Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Heidegger's Hut

Call me a dull old rationalist if you like, but I perenially find myself thinking that Heidegger's Hut, source of inspiration for Being Dwelling Thinking (and much besides) might have been a bit damp. It seems cut so sharply in to the Swabian hillside as to have it's rear gutter almost touching the meadow. And it sits alongside a spring, so one wonders without technological wonders (none allowed) how condusive to thinking thoughts of the devine it would actually be. To my mind as I lie in my hut, to all intents and purposes our bed four floors up above London, contemplating my being at 5am and staring at a poster of Lake Tahoe, Martin might have given much thought about the weather but little as to it's consequences.
We all need our huts and they take many guises. Le Corbusier placed his chair next to a large box containing the lift machinery for the apartments below in Rue Nungesser et Coli. I imagine him sitting there smoking his pipe and scanning the newspaper enjoying the clunk and whine of the machinery, just as I do when I'm waiting for the lift at work. When he decamped south, he had his timber shack, the cabanon, usefully attached to a restaurant. My friend Andrew Lane has a terrific cottage out in the hills above Cork, and it's as Heideggarian an experience as I've ever had, until you run out of booze and have to traipse miles and miles to the local village. I long for such a thing myself, equipped with solitude, estuary, sky and Julie, but also amenities, and probably on stilts.
Out in the wilds of the Black Forrest there would have been no such distractions, and Heidegger's thinking was undoubtedly serious, not so serious as to stop him joining the Nazi party, but certainly cosmic. A student of mine guffawed the other day that Heidegger thought so hard that every time he hit a wall he made up a new name for it. As a language of course, German is like that. But how could he have thought the Nazi's were a good idea? The answer of course is that such political and materialist concerns were insufficiently mysterious for the serious thinker, even if that sounds wrong in almost every conceivable way.
One thing we can be sure about, Martin Heidegger doesn't come over as a practical man. His wife bought the land, employed the carpenter and all that, and it's hard to imagine him fitting in to a farming community of practical people, despite his abiding respect for them. This might, in a round about way, explain why Oxford University doesn't have an architecture department, my own at Bristol was closed in '84 and the one at Cambridge follows a strong Heideggarian line.
Make of that what you will.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Lives of Artists (sic)

I imagine curators, as a breed, as a type, no as a profession, like the art world. They must have a predilection for the schmoozing and the appreciation, and they must, at least to some extent because otherwise it would be like just running a shop, believe somehow in the therapeutic qualities of art, in 'communities' and so on. Artists of course might not believe in any of that at all, Lucien Freud wouldn't even turn up at his own shows, and I had to do an artists talk yesterday afternoon in Luton, and didn't know quite what to make of it. Even in a die hard professional treader of the boards like me can have his doubts.
The opening went well though, if you are broad enough minded as to be pleased that nobody got horribly drunk, fell down the stairs, or threw a punch, and everybody seemed to be having quite a jolly time whether they gave a damn about the art or not, even if it did seem suspiciously populated more by friends and family than local art fiends.
And it was funny to find oneself hiding in the closet waiting for the mayor to leave and having ones work shut away until he did, because Luton's administration is sensitive to a whole load of issues long dumped by your mature artist, and it was also hilarious to contemplate a future of sorts doing the same thing in Grimsby or Cleethorpes, Barrow or Dundee, since they all need art too, or so they say.
So I pondered my take home messages on the train while trying to shove to the back of my mind images of some filthy inquisition, even violence. Of course I needn't have worried, the significant cultural event of Luton's day turned out to be 'Wow Factor' (where hopefuls got advice on their applications to X Factor from a previously unsuccessful contestant) going on in the shopping centre. The rest were probably waiting for the late afternoon kick-off. So our artists talk went out to a small but perfectly formed audience of four. I don't care, I once was part of a six enjoying the eminent Franz Schulze lecture on Mies van de Rohe, and he'd crossed the Atlantic to do it. So Julie and I consoled each other it was all good practice.
One suddenly appreciated those ageing rockers still knocking it out because they love it so, but a future in Cleethorpes? That's not exactly Las Vegas is it (and I've already done Las Vegas). The road to Cleethorpes was suddenly as good as tragic, but is that where enthusiasm gets you in the end?

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Mike Hurt RIP

So I got a text on my phone this morning. I was on his, and his son (or maybe daughter?) Sam, relayed the news that Mike Hurt had died suddenly last Wednesday. Thinking about it, it was the sort of news I might have expected at any time over the last decade, and Mike would have chuckled at the thought of it.
For years I sat with Mike in the Duke of York over lunchtime (not that we were there for eating anything); with Gordon McLean, Matt White, Kit Allsopp, Mischa Welsh and others who drifted over from the university opposite. A lot of the time it was just me and him, and there was never a time when it was not a delight to see him, mooching along in his overcoat, the seasoned pub-goer, to sit in his favourite spot which we joked (as is the case perennially) should have had a plaque but would never get one. We spent a lot of time watching the girls go by (there's a theatre school opposite) and we gave each of those anonymous performers cheery nick-names to lift our day.
They always have a name for the winners in the world, but we relished our ambivalence and disdain with stories of curious and usually failed opportunity; him running ashrams in India, tucking up Timothy Leary, trading Afghan coats from Afghanistan; generally mucking about somewhere near Vancouver, with the occasional exclamation that 'Oh...no! They were good!' when it came to one rock band or another. We mused over the failings of temperamental furniture designers and university managers as if we were rocks impervious to air.
But eventually there was one re-organisation of the technical staff too far, and Mike was made redundant and we bought him extra brandy, and he tottered off back to Notting Hill to mooch around there. One day he came back, same overcoat, same gruff chuckle, just to see if some things remained the same.
His funeral is this Wednesday 25th March at 1.30pm at the West London Crematorium. It's a great sadness that I can't be there, because, for once in my life, and of all things, I have a show to open in Luton. He would laugh, but I shall certainly use the occasion to raise a glass to him, and for all the guys out there who know about stuff, and to whom we should listen. He was great company and is sadly missed.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

And another Exhibition..

Terrific piece by Julie unveiled last night at UEL in her male nudes show. I'm depicted in the company of those blasted meerkats, polar bears, elephants and Potsdammer Platz, so of course the fragility of our world is clear: that and I'm irritating, endangered and overlarge. 

Saturday, 14 March 2015

And an Exhibition..

I have this exhibition of collages opening at the Departure Lounge in Luton on Wednesday 25th March at 6pm. Like the book, these art pieces have also been occupying my time for a while. It will be great to finally see sixteen or so of them in a gallery setting. 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Finishing a Book

So I finished 'Architectural History Retold' on Sunday 1st March 2015, on time, hardly on budget- for there wasn't one- there were just costs. How does it feel? Not bad. There is certainly satisfaction after three years of it, and a pleasure in passing the package on to the publishers all done and dusted and on time. The last weeks were like wading through mud, I'll warn you of that. While now there might be a sense of blue sky, back then, to paraphrase American poet Robert Lowell; the light at the end of the tunnel was that of an oncoming train. Thank goodness Julie was in Berlin, leaving me to glare morosely at the beast I'd created, trying to weigh up it's various characteristics so that they might be gobbled up by internet search engines, whilst considering the comments of those who'd actually read it and offered help. There must be very few apparitions less attractive and more self obsessed than a writer finishing a book.
Certainly once sent, you know what pubs are for, that quiet diffusion, what I used to call 'snow falling in your head' and the day after or thereabouts, it turns out the most important thing to do is get a haircut.  You'll need it, it will bring you back to the world.