Filler By Proxy LXXVI: Poème Electronique

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Philips PavilionJodru at ANABlog went to see the virtual recreation of the Philips Pavilion from the 1958 Brussels World Fair, and has posted a fascinating summary of little-known aspects of the project.

The design of the pavilion, which housed a presentation of Edgar Varèse’s tape composition Poème Electronique, was attributed to Le Corbusier at the time. The title was in fact Le Corbusier’s idea: “I shall not create a pavilion, but a poème électronique. Everything will happen inside: sound, light, color, rhythm…” He then got Iannis Xenakis, his assistant, to design it for him.

At ANABlog you can see a photograph of the World Fair site, showing the size of the Philips Pavilion, compared to those of the USA and the USSR, along with surprising photographs of the pavilion other than the iconic image on the left. There are also more details about how Varèse tried to exploit the acoustic properties of the pavilion’s interior to the fullest, creating an immersive, spatialised sonic experience (and nixed Le Corbusier’s plans to lecture the audience over the top of his music.)

Plenty more goodies at the Virtual Electronic Poem site, including a Dutch documentary made at the time of the pavilion’s construction, and photographs of the other pavilions at the fair. There’s a lot of retro-futuristic architecture, but there are also the names: Atomium, the USSR, the Tobacco Pavilion, Kodak, Pan Am. Watch the film, and see the world in which the pavilion was built, and the fact that this all happened over a half a century ago really hits home. This temple to modernity was planned by hat-wearing men, built by workmen driving creaky lorries and spraying asbestos like it was whipped cream. It’s a future that never happened, but it’s amazing that it got as far as it did.

“…since they are dead are ghosts and as such inhabit the same world we do.” — John Cage

Monday 11 January 2010

4h 33°

This Way to the Miracle

Thursday 7 January 2010

Agape Miracle Centre Church, Catford

Can’t do nothin’ for ya, man.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Valencias from Valencia

Thursday 26 November 2009

How to save 45 pounds on the Frieze and Zoo art fairs

Saturday 17 October 2009

First, tell yourself that “too much new art in London looks like high-falutin’ tchotchkes created for investors with at least one eye on the auctions,” and that what with the Current Economic Climate the faint stink of desperation is only going to make things worse before they have a chance to get better.

Then, get a friend to go bunk into the openings of both art fairs and get loaded on the free drinks, before reporting back to you the next day that pretty much everything she saw there confirmed your prejudices.

Smash the Social Contract!

Sunday 6 September 2009

Filler By Proxy LXXIII: Round The Worst In A Tall Canoe

Monday 10 August 2009

Can’t blog too busy watching this stuff over and over.

I Am Cleaning Up Some Scans Of Old Slides

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Everybody’s I Ching

Friday 26 June 2009

Forget; if you want true chance operations à la John Cage, for years the go-to source has been ic, the little DOS program written by Cage’s assistant Andrew Culver. It imitates the I Ching‘s method of producing random numbers without all the original’s tedious poetry and oracular pontification.

Now that command-line programs are a dying breed for the general computer user, it’s great to see that Culver is keeping the program alive by putting a beta of a new, user-friendly, web-based ic on his site. If it was good enough for Cage…

Street Art, Hackney

Thursday 25 June 2009

Sentimental Education

Thursday 19 March 2009

When I was growing up I walked past this object all the time, for years, without realising what it was. As a small kid I simply thought it was a triangular, walled-off space and never thought about it being a work of art. I just wondered why that area was walled off, why there was no way in, and what was inside (I was too short to see over it).
Later on, I figured out that it was art: I’d found the plaque nearby which said it was ‘Untitled’ by Donald Judd. It was ‘modern art’ – minimalist and blank – but it still intrigued me because it was still extremely difficult to see what, if anything, was inside its walls (I was a late bloomer). Its featureless sides frustrated small kids’ attempts to climb it.
For a while I thought that was the point of the sculpture: to zone off an area you couldn’t see into. Finally attaining normal height put paid to that delusion, although the thickness of the walls still inhibit an easy view into the centre.

In any case, I grew up thinking of it as just one amongst many pieces of ugly public art scattered around Adelaide. It wasn’t until much later that I understood the size of Judd’s reputation and how unusual it was to have regular contact with a site-specific outdoor work by him. I assumed he had stuff like this scattered all over the world. I still can’t see it without thinking it’s bigger than it really is.
It doesn’t surprise me to hear the work described as “controversial for Adelaide” although I never heard that when living there. Adelaideans tend to be pretty reticent. Unusually, the controversy seems to have been less about the art, and more to do with the artist visiting Don Dunstan’s Adelaide being an American:

In the last phases of the Vietnam war, anti-American sentiment ran high and both the exhibition and Judd’s sculpture commission caused a public outcry in Adelaide. Local academics joined with students, political groups and the media to denounce this “American imperialism” and “servility to things foreign” through protests and a debate which continued into 1975.

(Crossposted at Sarsaparilla Lite.)

While Shepherds Watched Their Ducks By Night, or The Decline of the Roman Empire

Sunday 15 February 2009

First of all, the threatened photo of Wussius Maximus.
Secondly, before anyone asks, no I didn’t buy any Fonzies when I was in Rome. By the time I remembered to look for them I was already at the pitiful airport departures terminal and didn’t want to pay an extra Euro for the privilege of possessing a rather sad looking packet behind the only bar. (If you’re a Twisties fan, apparently you’re not missing much.)
The good thing about visiting Rome in the middle of winter is that the city is pretty empty. On a Monday night in January you and your special someone can have a restaurant more or less to yourselves. This makes it an excellent time of year to visit the Vatican, which at any other time is impossibly packed with tourists. Mind you, the low season doesn’t deter the dodgy touts who still hang around on the Rome-Vatican border offering you “special access” to St Peter’s and the museums, even though you it’s perfectly possible to wander in by yourself. (Don’t try this at any other time of year! The queue for the museums gets up to a kilometre long.)
The Vatican houses some of the greatest masterpieces of art from the past two millennia. It also contains some remarkable modern catholic tat. The Holy See keeps its Christmas decorations up until Candlemas, so I got to see two nativity dioramas: a ho-hum, life-size one outside in the piazza, and this monstrosity inside the basilica itself.

It looks like someone just went crazy with the church credit card down at the local garden centre, then just shoved it all together wherever they could get it to fit.

Apparently there was a sale on plaster ducks that day.

It’s good to see the Catholic church still has a good eye for a fine bottom on a young lad. That rooster is totally checking him out (make your own joke here.)

Late Rothko Late

Tuesday 3 February 2009

The Rothko show at the Tate closed on the weekend. Notes From A Defeatist saw it late in the season, as did She Sees Red, as did I. Both of them found the crowds come to see the Big Name artist offputting to a greater or lesser degree, and really incongruous with the introspective nature of Rothko’s art. I didn’t find the crowds so bad, but perhaps I’m getting used to them, or there were fewer people there when I went on a Friday night.
NFAD was especially narked by those egregious little headsets that everyone was wearing, which are supposed to explain the art to you but instead prevent you from seeing it. SSR took the novel approach of listening to her own ipod when visiting the show, thus providing a personal music soundtrack. I don’t mind this idea too much. Usually the ideal match for Rothko is supposed to be Morton Feldman, but amongst the Tate’s usual hubbub Feldman’s music would be obscured even more than Rothko’s painting.
It was a neatly focused show, built around an expanded version of the Tate’s Rothko Room, creating a vast room filled with double the usual number of paintings from the series of so-called Seagram murals. While the larger room lost the intimacy and atmosphere provided in the more distilled experience of the usual room, it gained the overwhelming presence of seeing so many paintings from the same series united in one place, impressing all the more how each painting contributed to another in this period of Rothko’s work.
The following rooms can’t help but contribute to the legend of Rothko’s decline into despair and suicide. A room of remarkable black-on-black paintings, and lastly, two rooms of works from the last year of his life, when ill health forced a change in his materials and working methods.
The last paintings remove what little illusion of comfort remained in the Seagram murals. A uniform arrangement of black over grey, negating the previous ambiguity of figure versus background; few and thinner layers of paint; a white border to frustrate the perception of depth. They’re an extraordinary achievement in testing the limits of what can be communicated in painting. I don’t like them.
Critics have called these last paintings “unreadable”, claiming they resist being looked at as landscapes. I find them too ready to be interpreted, and have great trouble looking at them as anything other than landscapes. The application of colour lacks the subtlety of the earlier work, making it seem too expressive and in need of analysis. The illusion of figure against a ground is too easily resolved in the mind, unlike the mysterious ambivalence of the preceding paintings. The border restricts and diminishes the image it contains. Maybe I need to spend more time with them, without the distraction of people all around me, shuffling through the heavy exit door to the merchandise store, filled with Rothko jigsaw puzzles and coffee mugs.

As promised, for once

Friday 30 January 2009

I’ve just returned from a week in Rome. It was good to get away from the freezing drizzle of London to a milder soaking, of a type that made me nostalgic for winters in Melbourne, back in the days when it rained. Actually, it made me nostalgic for Melbourne coffee too.

Right now I really need to find a new job, but there’ll be at least a couple of posts over the next few days. Stand by for photos of quaint old Fiat 500s and the world’s wussiest gladiator.