Wednesday, 19 September 2012

La Tourette

The TGV doesn't half shift, the electricity pylons look weird and in next to no warp speed you're staring at the most peculiar of television movies in the disabled suite of your Lyon Part Dieu (disastrous new business district) hotel room. When you sit on the toilet your feet don't touch the rubber, and on a TV screen the size of the Rokeby Venus there's a man fucking his sister - but no! He's a surgeon who's created her from a him in revenge! It's porn meets Dr Who -the next night will have Sean Penn playing a character disturbingly reminiscent of Robert Smith of the Cure- equally peculiar. They didn't tell us this on Wikitravel, but you can rely on CANAL + for appropriate contemporary post human programming before you make the suburban, once every two hour, trip to L'Arbresle, and then climb (for there won't be any taxi's for sure) the pilgrim's way to the most venerable of ancient modern architectures, Le Corbusier's monestary Couvent de La Tourette for some peace and quiet.
Julie wanted to leave within the hour. I heard her sobs from my adjoining cell. Indeed, those used to post human entertainments get a shock. While your mobile phone will function, La Tourette is both fridge, ship, echo chamber, and the set of the Flintstones. It is architecture unplugged, stripped, raw and unpleasant, but after a day or two you do wake up feeling like Achilles (read The Iliad).
Partly this is because you sleep sunset to sunrise, especially when the lights in your cell don't work (as they didn't for us) and there is nothing to look at, apart from trees. When you sleep you are dreaming of everything you ever did that was somehow catastrophically more active. It gives you a new perspective on your waking hours, where you embrace each flower as a new friend. Since you can 'make your room' in about ten seconds, and aren't supposed to talk, eat or drink in it either, that's what happens.
I dreamt, very aptly, that the university had turned in to a shopping mall.
I love La Tourette but I can't stand La Tourette bores, those architects who say you have to stay there a week to appreciate the rhythm, those who say the food is all local, those who go on about the amazing space. Bollocks. La Tourette is a very efficient machine and the cornflakes are from Carrefour, but it is an aesthetic masterpiece on a par, maybe better, than Physical Graffiti, the album you have to have but can hardly listen to. It is the piece de resistance, it is upside down, it is poised on a ridiculous slope, it has a church which downright admits that religion is all smoke and mirrors, it features large amounts of totally unfeasibly thin concrete window mullions and sticks the glass straight into them, it has never heard of insulation of any kind, it is a health and safety disaster, it says fuck you, it says THIS IS IT!
It says stuff Elle Decoration up your arse.
Unfortunately silence is nowadays as addictive as anything else. Today monks struggle with the conscience of having Mac computers and making layered moving image multi disciplinary artworks. I wonder things aren't quite the same as they used to be. Julie and I are, for instance, now consuming this silence. Soon they'll be hosting yoga classes and wellbeing symposia if they are not careful (see picture above for appropriate sunset).
You should take a guide book, but nothing not written by Le Corbusier himself. He published the Poem de l'Angle Doit in 1955. I sat at my desk and read it and read it again and again. I even tried to understand the pictures (not much else to do before wondering what it would be like to fuck the American girl on the last tour in the short shorts with the frizzy hair - a thought I tried to banish but that seemed highly resilient).
La Tourette is, at it's core, something we are all busy ironing out. Le Corbusier would probably have approved of my thoughts with regard to the American. The poem is raunchy as all hell (this concrete shelter is real) and talks in the most elemental terms about what we should do, at least what we should respect and how difficult it is, and how you have to stand on the shore in the morning and stare at the horizon braced for the day, bristling against attack on our rationality, otherwise you're dead (horizontal). That is the poem of the right angle, and that is why those right angles are juxtaposed with that ridiculous slope, and that's why some of those supports lean in a cute way, like the struts supporting Achilles' sleek black ships, dragged up on the shore before battle.

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