns leaves its own new smudge of oil.
The two lower windows have a dichotomy of dynamic, as the one on the right opens, and stoic as the left does not. The window on the left is a calm solid field of dust and dirt. Occasionally disturbed by a brief smudge from an errant limb. The window on the right is chaos. A network of fingers and hands cuts through as well as overlays the even layer of filth. Looking at the crud and much you can see that you were there, along with counter others all moving together in time with the elements. Looking at the window itself is to ignore the beauty that can be made and instead acknowledge the humanity which we leave behind.
Johnston, Philip. “Window” Personal Collection. February 9, 2017
Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. Viking Press, 1973.