Contents
 
Introduction

Architecture surrounds us all, sometimes imposingly and sometimes in such familiar surroundings that we are only subliminally aware of it. In our material culture, through our media technologies, in our social structures and political ideologies, and in our creative imagination and our memory, whether consciously or not, it plays a pervasive role. Architecture’s predominance in society and culture inevitably results in a complex inter-relationship with other art forms — exemplified by such assertions as Goethe’s, “architecture is frozen music”; Brancusi’s, “architecture is inhabited sculpture”; and Daniel Libeskind’s proposition that “meaningful architecture always articulates history”.

 

In this issue of Soanyway, references to architecture — as inspiration, as subject matter, or as metaphor — are present in some way in all the contributions. Once again, the first two contributions are features documenting events, encouraging conversation to unravel. Painting, video, performance, musical composition, poetry, fiction, photography and short essays utilise, respond to, or invoke architecture in relation to memory, meaning or creative imagination.

 
Irene Sofia Comi - Herman Bergamelli & Fabio Ranzolin: I'll be home tonight

The House, Viale Vittorio Veneto 18, Milano, presented its first exhibition I’ll be home tonight (20 June – 19 July and 16 September – 15 October 2019), showing Hermann Bergamelli and Fabio Ranzolin, curated by Irene Sofia Comi. 

I'll be home tonight.jpg

Based in a private space, an apartment that is both a residence and an architecture firm in Milan, The House is a project focused on emerging art and research, conceived by architect Michela Genghini. It aims to offer a space which creates dialogue with and within the domestic environment, through exhibitions and events.

With a strong adherence to domesticity, I’ll be home tonight reflects on the idea of “home” as a microcosm: an ephemeral refuge, an invisible but porous border, which embodies all the contradictions of daily experiences. Within this heterogeneous landscape, the home simultaneously becomes a symbol and threshold between opposites: inside and outside, private and public, personal and collective. Manipulators of varied stimuli, Bergamelli and Ranzolin read the present through a kindred sensibility, and with their works they interweave a dense network of exchanges. For them, both the concepts of intimacy and the outside world become fundamental, re-appropriating some of those aspects through second-hand materials or objects borrowed from the city, steeped in the stories and memories of others.

 

This exhibition is designed to immerse the visitor, room by room, in a game of intense visions and integrated memories feeding our daily domestic habits.

I'll be home tonight.jpg

I’ll be home tonight. Hermann Bergamelli - Fabio Ranzolin, installation view

The curatorial text, with fragments of interweaving thoughts and voices, intends to emphasise the domestic atmosphere and possible intimacy with the artworks; a story inviting the reader and spectator to ‘feel at home’.

 

Translation by G Gibbons. View original in Italian here.

Bzz bzz. Bzz bzz.

Giampiero’s phone vibrates in the pocket of his denim jacket. He doesn’t care about it, but then, now isn’t the time: the traffic goes slowly, thoughts run free.


“Hit ‘Off’ on the office MacBook, and you would like to be on your sofa a second later, showered and relaxed. It would be fantastic if these words came from the mouth of Dr. Cattaneo. I should have it prescribed as a remedy, with medical approval! Three days of holiday would do me good…” thought Giampiero on his brand new red scooter. His head is too tight in the old helmet, as always, but he tells himself it is only the result of his haste. Damn haste! It doesn’t matter, in a few minutes he would have arrived.

 

It is hardly surprising and nothing much to complain about: we are all slaves to stress. The city is grey, full of people in a hurry to go, to go who knows where. Run run run. But if you are not Usain Bolt you only risk stumbling in your hundred meters. Everything that flows beside you risks becoming just a faded image: in less than no time you find your brain bombarded with signs, images and adverts. And so our brain becomes overloaded with information, and the subjective unconscious ends up accumulating all these inputs, absorbing them like a skein of filamentous wool. Giampiero realised that, at this rate, something of the reality surrounding us will be lost.

Squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak.

“It’s about time to throw these shoes away – you can hear me for miles when I’m passing,” thought Giampiero climbing the stairs two at a time. Finally he reached the third floor. Giampiero opens the lock.

 

He puts the phone down; he wants to leave the world outside.  

 

Like every night, he opens the fridge door, takes the lid off his icy Ichnusa and sits on the kitchen stool. Body relaxes, mind gallops, frantic. “Perhaps I don’t need the prescription from Cattaneo; perhaps my world is all here. I would be happy with even a day a week of smart working…” Working from home? A dream! The house, for Giampiero, has always been a place of refuge in the middle of a hectic life. A safe place, on the other hand, like Parodi’s spontaneous kitchen in ‘Cotto e Mangiato’ – Giampiero has learnt to downplay.

 

Of course, when Mariella was there it was different… With her he had discovered also a love for the kitchen. How good was the parmigiana they prepared together! And how could he forget the embroidered tea towel received as a gift from Grandmother Marisa?

 

He looks at the stove, his stomach growls, expanding and closing, like in images of scans in which the heart contracts, and everything is black and white. He opens the fridge again: half a pack of Carnini butter, two eggs. He feels a little empty, inside and out. Despite the apathy of the moment, he decides to eat something.

 

He puts the frying pan on the stove. While the butter melts, countless images appear before his eyes. Captured, fleeting, secret: his head is a theme park.

 

He feels a little absent from the world, but present to himself; whether it is in his last 24 hours or in his memories of the past, it makes no difference: it is one of those days, one of those evenings of ennui in which inconclusive thoughts run throughout the body, making cyclical journeys, as though recalling the moon’s tides. Reality is not that which he perceives. Reality is there outside. He feels his head tight in a grip, maybe he should buy some sort of memory extender – when are they going to invent the human iCloud? “Giampiero, do something, otherwise you will soon explode.” 

 

Puff! He sighs incredulously. The butter is burning, better turn off the gas.

 

He enters the living room and turns on the stereo. Radio Deejay will help him not to think of these past moments of fantasising, or imagining the life of the old lady he met in San Vincenzo last summer. He didn’t remember the details of this encounter very well, but he would know to recognise that breathed “h” among even a million people.

Ding Dong, Ding Dong, Ding Dong.

“But who is that? I’m not expecting anyone.”

“Hi Giampiero, it’s Vittorio! Sorry to disturb you but I forgot something. I tried to message you but…”

“Ah, ok. I’ll let you in now, look up I’m leaning out.”

From the window Giampiero nods to Vittorio. He takes the lighter from his right pocket and lights a cigarette: no peace again tonight.

 

This is what happens, leaving the world outside.

 

Knock Knock.
“Can I come in?”
Knock Knock.

Giampiero does not move. Outside it had begun to rain and on Radio Deejay they are broadcasting Vasco: Here the night is dark, and there is only you / Live on the edge and smoke your Lucky Strike.

“Can I?”
Fortunately the door is open, Vittorio decides to enter. He hangs up his jacket.

Bergamelli

Bergamelli, Variation in blue, 2019

Ranzolin

Ranzolin, Comprami, io sono in vendita!, 2019

Ranzolin

Ranzolin, Maybe it’s a Lucky Strike the romantic story with the Ginger Lover, 2017

Bergamelli

Bergamelli, Giardini di velluto. Passeggiatore in blu (detail), 2018

Installation images at The House, Milano, 2019, Courtesy the artists and The House.

Photo credit: Cosimo Filippini.

 
&Model Book Launch

The launch of &Model’s publication, documenting its five years of activity in Leeds, commemorated the &Model gallery, its building, exhibitions and conversations. The book, compiled, edited and written by Will Corwin, draws a connection between the space of the building hosting events, and the space of the text remembering these events. On 12th December 2019 in Leeds Town Hall Crypt, the launch or exhibition of the book was a commemorative event celebrating the past and launching towards a different future. Below, as record of the event, are fragments of text and images.

Photo credit: Jo Melvin and James Chinneck

Will Corwin, ‘Word of Mouth: A History’: “There is a marvellous and unsubstantiated legend floating around Wikipedia, attributed to the painter Patrick Heron, that the great Kandinsky himself visited Leeds in 1913. Being a mystic, Kandinsky would have appreciated the thought that perhaps his ghost might have returned on the hundredth anniversary of his initial visit, to inspire three artists to found the &Model gallery in an empty office building off the Headrow. Leeds is known for such organisations: in 1913 Kandinsky would have come north to visit his friend and supported Michael Sadler who, with his circle, were members of another avant-garde art associations, the Leeds Arts Club. This association was a hotbed of progressive, spiritualist and pro-suffragette thought, founded in 1903 by schoolteacher/theosophist Alfred Orage and textile manufacturer Holbrook Jackson, and lasting until 1923. Similarly, &Model was founded by three teachers; Chris Bloor, James Chinneck and Derek Horton, and was even shorter lived than the Leeds Arts Club, lasting only five years. In that time though, it presented some 28 exhibitions, hosted 6 artist residencies and offered numerous panel discussions, artist talks and one-off events […]” (10).

Image of opening to Will Corwin's story Or Other

The book’s subheading ‘THE &MODEL TEMPORARY EMPLOYMENT AGENCY IN AESTHETICS, METAPHYSICS AND TIME TRAVEL’ pays tribute to the particular nature of the space described by James Chinneck as “Kind of a Tardis” (6). In Will Corwin’s interview with the gallery’s three founders, Chris Bloor discusses their growing interest in the “nature of the space” (5); how parts could be forgotten followed by the sudden realisation of further space and possibility. Following this idea, Corwin suggests the space could be considered “almost as a two-dimensional space with just the surface/façade being activated. I noticed a lot of the shows were only viewable from the outside, not even letting people inside” (6). In fact, as Derek Horton notes, a lot of the exhibitions did have “a heavy textual dimension, of one sort or another” (6).

As quoted at the conclusion of ‘Word of Mouth: A History’, Lisa Le Feuve has summarised the sense of a shifting interaction between spaces; between conversation with and within the space of the building itself: “&Model was a place where you never knew what, and sometimes, where it might happen: in every case conversation was inspired, and debate resounded off the walls and winding stairs of the building” (16).

 
Elizabeth Lyons - Konstruct: Isokon Series

The Isokon building, also known as Lawn Road Flats in Hampstead, London, opened in 1934 and was the first modernist building in Britain to use reinforced concrete in domestic architecture. The communal kitchen was converted into the Isobar restaurant in 1937. The flats and particularly the Isobar became identified as a centre for socialist, intellectual and artistic life in Hampstead. Residents included the Bauhaus émigrés Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and László Moholy-Nagy; Agatha Christie and her husband, the archaeologist Max Mallowan; and the art historian Adrian Stokes. Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson were neighbours and regular visitors. Arnold Deutsch, the controller of the notorious Cambridge spy ring, along with a number of other Isokon residents were identified as Soviet agents and, during the 1930s and later in the Cold War period, the building was subject to surveillance by the British security services.

 

Elizabeth Lyons’ polaroid images of the building, a selection of which are presented here, are captioned with typewritten fragments of quotations that she has selected from literature and correspondence directly related to the flats, particularly where they were attributed to residents, drawing on David Burke’s 2014 book on the subject, The Lawn Road Flats: Spies, Writers and Artists.

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Adam Bonser - Correspondances

Adam Bonser discusses the process behind his composition Correspondances (2019), commissioned as a response to Van Gogh House.

I was approached to write a piece to mark the opening of the Van Gogh House, 87 Hackford Road – a superficially unassuming 1820s house in Stockwell, where an impressionable 18-year-old Vincent Van Gogh lodged during his time in London.

 

The recent renovation had set up the building as a multi-purpose, creative space for future residencies that would function ‘first and foremost as a dwelling, and not a museum’[1] – and an immediate problem was to define a tangible connection from the architecture to the artist – especially since Van Gogh was only there for two years, working for an art dealer. Eventually, what tied place with name for me was the online archive of his letters from the time.  

 

The possibility of these fragile letters fascinated me. With the passage of time and subsequent research into Van Gogh’s life, these carefully framed ‘time-stamps’ of his can also address us as readers now, serving as brief and colourful  snapshots of a young man’s thoughts, dreams and life in a bygone era. This idea became the backbone of the musical material – a delicately condensed sequence of statements, interleaving and corresponding to one another across a series of time treatments and textural contexts.

 

I wanted to try and tease out a sound world somewhere between a music that Van Gogh might have heard, and to try and address the time-gap between his day and ours. Vincent only fleetingly discusses music in the letters, as far as I could find, and although he admired figures such as Wagner and Beethoven, there’s little outspoken praise for composers of his time. Instead, his letters made me think more of the daily lives and stories of other people, in and around 87 Hackford Road.

 

To reflect this multiplicity of experiences lived, I wanted an architecture for the music that was less certain – a hazier version of multiple narratives, where voices and influences from other histories (of the house, its other residents) could be reflected in the composition.

 

Roles and relationships in the ensemble and the harmonic framework establish two planes of perspective. Parts talk to and across each other, moving in and out of sync, often an echo of several conversations from different eras. By including a classical guitar with the String Quintet, a dramatic discourse could emerge, with respective narrative roles clarified by shifting instrumental interpretations of some core melodic fragments.

 

At the same time as seeking out uncertainty and multiple viewpoints, I was looking for a harmony that still alluded to Van Gogh and his time. I thought of Janacek. In his Intimate Letters for String Quartet there is a very bold presentation of melody – often very stark and exposed, supplemented with rich, often quite chromatic harmonies with a constant sense of tension and anti-resolution, punctuated at times by these shockingly modern interludes of total stillness. I tried to take Janacek’s harmonic language and imbue it with foreign colours from other, generally European composers, such as Ravel and, later, Dutilleux (coincidentally, whose later work Timbres, espace, mouvement (1978) was inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night) . 

 

Instead of inserting musical material that was pointedly jarring with a String Quintet reminiscent of the past, I tried to question this ‘old-vs-new behaviours’ tension through the use of different degrees of intervallic ‘stretch’.  I took the classical guitar and de-tuned it to a custom design that deviates on very particular notes from the Equally tempered scales we know inside out today.

 

The role of the guitarist became one who establishes ‘tolerance ranges’, where his contributions to the ensemble texture include deliberate margins for error, playing ‘in and out-of-tune’ material that has shades of similarity to that of the quintet; this ‘bending’ of the music from the string players pulls the sound world of the piece out of overstaying in a single ‘harmonic area’ or ‘time-space’, and instead plays with temperament to highlight or refract these sudden jumps of perspective.

 

Through sound as a medium, with all its ambiguous yet allusive qualities, the piece tries to scroll and slip through a fabric of other lived experiences; a letter that winds its own narrative through a variety of tempi and spaces, manifested through notation as traces of touch, but lived through time.

 

[1] https://www.vangoghhouse.co.uk/home/the-house/

 
Derek Horton - Sheltering Dreams: John Hejduk's fusion of architecture and poetry

John Hejduk (1929-2000) was an architect, poet, and educator who completed very few buildings but was prolific and highly influential in other ways. Architecture crucially combines function with aesthetics, but also, as Hejduk’s architectural philosophy reminds us, with memory and poetics. As one of his collaborators has written, he was concerned with "the complementary side of the role of architecture, the one that we always forgot: to shelter our dreams and the mystery of our presence here” [1]. This human yet somewhat spiritual view of architecture as sanctuary was central to his approach.

 

One of the ‘New York Five’, a group of neo-modern architects prominent in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Hejduk went on to have a long and important career as the Dean of New York’s Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture from 1972 until 2000. With a radical and visionary approach, he insisted that all his students encountered poets, anthropologists and surgeons, amongst others, to rethink the limits of architecture and to understand its relationship to the human mind and body. In his pedagogy, studying the poetry of writers like Baudelaire, Fernando Pessoa, Pasternak or Wallace Stevens provided insights for understanding the city and developing architectural ideas. He was a genuine polymath whose poetry was as sophisticated as his architectural designs and his graphic facility but, ironically given his determination to break its disciplinary boundaries, he remains little known outside the world of architecture. The poet David Shapiro offered an explanation for both his relative lack of prestige in the wider world of the arts and his enormous influence amongst architects: “If one challenges the lack of subtle criticism to date of [Hejduk’s] work one usually finds that the critic is lacking in the vital synaesthetic sense that would respond to [his] fused exercises in spirit. The students of architecture, however, have responded, and a whole generation has been enthralled by the possibilities of a tragic, personal, fragile, truth-telling architecture entwined with poetics” [2]. Shapiro wrote this in his foreword to a collection of Hejduk’s poems written between 1953 and 1996, published under the revealing title, Such Places As Memory. Hejduk’s writings as much as his buildings and prolific drawings, collages and photo-essays gave material existence to imagined spaces, melancholy associations and urban reality, showing how architecture interacts with both the loftiest and the most mundane thoughts and actions. To quote Shapiro again, “these poems stand as rather condensed illuminations of a vaster terrain of building and thinking”.

 

In a film interview Hejduk once said, “I cannot do a building without building a repertoire of characters, of stories, of language. And it’s all parallel. It’s not just building per se, it’s building worlds” [3]; he perceived architecture as not only consisting of buildings but as a part of a wider cultural dialogue between forms and characters. This is evidenced, for example, in his multi-layered understanding of the 16th century European tradition of masques and the concept of masking, which combines subject and object so that a form and a person become the same. To wear a mask is to become someone else, the character represented by the mask, and the carnivalesque performance of masques involves a multiple masking of the masses. For Hejduk this is paralleled in architecture since to wear a mask is also to be protected or sheltered, in the way that built structures also act, so that masking might relate to building a house and the masque to designing a city [4]. A mask blurs the identity of its wearer, defining a new character and influencing their patterns of behaviour, and so is emblematic of Hejduk’s concern with establishing the shifting relationships between rather than the fixed identities of different media, cultural forms or architectural elements. He advocated creative imagination in dialogue with analytical thought and structural design rather than in contrast to them, developing an ethos in which architecture is not merely a formal practice, but one of interpreting, imagining and thereby making and remaking the world. As he said, “architecture and poetry, in the end, are thoughts of people about people, and they are life giving, in life and in death” [5].

 

Poetry and architecture for Hejduk were not just contingently analogous. He regarded them both as arts of building, ontologically the same. He also believed that a drawing could stand by itself as a completed work of architecture so that if one reads the drawing as the architectural work, whilst it may not be informed by a specific geographical context, the page becomes its site. His drawing-cities and structured, imaginary-yet-real worlds parallel the way in which his poems build up in sequence to structure the book that contains them. His many publications combine poems, drawings, collages, paintings and photographs, and are never like conventional architectural monographs or exhibition catalogues. They are artefacts complete in themselves, built works, an architecture that can be held in the hand. They are in a sense books about the making of books, depicting an architecture about the making of architecture. 

 

Architecture is dependent on the configuration of spatial relationships, and likewise in poetry an interplay of spatial relationships (in the arrangement and punctuation of words or word-fragments on the page) constructs patterns of meaning and sensation. A building redefines and reconfigures our everyday experience of space whilst a poem can change the meaning or intensify the effect of otherwise common words. Walls not only divide or enclose, they also allow for thresholds that open into new spaces; a metaphor for the fluid space between fiction and reality that Hejduk explored. In this territory of the imagination, between the world we know and the possible worlds we might imagine, he constructed spatial ideas through lines of text and assemblages of images (that sometimes, though rarely, were materialised as buildings). That this approach to writing and designing is defined by an ‘and’ joining architecture and poetry, rather than an ‘or’ separating them, is what makes Hejduk uniquely important. He often referred to a painting by Braque (The Studio, III, 1949), in which a bird flies through a wall, to exemplify his interest in the moments at which boundaries are crossed. Echoes of this painting haunt Hejduk’s short poem Nature Morte:

He thought he heard

it enter the still life

although the shutters

were closed 

He sat in the wood chair

and waited

for the return

He dreamed of the

cliffs of Le Havre

The rooms somehow

were always permeated

in greens and browns

Suddenly 

a lone gull

silently flying appeared

wings interweaving

within the vertical stripes

of the wall paper

His soul was released

inside

it became white  [6]

 

Lines that enclose and delineate between interior and exterior, defining finite spaces from infinite space, are, architecturally, a malleable and permeable threshold between worlds. So, “seepage is inevitable”, as the last line of Hejduk’s poem Bacchus suggests, or, as the last line of his poem Acropolis has it, "exit implies entry's lament". Both the idea and the material manifestation of ‘lines’ in every sense are crucial to Hejduk’s fusing of architecture and poetry. His publications articulate architectural speculations by means of two kinds of lines, the quickly overlaid black lines of his drawings and the carefully composed, minimal lines of his poetry, combining to constitute his architectural syntax.

 

Jorge-Luis Borges wrote in his short story, The Book of Sand, that, “the line is made up of an infinite number of points; the plane of an infinite number of lines; the volume of an infinite number of planes; the hypervolume of an infinite number of volumes” [7]. This intimation of the dual possibility that the world might be compressed into a line, or that a line might become a world, permeates Hejduk's capacity to fuse two-dimensional lines of text and image with three-dimensional architectonic structures in a poetic relationship with each other. The line connects us all.

 

 

NOTES

 

[1] Meton R. Gedelha, in The Riga Project. 1989, Philadelphia: The University of the Arts. (p.16)

[2] David Shapiro, "John Hejduk: Poetry as Architecture, Architecture as Poetry," in John Hejduk, Such Places as Memory: Poems 1953-1996. 1998, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press.

[3] John Hejduk, Builder of Worlds. Michael Blackwood Productions, 1992.

[4] Hejduk first used the idea of the masque in the project Berlin Masque, his contribution to an international competition in 1980-81, but in many of his publications he used what he referred to as masque characters, represented as bold silhouettes that resemble ancient pictograms.

[5] From Hejduk’s dedication speech at the temporary installation of his Jan Palach Memorial in the grounds of Prague Castle Gardens on 4 September 1991. The work, "House of the Suicide and House of the Mother of the Suicide", honours the Czech dissident Jan Palach and is now permanently located in Jan Palach Square (formerly Red Army Square), Prague, unveiled posthumously in 2016. 

[6] John Hejduk, "Nature Morte," in Such Places as Memory: Poems 1953-1996. 1998, op cit.

[7] Jorge-Luis Borges, The Book of Sand (trans. Norman Thomas di Giovanni, 1977). 2007, New York: Penguin.

 
Gertrude Gibbons - Betts Project, 100 Central Street

I remember being struck that Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations began with a tomb inscription; that its protagonist Pip imagines, constructs, the bodies of his parents through the carved shapes of letters on their graves. Oliver Twist ends with a grave inscription; with the idea that Oliver’s mother haunts via her name on that stone. In both cases a non-existing body is built in the imagination from an engraved monument. This idea echoed for me when I heard that Betts Project, a London gallery dedicated to architects and ways of looking at architecture, was named after an unknown grave. Recently, Helen Thomas wrote of the gallery founder’s unusual method of naming the space; founding it in 2014, Marie Coulon did not want to name it after herself, but wanted an old-fashioned British name, going to a graveyard to find ‘Louisa Betts’ [1]. Yet Betts Project has no apostrophe: the gallery does not belong to her or her memory, but the name marks the space; a body has been reimagined.

Betts Project considers how architects gather and play with ideas, without necessarily being the diagrams and sketches perhaps more commonly associated with architecture. Instead, the gallery often exhibits other works by architects, revealing thought processes and means of provoking ideas, as well as work which lives independent of technical planning for constructions. It promotes the work of these multiple and overlapping practices, exploring a way of discovering and looking at architecture. It is reminiscent of Peter Cook’s ArtNet gallery founded in 1973 in Archigram’s old studio at 53 Endell Street, Covent Garden, seeming a continuation of the Archigram magazine’s ideas (1961-74) – here the magazine had transitioned into a space for discussion and experimentation around and towards architecture beyond the conventional.

Searching outwards for potential future structures, and inwards to remember and reuse fragments of past thoughts and structures, Betts Project becomes the space for a search. It makes an event of the search. Peter Märkli, exhibiting in spring 2017, noted that creating many drawings, only a few would come to be “directly connected with a project”. He paralleled the idea to writers: “It’s like a writer coming up with an idea for a novel. He might be clear that there will be three main characters, but he doesn’t yet know how the plot will unfold” [2]. In December 2016, Fred Scott exhibited work made in a search to recreate and re-remember a work he had lost from 1997, ‘Dream of Flight’, which had used Le Corbusier’s pre-war publications, merging Le Corbusier’s interest in aircrafts and for his associate Charlotte Perriand. It showed disorientating montages of Perriand ‘looking’ from within the images at pictures of aircrafts [3].  

The recent show of Nigel Coates in autumn 2019 created an interaction between the inside and out, public memory and private body. It displayed work reimagining a part of Vauxhall as a theme park, where historically its Gardens had been popular places of public entertainment. ‘David Hotel and Night World’ (2019), six laser paper sculptures and variations on Michelangelo’s figure, played upon the idea of a ‘model’ and how a building might be compared to the human body, its movements and complex layered structures. The cuts of paper run and fold in and out, disrupting the intimacy of the body or structure [4].

In the intimate space of Betts Project, at 100 Central Street, an event is made of looking at thought structures and processes behind and in front of what makes architecture.

NOTES

[1] https://www.makearchitects.com/thinking/betts-project/

[2] https://www.bettsproject.com/exhibitions#/peter-markli-1

[3] https://www.bettsproject.com/exhibitions#/fred-scott-in-search-of-the-lost-artwork

[4] https://www.bettsproject.com/exhibitions#/nigelcoates

 
Jacopo Rinaldi - Intervallo
Rinaldi

In this site-specific installation in a train connecting Lecce to Gagliano Leuca in Apulia, Italy, rail curtains were substituted with curtains printed with images from a 1935 newsreel. From this newsreel Jacopo Rinaldi extracted one-second segments and printed a different film-still for each curtain. In the brief sequence reproduced in Intervallo, the camera frames an Eritrean moving landscape as seen from one of the Littorina Fiat railcars. Rinaldi suggests through the commonality of railway and film terms (e.g. ‘carrellata’) that in some ways the train appears to prefigure cinema, describing the impression left of “a strong affinity between the figure of the spectator and that of the passenger”.

In Fascist Italy, the train and the cinema were invested with violent ideological charge. Trains became an instrument of propaganda, and Mussolini inaugurated the Italian film industry’s new hub, Cinecittà, with the slogan, “cinematography is the strongest weapon”. In 1920s newsreels, every image is overlaid with a voiceover or musical soundtrack, such that even landscape, war, and the tragedy of colonisation, are made into cinematographic fantasies. It is as though the spectators’ sight is imprinted on the cloth as a frozen memory, leaving a haunting trace in the ever-moving train. The original red curtains were hung contrastingly in the still space of Gagliano Leuca Station’s first floor.

Rinaldi
Rinaldi
Rinaldi
 
Kit Fan - Rachel Whiteread’s Ghost

The dead shall return home on the seventh day after burial. Sprinkle the entrance hall with rice, flour, or talcum powder. Stay in your room, so that they shall have their own final private moments.

– ‘Funeral Matters’, Records of Chinese Superstition

On day seven she scattered flour on the green mosaic,
turned off the fluorescent light, locked the doors.
What was left of him waited outside.
Presumably.

The oxygen pump cried in the fish tank on the balcony
where a caged bird
was shrouded for a sleep’s good night.
A goose crept over my skin

and fear saw a white spectator.
Through the keyhole my eye invited his fog-residues
to step inside
just as he’s done a thousand times touching
the doorknob, taking off his jacket
and sitting in his wicker chair where he’s shared breaths
in the lung-constricting atmosphere
with a tiny winged-form that when it chokes
turns the room emerald.
I must have slept.
Good morning, she said, pointing at an odd dozen
footprints,
last smudges of her man.
Her broom rose like a half-forgotten oar
of a distant tribe
and the flour plastered the walls the windows the door
as my head is cast centimetre by centimetre
filling the whole room
as now the concrete walks my feet
towards the white-off-white
exhibited inside
out and outside
in.

 
Wesley Knowler - Touch leaves indents

I cannot hold this place in the palm of my hand just yet, it is a leeching cold. Then traces:

three signs for an off-license which are mounted on a featureless white brick wall FreecashwithrawalsInternationalMoneyTransferTheSun. there is no door, window, or any semblance of the familiar corner shop                 -                 a dark little wood cottage, blackened and sallow, in a toothy break between two houses in a winding street. white windowsill paint tongues lolling, it prowls behind chest-high grass                                 -  chained down, rusting loops bound across a sun stripped bonnet, a nineties sports car. spidering rust feeds along its flanks, brown blotches stark against the fading red                                    -                                   a sign which shows a cherub-cheeked sun cresting over a lush meadow, wearing a demonic grin                         -                                   a spiralling staircase castle which is not a castle: rather, a thing that presents its castle-ness while being only a site for leisure       

These are things in orbit about this place, but they are not the thing itself. They are more like weals; blotchy expressions, coalescing and scabbing at points on a radius where the pressure of this place is most acutely felt. Gripped, held, and once a mark has been made let go: free to drift and ruin and take on their own lives. They are things made by the pressure of the hand. Climbing this hill brings me close to these traces. I paused on my way up here, still as the drizzle hissed, tapped on the shoulder by the vista that was gradually opening up at my back: this City as a ruined mouth, its fillings glinting catching the cold white sun as they crest the glimmering mist. I am headed towards the lip, the cusp, the boundary of this seething mass: the horizon which, once surmounted, plummets back towards the dirty vein of the Thames. These impressions brush against me as the mist drains downhill and my feet yank me forward. I shy away from what’s pulling me, but I’m pulled all the same.

 

I’m headed towards a place of mourning. It is in the soil, emitting from those things I passed, but concentrated here most potently. In climbing closer, it ekes thicker from the tarmac, welling underfoot. I am trying to think about mourning, that foundational ooze, and how it feels distinct from grief and nostalgia. Unlike grief, it is not immediate wracked with the instant distance of separation. Unlike nostalgia, it is not projective stretching out experience and forlornly draping it over the present. I’ve been thinking about Judith Butler-

 

‘If I lose you, under these conditions, then I not only mourn the loss, but I become inscrutable to myself. Who “am” I, without you? [...] On one level, I think I have lost “you” only to discover that “I” have gone missing as well.’ [1]

 

This is mourning as relational, mutually affective. It is not just the subject of mourning that is lost without a trace, rendered distant and alien; the mourner feels it too. We are bound and made and, as Butler later points out undone by each other. Within that intimacy, losing some(one)/thing becomes a destabilizing of, and subsequent search for, the self. This passage stirs the knowledge that I am participating in the making and fetishisation of this place. It coils in my stomach and, as it constricts, I wonder what it means to mourn things I never knew. I never knew “you” so how can I lose ”you”? How could “you” have been a part of me, and how can I  discover, in the act of mourning, that “I” have lost myself? I’m forced to ask what in that imagined intimacy that yearning intimacy  I am missing.

 

The culture that built this place of mourning is long gone, sunk into the soil after a tenure of almost two thousand years. This was(is) a place for a funeral. Without a written word, or perhaps with a written word that was scored on surfaces too tenuous to survive, why they chose this place is unclear. So people turn to those things that endure clay, stone, metal and earth, objects shaped by the labour of the hand to build a world. This is an act of people-present piecing together a people-gone from their detritus; an attempt to know the “I” in “you”.  These exhumed fragments, brittle messages, narrativise a world both familiar in its opacity and alienating in its likeness. I am touched by this place, this place I cannot hold in my hands too long and so I can’t help but feel that this action is similar to the tingling of one's own skin after the accidental-alien brush of the stranger: someone’s hands momentarily lapping over yours on a cramped tube. Touch leaves indents, redness, prickling hairs. DNA flecked between puckered ridges of the skin. Through these intimacies both toucher and touched are shaped in kind, and so a people can be felt and made from traces, mapped by bruising. I try and cup this place between chapped hands; as if some warmth can be transferred. As if the inscrutability of the past, and why I am drawn to the past, can be unravelled. As if in this place, morbidly distant from the present, and in the act of mourning something alien and gone, I will better understand my own inscrutability the “you” in “I.”

 

How do I document and understand these intimacies? I can’t escape the feeling that these remnants of places, of human and non-human activity in the landscape, are not layered how the past is traditionally understood like geological bands. They do not obscure and compress what came before. Instead, through human activity a place is hollowed out, shaped into a receptacle into which ‘what-comes-next’ is poured. Subsequent events fill the shape of this vessel, viscous and liquid. They too are cupped, held, nested between closed fingers.

 

Scrolling blankly late at night, I read that these people were often buried with a clay beaker in their hands.

 

This information hums in me as I’m spat out of a gritty lane, disoriented. I turn left and realise I’ve arrived, finally, at the summit past those traces and weals, those disparate marks of presence. At the end of a upward-banking street, the predictable rhythm of suburban form stumbles to a halt. Where you would expect the last in a row of glum semi-detached houses to be, there lies a low mound. This is a home for the dead partially erased by homes for the living. The sweeping hand of redevelopment struck here too hard there were once six of these barrows. Whatever relics and remains they contained have been mangled, exploded between the creeping pipework of water and gas provision; those probing roots of modern utile living. I think about this twisted loss in the act of construction: I mourn these barrows because they are ruined, because all that is left is traces. But what emerged in the moment of their erasure, this suburban housing estate which is now blighted by neglect and decay, also has reason to be mourned. In this city choked by private investment, the myth of socialised housing feels like nothing less than that same brush with a stranger: at once shocking and strangely alluring but so instantly withdrawn you are unsure whether it happened at all.

 

I have paced rings about the barrow and gone in circles long enough. It is still raining, so I get up to go. But leaving the estate and beginning that long raggedy exhalation downhill, I am transfixed. In my left eye, smeared across the grey durge a colourful flash: a child's drawing of a hedgehog in a plastic sleeve that has been nailed to a fencepost. Its limbs are outstretched pink, green and yellow, with little black eyes like nestled beads. The rain has bled through, so these luminous shades have muddied, streaked down the page to gather and well at the bottom corner of the plastic cover. The drawing is the last in this series of encounters, those marks of pressure. It is the closest to the mound, but it is also the most destabilized. Soon it will wash out entirely or rot in its casing dragged from the nail by high winds and whipped across the estate. How strange that in getting closest to the barrow, where I assumed these traces would wax strongest, oldest, I’ve found only a fragile impression, shaped by the youngest hands.

 

I remind myself that I’m culpable in the way I have formatted this place, the metaphors I have unchained let off the leash. I’m mourning a people and place I did not know, returning here again and again and in this act I know that I am likely mourning something lost within myself. How else can I explain the yanking pull of the barrow. Coming here to write about this place, I have staggered only through the architecture of parts of myself I do not understand: a shadowy, friable topography lit by flashes of recognition.

 

Who “am” I, without you? How can this unassuming mound in the middle of a housing estate, and a child’s drawing of a hedgehog, make me think all this? My head swims. I feel the whole overwrought edifice start to break down even as I stand here and try to hold it in my hands. Something, inevitably, is slipping through my fingers.

 

 

[1]  Butler, Judith. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. Verso, 2004, 22.

 
Mandy Payne - Remnants of a Welfare State

With its graphic starkness so photogenic in the age of Instagram, Brutalist architecture has become fashionable again, with over half-a-million images hashtagged #brutalism, and lavishly illustrated coffee-table books celebrating iconic examples of its aesthetic. Many of our towns and cities, though, have plenty of much less attractive examples in the form of cheaply built, poorly maintained civic buildings and public housing from the 1960s and 70s, so that Brutalism has also come to symbolise urban decay and economic decline.

 

Mandy Payne’s paintings of graffitied council flats and damp-stained civic structures falling into dilapidation confront us with the unloved and often unlovable aspects of such buildings but they are also a poignant celebration of what might have been. Exquisitely rendered on small concrete panels, they connect materially with their subjects. Their titles tell the story: Love Don’t Live Here Anymore – but Remnants of a Welfare State and For The Many Not The Few speak of seemingly lost possibilities of civic pride and affordable public housing.

 

In the narrative of these paintings, architecture and memory coincide evocatively, prompting not a nostalgia for some lost utopia, but a way of seeing missed potential; locating hope for the future in lost social and architectural possibilities that might yet be redeemable.

Payne
Payne
Payne
Payne
Payne
Payne

Remnants of a Welfare State, 2019

Love Don't Live Here Anymore, 2018

No Ball Games Here, 2016

Kirklees College, 2019

Out of Time, 2019

For the Many Not the Few (triptych), 2019

 
Ingrid Stobbe - Orange
 
James Thompson - Recording Performance (negative)

Recording Performance (negative) was presented as part of Parallel Architectures IIIII and shown in the former prison under Leeds Town Hall in The Crypt during Index Festival, 2019. It involved the destruction of 114 clay moulds of impressions taken from the re-situated statues of Henry Rowland Marsden, Queen Victoria, the Duke Of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel on Woodhouse Moor. The performance took place on the front steps of Leeds Town Hall from where, in 1937, the latter three statues had been re-located to make space for a car park. (The statue of Marsden was re-located in 1952 from the junction of Merrion Street and Albion Street, which was deemed a hindrance to increased road traffic.) The work re-imagines previous iterations of the space through the materiality of the artist's process, merging lost futures and failed dreams. Clay used in the performance was donated to Leeds art students to be reconstituted and continue its existence as art objects in multiple forms.

Photo Credit: Jules Lister

 
Nick Norton - Walking Sentences: disappearing and reappearing

You can walk, sit, rest with, dream of the sentences and respond in any way.

Dee Heddon 2019

 

Library Interventions took place in October 2019 and was a project co-curated by Dee Heddon and Nick Norton for Leeds Arts University. The term “walk” was searched for in the library catalogue. Walk and variations thereof became a collection within the collection. A game began. The artists were invited to select a title. They then asked the librarian (myself) to select a sentence from the book in a pleasing subversion of the notion of librarian as gatekeeper passing out pre-approved texts. In what follows I try to explore not only the discovery of these sentences, how I got to them, but also how they got to me. That is; each sentence extends to become a discovery. The game then proceeded to another level: each sentence was returned to the artists: Dee Heddon, Angela Kennedy, Rosie O’Grady, and Garry Barker. Each walked with this sentence, in their own way, for up to a fortnight. What follows is not about their responses to this game, something of that was found in the gallery exhibition. Rather it is an exploration of how a game might be played; the aleatory dance of thought as it pushes toward creativity via research and the threaded connections of narrative.

Preamble

Paths are made by walking them. Things return by being pulled close. (A determined and optimistic game of agency: fort/da, gone/here.)

‘It is plainly the case that children repeat everything in their play that has made a powerful impression on them, and that in so doing they abreact the intensity of the experience and make themselves so to speak master of the situation.’ (Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle)

Sometimes our agency and games fail. But we repeat. Or we change the game and walk new paths through the library shelves, sidestepping the return for the detour(ne), writing new narratives and selves – autotopographies and autobibliographies - as we travel the shelves. (Heddon, 2007; Heddon & Myers, 2014)

 

Amble

Sentence walks.

Walking the sentence.

Waking the sense.

The sense of each step: alea iacta est - the die is cast.

An aleator is a dice player; there is always a gamble in bringing a group of people, an expectation, a hope, and a process together. Will everyone play? We lay down a bet using our time, our talent, and resources. We take the next step, and one more, and one more after that. We may refer to a map, we may hold on to a thread; what is it we are betting on?

If we are hiking to the castle called Fort Da then are we throwing our time/talent/resource into an abyss?

Fort! Away – it has gone.

There is agency in the world and this game suggests I play a part in such agency.

Da! Here – haha! It is back.

Look! Fort/Da! Haha, it disappears, it reappears.

The abyss swallows all, and yet emptiness returns a fullness. The world falls into nothingness, and yet from nothingness creativity is manifest. When I set out on a walk “the place where I was” vanishes, but from this destruction there arises a new thing: the journey. And lo! The journey not only holds the end but also therein we can see the beginning. “The place where I was” has been given back to me; it is the same, and it is radically different for now it is enriched by the journey.

 

Enable

Sensing the sentence, stepping in amongst words. Stepping stones, the stacks. The Library is sense stacked, sense packed; the Library is senseless, jarring, words stacked in teetering piles. How dare one ever gamble on the disarmingly simple action of opening a book?

 

Walk 1:

I said to her, open the window, from these last days onward I can fly.

(Herzog, Werner; Of walking in ice: Munich - Paris, 23 November - 14 December)            

 

In selecting this sentence I employed a strategy of looking for the evidence of previous readers, seeking all the folded page corners. I use the tracery of these folds as path to bring me a sentence. Five folds – ten pages. In the end, after considering a sentence from each of these pages, I flicked to the end of Herzog’s walk and his last sentence broke my strategy, it demanded to be chosen.

A body is a sequence of spaces

A body is therefore a book

A body reflects and patterns, it focuses down.

It is a blockage, and it is that which keeps the opening open.

The many qualities of travelling reside in a body and that body may need to go nowhere because the body is also a cup into which the whole world shall be poured. The body is a bridge to the book.

 

 

Walk 2:

The pattern parts diagrammed above show how the individual parts look and the relation they have to each other.

(Kirschner, Jack; Lingerie patternmaking and grading simplified: A manual for the student and the worker)

 

“We can redesign and imagine the spaces in which we find knowledge by foregrounding the erotics of libraries and reading. The ordered shelves might be considered the weaver’s warp. And the lines that readers draw across texts are the weft. But rather than straight lines that run neatly perpendicular to the warp, readers’ lines are unruly. They intersect and are likely to get knotted up in different parts of the library, depending on any reader’s desires and interests. The library stacks can be a makerspace for ideas, a public forum for dialogue and demonstration, a canvas on which we might draw new lines, or a warp that might serve as a support structure for variously crossing threads.” (Adler, Melissa; Eros in the library: considering the aesthetics of knowledge organisation)

 

 

… a reference interview…

The reference interview is structured to help the librarian provide answers to the library user. In general, the interview is composed of the following stages.

1. Welcoming

2. Gathering general information from the user and getting an overview of the problem

3. Confirming the exact question

4. Intervention, such as giving information, advice or instructions

5. Finishing, including feedback and summary

These stages may occur in loops, for example when a clarification of the question leads to the need to establish more background information on the query topic. These steps are designed to put the user at their ease, and then help ensure that they have correctly explained what they require. When the reference librarian believes that the query is fully understood, they attempt to provide resources that help satisfy it. An important and often overlooked final step is checking that the information or service provided was indeed what the library user required.

 

 

Walk 3:

Duduak bapamenan

tagak baparintang

Sitting has its games

standing has its diversions

(Summerfield, Anne & Summerfield, John; Walk in Splendor: Ceremonial dress and the Minangkabau)              

Strong visual presence – including looms and textiles. Option to continue the weaving metaphor. Equally strong attraction to folk tales and folk motifs – which then link to ceremony – motifs and meanings – historical consciousness.

An indexical sign is a clue that links meanings: I let my imagination and browsing merge.

STONE GONGS! Lithophones – this discover urgently demands an on-line search. I listen to stone gongs and wonder if the stone carvings on Ilkley Moor were once used in a comparable fashion.

What must it be to live with a conscious, expressed and lived, traditional sense of identity? Adat in this Indonesian culture. Adat still has room for evolution (should the Elders agree).

I eventually focus on the chapter entitled: ‘Traditional Dance… Its roots and its future’. Again this inspired some internet searches to try and see the dances but my searches move sideways to longsword dancing.

Despite the misleading name, longsword dancing does not involve the use of actual swords. Rather, each dancer holds a length of steel or wood by the handle in their right hand, and grips the point of their neighbour's "sword" in their left. Linked together, they form circles and dance over and under their makeshift swords, flowing through brisk and orderly figures and steps. The centrepiece of the dance is the star-shaped formation made by the circle-weaving and the locking of swords high in the air.

The dance move from Walk in Splendor is able to be translated into a martial art; likewise the Handsworth Sword dancers obviously trace a tradition to a point when it was caught up in the military. Yet look at how the good order of the dancers in uniform, who follow a strict pattern in order to lock swords, are framed by clowns. I find myself looking at the tunics of these dancers, following the zigzagging braiding as if moving in and out of the library stacks. Motion as an indexical sign, gesture linking gesture across the potential of form.

 

 

Walk 4:

Our discussions roamed across the territories, but came back, time and again, to movement and stasis: the expedition and the fixed space, the writing room or cell and its books and trophies.

(Sinclair, Iain; Living with buildings and walking with ghosts. 2018)

 

What is a suitable sentence? One that arrests, holds, stops my attention; a sentence that draws my eye back over it.

The reading eye, therefore, is a mind ambling up and down a corridor created by the marks of a sentence’s formation.

I am charged with fitting this sentence to a process, the game. The process suggests that a suitable sentence is a corridor with many exits, a liminal space offering views onto new places, new movements.

Sentences are laboriously fitted into the authorial meshwork – a narrative. But then the reader comes along. My eye comes along. My mind decides on a process and by this process the authorial intent is dragged toward a different context. Reading is a betrayal of the sentence.

Thus we walk each sentence as if it were a threshold onto another realm, each sentence offers either consummation or infidelity. An-Other is a suitable sentence.

 

 

Walk 5:

The embrace, the warm and engaging smile, the outstretched hand, and love at first sight all have to do with the first moments of engagement.

(Paim, Nina; Bergmark, Emilia; Taking a line for a walk: Assignments in design education)

Walk 6:

We would like to express our gratitude to the photographers who patiently accompanied us on our long journey from industrial ruins, across marshes and snow fields, to underground car parks.

(Meister, Gerhard; Lutz, Andres; The Stools Walk the Earth)

 

A brief selection process because the only written language in this book is title and colophon. The book contains photographs of two performers/personas – echoes of Gilbert & George. It looks to be a trace of a long road trip. It may be their holiday snaps yet the framing suggests performance art. I spend some time trying to look for written language embedded in the landscapes these characters inhabit. In the end the photographs annoy me. The acting persona is, I realise, intended to activate the imagery they inhabit – pretending toward an implied narrative – but I find the landscapes more interesting than the performers. Ironically, I imagine a book already stripped of written narrative would be more interesting if its implied narrative was also removed. Walk 6 is a search for a book yet to be created as well as the review describing an actual book: long journey … industrial ruins … marshes and snow fields … underground …

Credit: Images of the Library Interventions exhibition courtesy of Leeds Arts University © Hamish Irvine 

© 2020 Soanyway

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