Sunday, 28 December 2014

Architecture & Photography

Architectural students worried as to their predicament as we pass in to another year of C21 might do well to console their hangovers with a last minute excursion to the Barbican's architecture and photography show 'Constructing Worlds' (closing 11th Jan). 
First they should pause at the diminutive, free, little tableau next to the lifts on their way up, on Barbican architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon. Here you can scrutinise 'Joe' Chamberlin's desk equipment. It's a sobering encounter with nothing but a tee square, set square, compasses and so on. Then whisk yourselves up to the third floor to see what happened.
Certainly the relationship between architect and photographer varies with association, place and time; and here we can catagorise straightforward promotion of Californian 'lifestyle' in Julius Shulman, the interpretive representation of 'shadows and light' (in Corbu) in Herve (and personally I think this association is rather one dimensional and does L-C little service in the end); there are exhilarating and amusing new perspectives brought to the American landscape by Ed Ruscha and Stephen Shore. There is rigorous calm comparison in the Bechers that often, weirdly, miss a bit off the top. There's moody decon promo in Binet, and in my opinion slightly misplaced and charming shots of Also Rossi's most miserable school. 
But after that nobody who thinks at all about the built environment or the 'landscape of man' could come out of this exhibition anything but thoroughly chastened. Architects don't necessarily start the development process, they can't stop it either (although they could refuse to participate) but the big ground floor of this show is largely big miserable (if beautiful) stuff. It is romantic and desperate on a scale not seen since Casper David Friedrich, and at least he often painted small. Photography can be properly critical, and you can see it in Walker Evans and an enthusiastic Bernice Abbot (upstairs) but this recent stuff demonstrates that what architects dream beginnings of photographers kill mercilessly; their perspective is too broad for us minions. We shrink. Funny that, in the Barbican of all places.
(above Steven Shore: Beverley Boulevard and La Brae Avenue 1974)

Christmas Illness

Being ill at Christmas is just perennial; like getting furious in Tescos and getting a Christmas haircut (an instinct so ingrained as to have cues grow outside Rocket barbers on Hackney Rd before opening time (beard meister Steve says he's grateful but I'm not so sure: he's certainly ill by now). I suppose we could add getting stuck in traffic on the A1 and total collapse of the East Coast Main Line. Perhaps the usual things we associate with Christmas are just brainwashing to get us over the time of year, that the early Christians were so fed up all being ill and stuck on the Appian Way in need of a haircut, that they invented a party.
However it is unfortunate the way it turned out; carols, presents, turkeys, cards and all the shit. I just can't bare it. In fact, the only solution found so far has to go further in to the dark side and confront the beast. To this end we watch little else at this time of year than the Christmas Channel. The Christmas Channel features an amazing collection of soppy stories usually running along the lines of single mum high in Appalachians with two kids and animals about to suffer foreclosure from the bank and rescued amidst snowfalls by reformed bank employee; or big bad wolf turned good. How people can even bring themselves to create such twaddle UNLESS in the pay of the C.I.A. is beyond me; but it is fascinating that such a cultural product simultaneously presents the most odious aspect of our culture with the lashings of nostalgia that actually support it; it brings new meaning not only to The Waltons, but Dave Hickey's enthusiasm for Norman Rockwell. Meanwhile I've realised Star Trek is far more significant than I had previously even considered (which was not much) just as long as I keep watching the Christmas Channel.
So on Boxing Day morning I'm glad to say a more stirring perennial event happens outside the door of my parents home in UK Disneyland, or rather outside the Black Horse in Elton; a vintage car rally. Seeing as a more egalitarian future on earth now seems as remote as a Model T; it is a pleasure to stand and gawp at such triumphs of engineering wizardry as a Rolls Royce so silent running it doesn't even purr (above right); or have your old childhood dreams or Corgi toys blown up and made real in the shape of Triumph Vitesse, or be transported in time and space to your dad's first Ford Popular. Now that makes me feel good.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Loretta's Lighthouse

Unfortunately at this time of year the pub is full of arseholes. The girls were complaining yesterday, over tea before their shift began, about the venal treatment men seem to want to vent on dancers at this time of year; and according to them it seemed to be getting worse too year on year; hardly a good sign. 'Joy' said she kind of understood, what with the world as it is; but she's into wellness; others are less sanguine, and I wouldn't like to find a 12" skyscraper stilleto wrapped around my ear in fury; so guys you should mind your manners. On reflection it appeared to me stripping is largely social work: not the usual impression given on their tough working lives by the powers that be and the idiots who despise them. Why men seem so put out by women in control is beyond me: other than that they might harbour serious and worsening problems of their own.
A career stripping is not necessarily a long one, in my life, nowadays like deans, chancellors and professors; favourites come and go: Verona, Alison, Blondi (above) Ellouise..the list rolls on. Me and my friend Nick sit there and he's always saying 'You've got to write a book about this place'; the cast is long and fabulous in variety, and you know I just might. 
We were going to go down this afternoon, Julie too, because Loretta's on. Loretta is quite something; she sports a twinkling butt plug; we call it Loretta's lighthouse. Her arse illuminates. In a crazy and crazier world, she's got it dead right. 
(Photograph by PD)  

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


People seem to get in a worry about utopia, like it's something that didn't happen and can never happen and therefore has to be dismissed as not sufficiently of the moment. This is clearly a conspiracy: you can't sit down to design so much of a bedroom without hoping folks will put their socks in the draw; although one might be more reticent about your design making for better sex. Richard Neutra claimed the latter, but I forgive the old messianic modernist, his heart was in the right place, he just went a bit far. Almost every postmodernist critic has fucked the idea of doing anything decent in the name of making things better for decent folk, and that is a conspiracy, an unreality, a subversion.
Especially these days, when architecture students drown in a misery of their own making. Like, well, how am I supposed to critique a house for partying? Exactly where does that go; well nowhere, except for the Bartlett maybe: exit via the gift shop.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Mersea Mud

Always home somehow. Photo by Paul Davies.