Monthly Archives: February 2010

Post-Pop, Cinematic City

While digging for that photo of Tokyo, I’ve come across other memorabilia from the trip I took 15 years ago, including some incredible postcards of the Japanese megalopolis long before the familiar urban sights we got used to.

These images bring us to a time much before our perception of Tokyo was redone over and over again, not only by the city’s renewal, but also by films such as Lost in Translation or, even more quintessentially, Wim Wender’s Tokyo Ga.

Such urban portraits go back to a time that is closer to that of the Japanese film director which Wenders celebrated in his docufilm: Yazujiro Ozu and his sceneries and visions of the particular post-war moment when a whole tradition quickly turned to the lure of Western values.

Curiously, it was Tokyo that ended up creating the image towards which Western cinematic megalopolis were soon to be drawn, like it happened in the sets and urban conception of Blade Runner‘s Los Angeles.

Now, welcome the mediated manga city, as represented by Takashi Murakami’s installation and related Kirsten Dunst video at the Pop Life exhibition recently held at Tate Modern.

As I’ve written a couple of years ago, one may predict that architecture is going “pop!” – as Slade Architecture + Korea-based MASS Studies early comer Dalki Theme Park – thus clearly announcing Venturi’s revenge.

With all these cinematic references, and at a moment in which architectural blogs readdress the quite meaningful relationships between cinema and architecture – like it is happening most interestingly in Boiteaoutils’ series on Heterotopias in Cinema, but also in Plataforma Arquitectura – I can’t but inevitably be reminded how my own way into architecture was paved by a strong passion for film and its ways of seeing.

All Things Urban

Don’t ask me why, but my fascination for urban themes and city imagery can be somehow epitomized by this video of Four Tet’s She Moves She.

It reminds me of my own images of Japan years ago and so it is also a good leitmotif for linking here into the new blog of a long existing, long hibernating cultural association dedicated to urban knowledge.

CUC, or the Centre for Contemporary Urban Culture, was and is again an interdisciplinary platform dedicated to all things urban, promoting projects and discussions that are related to urban culture and city creativity.

CUC was funded 10 years ago to put up the Post.Rotterdam exhibition – with Rem Koolhaas, MVRDV, West 8 and others – and is now back into activity with new people, to promote, co-organize and be the private partner of projects like Emergent Megalopolis and Once Upon a Place.

I hope that the new CUC blog will also represent an opportunity to cook up a multi-voiced reflection on current urban matters in Portuguese language. Everybody is welcome to contribute and heat up future discussions…

London Calling (Other Little Magazines #08)

My latest trips to London were made on behalf of the Advisory Panel for the British Pavilion at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale.

As already announced here and there, the British Council meetings led to the choice of MUF as curators of the Pavilion, with an appeal on collaborative practice, alternative resources and direct experiences of space.

While MUF also won the 2008 European Prize for Urban Public Space, they are indeed an excellent example of a kind of British practice that has consistently produced a triggering blend of art, architecture and social concerns.

Looking forward to Venice…

Meanwhile, visiting London on a frequent basis served to confirm that, as earlier proposed in the Space Invaders 2001 exhibition, this is still the true capital of a diverse and lively urban culture – an exciting place for doers and movers.

Even if Berlin comes closer and closer in several arenas, thanks to a constant influx of young people and raw creative energy, I would say this is still the major European magnet for cultural production… and consumption.

Even if you come back to the British megalopolis after only a month, there will be already new shows in, new discussions on the air and, of course, the odd couple of new magazines out…

This time, I brought back three mags that are good representatives of a new explosion of the hybrid, not purely academic journal… In times of crisis, particularly in advanced societies, it’s no wonder that people turn to further education. And, then, so much reflexive knowledge has to spill out somewhere.

MILK, for example, stands for More Informed Lifestyle Knowledge, and is one of about ten different Milk magazines, this one addressing communication, brand marketing and “progressive culture” in a rather self-conscious and graceful way…

Defining itself in between “a journal, a book, a magazine, and a blog” (and a great website intro), MILK is also another product of the new digital middlebrow, even if its editors cleverly position themselves beyond what I’ve otherwise called the digital turn and already propose the idea of a post-digital.

In case you’re wondering, their excuse for existing offline is a wish to condensate “shared influences into a format that could easily be read in quite moments and in transit when it’s better to reflect and take onboard inspiration.”

Another beautifully designed new publication is VESTOJ, a journal on all matters sartorial… Prompting the fashion magazine to the high-end intellectual status, the 1st issue of VESTOJ conjures phrases like “textile memento mori” and “theorizing of vintage clothing” to explore the theme of “Material Memories”.

The journal kicks off with a superb article on fashion photography’s melancholic death wish and ends up with a powerful double feature: a long essay on “Postmodernism and Fashion” – subtitled à la Frederic Jameson as “Imagined Nostalgia and False Memories” and written by the cinematic editor Anja Aronowsky Cronberg herself – intercepted by the enigmatic and performative “The Dinner Club,” a photo-essay by Martina Hoogland Ivanow.

For me, the lavish first edition of VESTOJ came complete with a statement by cult singer Lydia Lunch (of whom I hereby suggest the ideal soundtrack for this post) and a bold manifesto that one may consult online, on VESTOJ’s blog.

“A Year in the Death of the British Music Press” is the symptomatic title of one of the interesting texts in LOOPS, another re-apparition of the “journal” format still in the shelves, at this stance dedicated to writing and music.

Opening with an excerpt from Nick Cave’s latest novel, the outrageous “The Death of Bunny Monroe,” and a beautiful account from one of the upcoming young British writers of recent crop, Hari Kunzru, LOOPS comes to occupy the place left empty by the decline of the music press tradition that gave us the Melody Maker, The Face and the once indie-glorious NME

As said of the Inky Fingers blog, maybe this mag turns out to be “a repository for music journalism’s finest tradition of unfettered idealism, syntactical overload, and industrial-strength sarcasm…”

As for myself, slightly nostalgic of the music writings of my youth – my first published text ever was indeed a nearly fictional interview with Nick Cave himself – I’ve enjoyed LOOPS to the very last bit…

But then I’m partial, because in the very last LOOPS story, “Sonic Fiction… or, If This Is The Future, How Come The Music Sounds So Lame?”, author Simon Reynolds digs into the lost world of science fiction movies soundtracks just like the one from fabulous and unforgettable “Forbidden Planet”…


My Desktop

My desktop is made out of a piece by Portuguese artist Leonor Antunes.

Leonor, who just had a solo show at the Centre d’Art Contemporain d’Ivry – …. Le Crédac, and one of the artists with whom I incidentally work, is one of those people which are keen to make quite elegant contributions to the longstanding love/hate affair between art & architecture.

I first saw and fell in love with Your Private Sky back in 2006, in Berlin, when the blue plastic ruler appeared in Leonor’s solo exhibition by the same name at the Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie.

Ever since I grabbed the image, this ruler landed on my laptop desktop and became the perfect background for my chaotic organization of the near future. I can’t even remember how a desktop feels without this subtly displaced grid.

Now, who ever wants to have a peep at my by now crammed skytop is welcomed to do so, tonight at 9pm, at the Ordem dos Arquitectos’ headquarters in Lisbon.

I’m invited to be a guest speaker at the WAYD (What Are You Doing?) and, rather than preparing yet another dashing powerpoint presentation, I thought the best way to answer was… to browse through the contents of my desktop.

This will be a moment of pure revelation, including a very sneaky and blurred preview of my latest house-refurbishing project:

As Baltasar House exits its meteoric one year journey across the blogosphere – with one last Top Ten honorable mention… – it is almost about time to unveil my latest project, another home full of “aspirational” and “essayistic” thrills…