Monthly Archives: August 2010

Venice (Archives of Re-Incidence #05)

Getting back from my flash trip to Venice, I could only recognize that, maybe for the first time in its existence, the Venice Architecture Biennale was indeed being instantly reviewed, twitted and blogged about – thus leaving print reviews in a couple of months from now to an empty role.

In this respect, I can only briefly add that the Golden Lion actually coincided (!!) with my favorite national pavilion: the Kingdom of Bahrain’s, with its wonderful take on reclaiming the informal architecture’s of everyday life as against the country’s amazing growth onto every possible form of private condo…

Bahrain offered the humble beauty of spontaneous sea loungers as giving clues to where architecture is heading in terms of its references

In stark contrast, the Portuguese pavilion was fooling around with the last remaining aspects of architecture’s commodification – see Aires Mateus’ luxurious take on the primitive hut in Comporta… or artist João Onofre’s acid view on Ricardo Bek Gordon’s WIMBY private villa.

© João Onofre, “Untitled (SUN 2500)”, 2010.Vídeo HD. Courtesy  CGCA.

Finally, I must say that I’ve actually enjoyed Sejima’s diverse picks and the resulting succession of Arsenale installations. But I must also suggest that those who liked Wim Wenders’ remaking himself in 3D over Sanaa’s Rolex Learning Centre, should rather revisit the referential and much more beautiful Wings of Desire scene inside Hans Scharoun‘s Staatsbibliothek in Berlin.

Why was Wenders’ original better than most recent artist and film director’s takes on architecture? Because, apart from Wenders being at the top of his form, this was part of a bigger narrative – indeed a narrative which was bigger than life – and not just a sponsored laudatory appraisal of a good building…

Guess What I’m Doing #06

Part of this easy going August was dedicated to review a section of my PHD for publication in the young but entrepreneurial architecture publishing house Dafne. After a few catalogues, this will actually be my first book in Portuguese.

It is rewarding that a portion of my massive, “so last season” investigation into the recent mediatization of architecture through the mass-media – in particular through Portuguese newspaper Público – is going to serve for more than some sense of academic self fulfillment, the residual article, and, ultimately, the overwhelming capacity of its printout to gather dust in some faculty library.

But right now the end of the month is nearing and it is time to head for Venice!!!.. Even if you can now follow the opening of the Venice Architecture Biennale on your iPhone app, I guess that this will still be an event that actually lives of its encounters, more than of its (enormous) media buzz.

After two years of blogging, emailing, facebooking, recent twitting and whatever else, this is still one of a few occasions in which one can massively meet face to face with one’s network… And – fuck content! – that is more than enough.

After all, isn’t this about meeting people in architecture?

Archives of Re-incidence # 04

Following on an article that just came out at the Design Observer, I felt like advancing here the introduction to a paper that will appear in full later this year in the Tickle Your Catastrophe! post-conference book.

……….. Via My Pen and My Paper.

This intro was actually written for the very same Design Observer and its Places journal, at the invitation of editor Nancy Levison. However, ultimately, we agreed that it was proving difficult to introduce the reasonings of a coming paper without actually reproducing it in its entirety.

……….. © Vaíllo & Irigaray + Galar. Via Plataforma Arquitectura.

But given that the Design Observer is now taking on board the very discussion of how copyright affects the development of the fashion field, I think it is more than adequate to have a sneak preview at my arguments on why architecture and design knowledge should nowadays follow the logic(s) of fashion

Blue Light, Blue Heat

© P.G., Blue Light, Blue Heat (@Shenzhen).

XVI. He ate at food courts, preferring the late afternoon when the office crowds were gone and he could eat in peace, alone with his combo. He favoured souvlaki, sweet and sour pork and steak sandwiches (his favourite: all mayonaise and white bread, gray meat, and orange cheese. He ate off Styrofoam plates using plastic utensils, and when he was done, he always put the garbage in the trash, careful to place the tray on top. Even the food court demanded manners. This was still civilization.

XVII. He read books even though they gave him no pleasure. It was force of habit combined with an acute fear of being alone with his thoughts. He could barely sit down without reaching for something, anything, to read, to cram in his eyeballs and fill up his brain. He preferred non-fiction, books about the way things are. He wanted his fears confirmed.

XVIII. There were pieces of his life all over the city, scattered debris from the slow-motion crash of the last ten years. Slowly, surely, without notice or alarm (at first), his life had just fallen away. Things he did were no longer done, people he knew were no longer known, Significant places returned to anonimity, their significance forgotten.

M. A. Wallace, All Tunnel, No Light, in Assembly #01, Brooklyn/Toronto.

Other Little Magazines #11 – An Eastern Outlook

It is always enriching to enjoy another perspective on the peculiar views we are used to. And as for the portraits of contemporary culture that are carried in magazines this certainly applies as a refreshing rule.

While traveling in China, although there were so many publications available in all cultural areas, I wasn’t exactly expecting to be so lucky as to come across many inaugurating magazine issues. But in Beijing they finally came about.

Span, for instance, published for the first time in December 2009, has precisely that quality of offering a slightly dislocated view on a sea we swim already at relative ease: that of the crossings between architecture, interiors and design.

One could almost say that Span primarily covers the field of communication, even if expressed spatially, and precisely at the point in which the referred disciplines of creation intersect – including, of course, brand and graphic design.

In this sense, and even if most text is in Chinese, it was fun to discover an outlook on Nordic design that goes beyond Bjarke Ingels and is able to introduce the interesting practices of Bosch & Fjord or Tham & Videgard; a vision of post-industrial China that goes beyond the most notorious and lofty art districts; a section on exhibition makers that includes new Chinese curators but also the surprise of familiar Elias Redstone; or even an overture into product design that calls attention to a fantastic Slovenian creator, Nika Zupanc.

My second premiére issue today is yet another example of what I would call a specialized middlebrow. Pixel’s chosen title is, on the other hand, also a statement on the digital turn of contemporary photography…

Edited by Inter Art Space – “the most authoritative photo collecting organization in China” – the magazine is, in addition, a window onto another Chinese “booming” cultural field, that of photographic self-reflection.

The very best of this lot, however, has to be LEAP, the “bilingual art magazine of contemporary China” that, currently at its third issue, was kindly and wholy offered to me by independent curator editor Philip Tinari – an American in Beijing on a mission to link East and West.

The first issue offers a truly comprehensive account of the last 10 years of Chinese art boom by its own protagonists; the full story of the 798 district; and, besides the classical exhibition reviews, also some delicious sections such as the Ba-Ba Watch (where they “read China’s favourite art-world bulletin board art ba-ba and translate the good parts into English…”); the Videos You Didn’t Finished Watching, or a fashion shoot based on the lifestyle of artists…

Last but not least, Fat/Art is the more alien of all these mags – being, in its own terms, a journal of “creative & cultural updates from Contemporary China.”

Going through FAT/ART’s selected players in the areas of video, graphics, new media, painting or music, you truly enter unknown territory and feel that there is still an immense lot to be discovered here. China is quickly moving beyond the realm of pure copy and is rediscovering its own milenar impulses.

As in everything cultural, you have to be immersed in a certain reality to really understand its protagonists, its hidden meanings and its true potential – even if that reality is transcribed into the wonderful superficiality of magazines.

However, this very few examples may unveil the growing vitality of a cultural world that too many disregard too fast – in what can be a gross historical mistake of an Europe whose welfare state piramidal scheme is now crumbling.

Accidents & Failures

As I have just received my copies of Beyond #03 – and fantastic they look in their shiny pink – I may as well announce that the Call for Contributions is out for Beyond‘s next issue on Accidents & Failures.

© John Minihan, via Agaudi.

Under the banner of Samuel Beckett’s “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better,” I’m welcoming fictions and experimental pieces on the intricacies and ambiguities of failure – if not on the illusions of perfect achievement or the happiness of chance.

Accidents, mistakes, errors, blunders, slips, faults, collapses, mishaps, missteps, miscalculations and other human disasters are all part of the city’s historical progression, and they often provide immense impulses for renewal and for uprooting what tends to become an inert status quo.

How can the outlooks on cities and architecture, as well as our perspectives on daily practice, gain consciousness from the accidents and the failures of past and present? After Virilio, how can we develop a positive theory of errors and mistakes? How can we embrace failure as methodology?

While modernist ideologies, technological truths, political principles, and the conditioned actions of urban planners are shadowed by permanent claims of social failure, what cautionary tales can we today evoke so as to insinuate new views and positions on all of ours tomorrow’s cities?

I’m looking out for your witty, insightful accounts… So, do send your stories to Martien de Vletter at Sun Publishers ( email: m.devletter @ sunpublishers.nl ) until September 15th 2010.