'Why Mies van de Rohe?' chirped up a student at the end of the research seminar where I had paraded my now infernal paper last week, the paper which has me morose, the paper which has me lying in bed wondering whether phrases like 'Mies would have considered Mondrian's transcendentalism nuts' are, whilst tritely amusing (given Mondrian's diet of carrots, and the Bauhaus's garlic mush) academically correct, and generally biting me on the ass.
It was a good question and I muttered an unfortunately post modern answer along the lines of you love it and hate it at the same time, which is the sort of answer, as is the point often with post modernism, that gets you nowhere. The real answer should have been something like this.
In times of appalling tawdriness a bit of taciturn straight thinking is a very welcome thing. Last night I heard a selection of artists talk on the subject of a fairly lame sixties pop artist and the even lamer work they had made in response. It was clear that these artists would have learnt far more if they'd made tributes to Piero della Franscesca for all the good it did them, for the work simply compounded some notion of lameness, no idea at all, and it wasn't even fun anymore. It made you wonder what on earth their motivation could be for doing it, or even for their getting up in the morning. This, I would posit, this is now the general condition for the western world.
What makes your hair stand on end in relation to Mies is that he stood in the middle of the most riotous politics our world has ever seen, a maelstrom, a hurricane, and made a point. He said architecture had nothing to do with it at all, and what's more it didn't have much to do your personal comfort either, even though it looked great. That not only takes balls, but in a series of negations, was conceivably the only correct response. The mind, my mind, is positively blown away by such a thought.