Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Society of The Spectacle

Cash in the Attic, Cash Cowboys, Porn Stars, Auction Kings, American Pickers, Dickinson's Real Deal, and of course the original Antiques Roadshow; all TV programs that have come to dominate daytime TV scheduling in the UK over very short period of time, about the same time it has taken for Cash Converters and it's myriad of variants to take over the High Street. They all share something in common, they are turning everything in to money, but there is one show I notice that does it without any effort at all. Wheeler Dealers, the show that does up cars, with cheeky chappy Mike Brewer on the road and the enthusiast (he's not mentioned on the homepage- he really isn't) in the workshop, details all costs but those of labour. Labour, production, craft, expertise, effort, pain, risk, balls, all of those qualities you need to produce anything of value, dissolve in a cloud of celebrity, and the labour is made invisible.
Amazing, couldn't make it up- I'm sure many of us would like to think labour costs might disappear, since everything else seems as cheap as chips, but it seems that on television, it happens magically, simply because it is deemed that just being on television is the replacement reward (renumerated appropriately of course, but crucially invisibly) being on TV has surplanted the value of doing the thing itself, the Spectacle has indeed taken over. Guy Debord should have waited a bit longer before topping himself so he could watch himself come true on television in the afternoons. The Society of the Spectacle, it's right here on Wheeler Dealers!
If labour had really disappeared I'd have a shit kitchen that looked good on TV, but when I look at it now what I see is the reality behind those lovely finishes; pain, sweat and swearing.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Conservatives and Sex

As far as I can see from Newsnight yesterday evening conservative mums are worried about their kids seeing porn and that means that when I buy a new computer I might have to register a particular interest in the colour pink with the authorities, and thereby go 'on the list'. Sentient adults should be worried about everything regarding this opinion.
For those conservative mums perhaps porn is to be banished entirely in utopia or at least be definitively hidden, a literally closetted affair. For nearly every young adolescent boy of my generation, this was, after all, where you found it, hidden within the business wallet of the fathers wardrobe. On the contrary the respectable side of sex was evidenced in an ominous and ghastly book called 'Ideal Marriage' perched up on the bookshelves. It was not a good read, and clearly it didn't do much for daddy either, hence the stash.
Porn becomes a problem when you make it a problem, it's definition is even deeply problematic. We sexualize children for profit, but we don't seem to like the consequences. Dealing with the consequences would mean making it clear that fucking up the arse (for there lurks the terror!) as a teen is a thoroughly bad medical idea, but surely it is medical professionals who should be saying that, not the churchwarden, and the medical professionals were not in evidence on Newsnight. The hapless BBC hamsters are clearly not prepared to discuss the issue at all.
Personally, I cannot guarantee that anal sex is problematic at all. I've met plenty of girls who say they like it, and I'm not even dallying in the gay side of things. We should enjoy the incredible advances we have made in sexual consciousness (and it has taken one hell of a long time) that has at least consigned 'Ideal Marriage' to the bin, while not exactly condoning it's replacement in 'Mommies Got Tits 3'. And EVEN when Slavoj Zizek sweetly maintains he can't believe any girl likes it, I would have to contradict him with the knowledge that I couldn't be so sure myself, not with that particular memory of the vodka bottle incident anyway, the one where I still remember her purring in my ear 'And now you know what I like, what would you like me to do to you!'
As a consequence I am incredibly re-assured that young people seem to know a lot more about sex than I did when I was reduced to ferreting in dad's wardrobe. They glean knowledge from it's ubiquity around them, and whilst that can't always be a pleasant experience, what with stumbling into dodgy characters in bedrooms in computer games and so on, they develop non the less.  Further, it seems embedded in their consciousness as far as I can see, that they have individual rights and feelings, since they bore us all to death with such things at every opportunity. Such an emphasis on feelings seems a rather primitive version of a self regulating market economy, which I thought conservatives enjoyed in the first place.

The Dirt: A Real Classic

I just picked this off the shelves, a book to be handled with caution, a lesson, something like The Bible, but somehow inverted, full of verses to learn from, but in a really perverted way. I used to come home to find Scott engrossed in this on his lunch break between attempting ply panneling. He would acknowledge that 'The Dirt' is a truly great book, but in it's fabulous summit, a monument to collossal, and I mean collossal, error, it becomes a totally obligatory lesson, like some sacred text. I've had distinguished editors shouting 'Read this book!' as they commissioned me. It's just a shame that no matter how many mint copies I buy for said library from E-Bay, the pages always fall out. It's like the book self destructs just like the characters themselves. I'll have to keep buying it forever, even when I've bought a 'hardback' with proper binding, it's turned out not to be, pushed by some numpty in South Shields for his next hit of smack. But it is absolutely brilliant nontheless, and ANYBODY who has the faintest bit of interest in modern culture should read it. There are bits which are so ridiculous, the satanic bits especially, which have you rolling on the floor, but most of it is just a jaw dropping story of four fuckwits with hearts of gold, who made a couple of great records (Dr Feelgood, Girls Girls Girls at least) and got monumentally fucked up in the process. It has elements of Scott Fitzgerald meeting Confucious, if Confucious were a fourteen year old high on chicken nuggets and tamazepam.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Architecture and Film

There's a lot of crap about the relationship of architecture and film, mostly because students like films. I note that now I am old I don't go to the cinema, I get what I'm served up by Sky. I note that when I did enjoy going to the movies, it was for other reasons than just watching the film, largely youthful reasons at that. Now, standing there in the shower soaping my grey beard, I can't figure how film can have any relation to architecture whatsoever, since serving up crap for morons is not by enlarge an architects objective. Or is it. With film, the economic imperative always assures that each period at least gets what it deserves, so there may be equivalence there. Also it's hard to compare whole teams of creative people not knowing what they are doing in Hollywood with teams of beavering architects wherever. Or can you.
However I did spend a considerable amount of time and energy, years and money, studying precisely the relationship of architecture to film. I remember instructing people from the interior of the London Cheers Bar (now closed) on the essentials of theming, and it all seemed terribly exciting. You'd say bogus things like 'This is not a menu, this is a film script!' as if it were true. Building as stage set I could easily understand, and I loved LA for looking and feeling like it did and Las Vegas for looking and feeling like it did because they were both thoroughly about architecture and film, as long as you didn't start talking about camera angles. It had nothing to do with camera angles.
Above is The Body Shop, a strip club on Sunset Boulevard opposite the Chateaux Marmont. During the day it looks like a body shop (garage). That's what I loved about it, that and the fact that it is mentioned by the Motley Crue in 'Girls Girls Girls'. That, in a nutshell, is the meaning of the relation between architecture and film, or in this case, hair metal, and it doesn't take a lot to work it out, and to reason that I was very quick to go in and take a look around, feel the ambiance etc. But please note, even if it is raining in this photograph, that is not a profound reference to LA Noir detective stories or Columbo's omnipresent mac or even a sideways feeling for Jim Morrison's lovely line in LA Woman 'Are you a lucky little lady in the City of Light, or just another lost angel.....City of Night?' It was just raining.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Mies Day-Bed Slight Return

The long radiator in our living room has turned the colour of a WW2 Lancaster night flyer, a deep green/black. The correlation is accidental but fortuitous. If I've wanted that colour I'd never have got it, such is the duplicity of colour charts. I thought I was getting Luftewaffe grey. Next to it will lie the Mies day-bed, which arrived on Friday, but without legs. The lack of legs, the Lancaster green, could drive you mad, but could make you smile. For instance I'm now wondering if I could customize Mies's legs, make the thing ride a bit higher so to speak. I must be in a very good mood.
The Mies day bed is my favourite representation of Mies's perhaps rhetorical, perhaps practical, quest for nothing. There's not much you can do on the day bed but stare at the ceiling. No wonder the Americans thought the Farnsworth house 'un-American' (but of course, being ingenious, found a way to perfectly co-opt Mies's giant nothing into huge city centre blank canvasses for smart looking commercial enterprise). You can't imagine your average American on the day bed for very long, but on the other hand you can easily imagine meditative taciturn Berliners hardly getting off it. We of course, are presently only enjoying it sideways up.
Mies craved solitude, silence, in short, another world. I do too, but I'm a lot less good at it. The Mies bed will train me, as he said himself, and it will, probably in the process, make me wonder at it's inferior construction too, but so be it. Nomatter what, the quest for nothing remains a utopian ideal, but not a bad one.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Exam Time

Exam time comes around again, and only the very sanguine survive as everybody in the architectural education business runs around from school to school bashing each other over the head. By the end of it you feel like one of those beaten centurions in the Asterix cartoons, collapsed against a wall, tongue hanging out, and seeing stars. The beatings can be ferocious, but they are always apparently for your own good.
I would usually have to assume the position, quite correctly I have to say, to a chorus in big letters shouting 'WHAT ARE ALL THESE CARTOONS!!!' However people get upset about all sorts of stuff 'WHERE'S THE CONTEXT!!!' or 'STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION!!!!!!!!!' BASH!! BIFFF! BOP!!!**? and there's never any magic potion left.
Asterix in Architecture School- I fear it will forever be so.  

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Slavoj Zizek

Read this especially funny piece on Zizek:

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Olympic Opening Ceremony 2012

I can't feel I feel sorry for Danny Boyle, but I do feel distinctly queasy for him. As somebody who worked on the designs for the content of the Millennium Dome (with Tim Pyne at WORK) who witnessed at first hand the peculiar thinking and meddlesome nonsense of the political superstructure and it's grandiose incompetence, I could only wobble with a very disconcerting sense of deja vu
as I walked down the street mulling it over. The predominant theme resounding through my head was that they had forgotten the cardinal rule; keep it simple and keep your nerve.
They seem to have forgotten that a performance is just a performance, and have tried to turn it into architecture, and in this case something even worse, the landscape, the 'soil', itself. This is certainly something that smacks of conservative government with ideas straight out of the toy farmyard, and so laden with latent subtexts as to keep the semioticians hooting with laughter for generations.
Of course the olympic opening ceremony is propaganda, but you can do it in a cool way, such as the Los Angelenos did, on the cheap with a man in a jet pack in 1984 (and making architect Jon Jerde's name) or you can do old fashioned triumphalism, even digitally enhanced triumphalism, as in Bejing, if you really have to. But getting all Mrs Miniva with all this under the old oak tree nonsense, and SHEEP and COWS (they won't like it) and Glastonbury fucking Tor! it really is just too pitiful to imagine.
To keep it simple of course, you just put some bands on and get the locals to wave flags and smile.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Louis Theroux on Porn

There is something of the vicar up the Zambezi about Louis Theroux traipsing across the San Fernando Valley documenting the crisis in porn. Because if he'd made conversation such as 'Well I really liked This Is A Big Butt Stick Up but rather think  Pull My Hair and F**k Me Till I  Scream was....' the whole thing would be less unfortunate, it would at least show he's dipped his toe in the water (so to speak) and he'd come over a whole lot less unfortunately voyeuristic on the business of voyeurism. AA Gill, for instance, does it much better in When DD met AA in the book AA Gill is Away.
It would also be much better if Theroux (or the BBC and the whole bunch of hamsters who produced this lamentable program) were prepared to see the crisis in porn in SFV as the equivalent of say, the crisis in shipbuilding on the Clyde, just one for our speeded up consumer driven technological times. To hear porn folks lamenting the good old days way back in 2005 and the sudden demise of the professional porn actor was interesting not because they do porn for a living, but because it was apparently GREAT only seven years ago, and because a whole industry is now going to the dogs.
It is a typical example of supply, demand, and means of delivery. Marx would have had an easy time with it.
The product, jacking off, would seem to be fairly invariable over the centuries, with various scruples getting in the way of course, but the same none the less. If you make all the worlds invariable material for jacking off suddenly free and have the technology to recycle the shit interminably you don't need any more of it except in the case of supplying very particular emerging markets. Hence if you have a fetish for shoving your iphone up your ass, no doubt this will soon be available, but it is niche.
Historians are going to have a fine time going over our speeded up times. It used to be you could describe a decade with difficulty, now you'll have to get forensic over six monthly intervals. Not good. The middle ages will be back in no time.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Hackney Wick

The third year asked me to write something for the end of year show newspaper. It'll probably get adapted, so I'll post the original here:

'Hackney Wick stinks, it really does. On the last few weekends Julie and I have clambered off the No388 into it’s dystopian concoction of leftover hazard and contemporary apartment tower, spotted with bungaloid vagaries (could be a primary school, could be an old people’s home, could be an abandoned community centre) you can taste it in the back of your mouth. And each time as we orientated ourselves towards Adrian’s studio, his third around Dace Road within two years, we were at once perilously up and down the slip road of a motorway, way over a canal, hopping over puddles of wretched spray from an industrial waste facility and screamed past by Maseratis. And when we left Fish Island via the perilous pedestrian bridge, we were each time relieved, so to speak, to be back on dry land.
And in the distance lay the Olympic park, in all it’s stunning mediocrity (I mean that as an emotional rather than strictly critical response, because that’s what IT LOOKS LIKE TO ME) and in front of us would stand Adrian, a skilled picture framer, who had been forced to move there as if to some art ghetto, but was plagued first by a nascent rock band next door, then freezing temperatures, then condensation on his overhead pipes.
All of this, including the vicious physical topography, provides an incredibly challenging site for the imposition of any kind of architectural order. From the proximity of the vast and bogus Olympian regeneration project; it’s conspicuous triumphal portal that is that orgy of shopping, to the woeful peculiarity of something to be called a media village (which one can only imagine as a city of media types, and just how awful that might be) to the lives of the young artists of Dace Road, reminding me of my own twenties with a studio in Metropolitan Wharf, Wapping, now barely recognisable except in physical form, a transformation from habitat of the newly liberated who cared not a jot for bathrooms even, to the newly minted who need four or five at the same time, provided a bewildering arena of opportunity, and bombarded young architectural minds with a huge range of  intangibilities and possible catastrophic errors, all of which go to make up the landscape our culture deserves.
The Olympics itself represents one of those chimerical cash cows that have seen sport transform to a gigantic pseudo spectacle, a ‘pop up’ Olympics, the ‘once in a lifetime experience’ that now occurs on an almost weekly basis, with one pageant or another satiating our flagging attention spans and filling our waistlines full of junk, where the rhetoric of Goebbels meets the imperative of modern business. But I have read too many tedious dissertations on the failure of Olympic regeneration (I think here especially, tragically and emblematically, of Greece) that I expect a child of six to understand what happens when totally contrived national fervour triumphs over rational thinking. 
To digest all this disarray will take along time. Student projects are temporal, they occupy a particular time and space, conditioned by a phrase such as ‘Well I did this when I was twenty two!’ or ‘This was my final project!’ but always, since the intelligence is there (just later forgotten) it will be worth each student looking back on these projects, and finding more to them as they get older. Projects don’t really go away, unlike the sick (and I mean sick) reality of a world of pop ups, they stay with you, even if they are about pop ups.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Craig Ellwood

So I'm literally sitting watching paint dry, along with the leopard skin stair carpet, which has become a very damp snow leopard. The smell of newly finished 'work on the flat'. I'm pleased I bought a fresh vinyl copy of 'Gaucho' to celebrate, and I have a glass of wine, and it feels bloody good. I've got a good feel for colour I can tell myself, even if it's a little eighties in my darkest moments. If fact, just like my students, I feel I should pass my exams. There's even a life size 'Change Girl' screen print from Reno c1965 which will be the pantry door tomorrow. Wow!
And, the AR likes my 'Reputations' piece on Craig Ellwood which you can all read next month, and the AR pays, there's satisfaction there. Hopefully next they'll allow me to do Albert Speer.
Ellwood was very cool, his instinct for Miesian purity extending to an extraordinary ability to live life for pleasures as he saw them. Some seek the solitary, contemplative, life on the day bed, but Ellwood was the opposite, you'd find him canoodling with the secretary on his. His exquisite CSH16 (1953) has a fridge for the cocktail glasses. Craig Ellwood, a rare beauty.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


After three days of shit, we should REFLECT on the unbelievable capacity of the establishment, courtiers, endless communications officers past and present, various landed politicians and the above all the church, for monstrous and meaningless hyperbole with regard to a little old lady. And further to that we should REFLECT on the mindless propensity of the spoon fed British public to string along with a silly idea simply because thats what happened when they were children, and they want their children to be just like them, presumably ad nauseum and in this house, to the point of nausea. If education worked like that nobody would have any.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Grace Jones

The 'ting' at the beginning of 'Slave to the Rhythm' is one of those moments in rock n' roll you really wait for, save yourself for, and treat yourself to. It tests your Hi Fi (I'm thankful for Giles Smith in Lost in Music for bringing this to my attention). I've sat through a whole Grace Jones gig just for 'Slave to the Rhythm' and it was worth it, and I went bonkers when I heard that opening 'ting'. 'Slave to the Rhythm' is such a great track Grace Jones made a hopeless and infuriating whole album leading up it it, but I never cared. 'Slave to the Rhythm' is one of the greatest records ever recorded thanks to Trevor Horn.
So there she was hulla hooping through the whole thing for the Queen and on the other side of sixty at least and it was totally fabulous. The band smiled for the first time.
The whole Queen thing is rubbish and such rubbish you can hardly walk the streets or look at the television for the idiocy flashed at you minute by minute. Never have so many idiots had so much to say about something so, well, ineffable, meaningless and daft. State sponsored jubilation; never have comedians been so unfunny, never has Paul McCartney looked so peculiar, and never has Elton John sounded so awful. And never have so many republicans been so depressed for days on end, since I guess we are paying for it all. So, thank god Grace Jones had no idea what she was doing, concentrating on the hulla hooping and balancing her hat, and that Madness, no doubt by accident, provided much needed humour by projecting Robin Hood Gardens on Buckingham Palace. At least whoever had that idea can pat themselves on the back this morning, rather than looking ruefully in the mirror with self loathing.