Friday, 30 May 2014

Appetite for Replication

Apologies to Chuck Klosterman for nicking his title to an excellent essay on a G'n'R tribute band, but I read today that apparently the Chinese take such pride in the business they often seek to improve on the original. This is a historical condition, not just some promotional nonsense. Such is the case perhaps with our new Eames lounger (courtesy, of course, of Iconic Interiors of Hull) Bloody nice. Mark, the guru of iconics has got an interesting job, he goes around finding the very best of copies. I think he's on to a winner; once excellence has been designed, it's just a question of prizing it out of copyright and delivering it to the masses at the best of prices.   

Friday, 23 May 2014

Viv Albertine

I don't know how Ms Albertine has remembered all this, but it's brilliant, an unputdownable account of a woman in rock n roll. I was hoping I'd be in it. I imagined her description of my youthful good looks and rock credentials (pretty much just a black leather motorcycle jacket) and her bemoaning the missed opportunities of youth, since I once facilitated a pop video she made for World Domination Enterprises with my first year students of the time (as art directors!) at Westminster University back...oh... end of the eighties. Heady days when mutoid rock made it on campus (well in to the bar at least- and the artificial sky to shoot). She was great then! Oh well not a chance though, what I get is, on page 226:

 '1987: I churn out music videos, a couple a week, and all of them get selected by new music station MTV'

Which all goes to show that what's a big deal for you doesn't always make it a big deal for somebody else. Also, that PD was not so accidentally translated to 'Puppy Dog'. Still, the Butthole Surfers at least get a mention on the same page. Anyway, this is unique social history told with great style. For example, when talking about drugs, Albertine is reliably insouciant, like this (sort of);  'He asked if I'd like some heroin...I thought about it.......Nahh!' Plus, I find out, she (was) always wanting to fall in love- it's very sweet in a tough way.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Centre of Excellence

Scott said to me 'well, excellence doesn't have a centre' and he's right. Maybe it's branding, pigeon holing, or specialisation in general that brings the contradiction. Certainly the academic world can behave as badly as The One Show where rather ordinary people find themselves suddenly VIPs. Specialists rise by default. Thus whilst championing competition and originality, capitalism promotes a rather tawdry mediocrity in to it's top heavy inverted pyramid (to visualise this just imagine the size of the pyramid above the eleven England players back in 1966 and now in 2014- include all the media of course). Everybody assumes that Oxbridge academics are the best in the world but perhaps they're just there because it's Oxbridge. Maybe we should be thinking about that.
Scott's vision of excellence may be Descartes, roaming around rather desperately trying to find the peace and quiet ruined by sociality. On that basis nobody really excellent would ever want to live in Oxford or Cambridge or Yale or Princeton, they would prefer to be themselves elsewhere. It is the less than excellent who like those crowds. Having worked at the Architectural Association for a long time, I especially remember it's horrible claustrophobia (reminiscent of my time living in Cambridge).
I was really pleased last week my own department, which has steadfastly refused to brand itself unless as 'maverick', got through it's validation process with a vote of confidence in not establishing it's brand identity (unless, perhaps, it's brand was 'diversity'). It felt like a step forward, to recognise branding as unhelpful.
Meanwhile we should remember, architecture is a subject where you have to know a little about a lot of things. Architects are by definition generalists, otherwise they would be cogs in the machine having completed courses in 'Architectural Illustration' 'Architectural Management' or 'Expertise in Health and Safety for Building Sites'. I guess that's what the RIBA is for, and in the present climate I'm glad they can stand up for the dilettante.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Doing it Over and Over...

They went on and on about 'attendance' at lectures today, they saw it as a real CRISIS. I was bemused. I said, just do what I do, just make the lectures better :)

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Colour Field Painting

Terrific painting by John Stephens, acquired today.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Abba: Kierkegaard in Spandex

My friend Scott has a friend in Africa who can't listen to Abba because he says it's too sad. This is an odd thing to say at first, since the music has so many bells and whistles on it and makes everybody dance and go to crummy musicals.
However, last time I was wiping down the kitchen with 'Waterloo' running through my head noting the line 'I feel like I win when I lose' it lead me on to more serious contemplation. For instance is 'Gimme Gimme Gimme (a Man after Midnight)' any worse than the worst excesses of ACDC? Does it rank alongside 'Giving the Dog a Bone' as a feminist version? But there's more; the greatest tracks: 'The Winner Takes it All' and 'Knowing Me Knowing You' represent the utmost in misery; 'The Name of the Game' gives you another dose. I once met a Swedish woman in a restaurant in Kensington who was friends with Agnetha (or the other one, who cares) and she just shook her head and asked for more wine. There's 'SOS' and worse, 'Money Money Money' and whilst they clearly had a penchant for multiple conjugations of the same term, the rather desperate 'I do I do I do I do I do'. What can you make of that? Meanwhile 'Super Trouper' must surely be a critique on arch-modernist Bucky Fuller, underneath the angst of fame itself. Abba records might reveal that deeper northern European malaise, even though they sound like they don't. This of course, is the charm of the Eurovision Song Contest (you knew that was coming).
Would this analysis work with other fields of endeavour? Might the fortunes of Saab represent the collapse of the military industrial complex? Have Ericsson and Nokia, Swedish and Finnish respectfully, poisoned our minds with chit chat to show us the sheer awfulness of life itself?

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Cleaning Windows

There's a Van Morrison song about cleaning windows. I like cleaning windows. I put it off but it's very satisfying and you have to stop it before you get obsessive about it and try for total transparency. That way lies madness. I once cleaned, fairly obsessively, 1cubic metre of the entrance to a gallery in Brussels for a week, and on the last night encouraged my students to graffiti the interior with the names of their heroes. I got them drunk first. It was a pretty cool piece now I think about it. One of my favourites (but the institution wasn't quite so impressed of course, they preferred a Danny Libeskind style big hole, which I thought was crap).
But now my window cleaning has just got one hell of a lot better. I bought a Kartcher. I'm not much one for gadgets but if you are somebody who likes cleaning windows this thing is pretty awesome. You vacuum your windows. All the dirty (very dirty, like black) residue water gets sucked up in to the damn thing, it is especially satisfying emptying black water out of this cleaning instrument and staring at your windows with satisfaction. It is also fun to vacuum your windows, you image your neighbour's dismay if they knew, as opposed to just heard, the process, and it takes a fraction of the time, so there's more of the afternoon left to read about other forms of madness in the LRB.