Tuesday, March 31, 2009

American Beauty

Window/Wall, New York, March 2009, JB

And through the walls we hear the city groan
Outside it's America - outside it's America
U2, Bullet the Blue Sky

Just through the window - the only window - is a wall of bricks. Its proximity is such that it feels to be in the room. The pressing presence of such a mass could become oppressive, yet there is something strangely seductive about the brick expanse. Its enigmatic nature draws one to it, and it always catches the eye while moving about the tiny room. Melville had such a relationship with his chimney, "My chimney is grand seignior here - the one great domineering object, not more of the landscape, than of the house; all the rest of which house, in each architectural arrangement, as may shortly appear, is, in the most marked manner, accommodated, not to my wants, but to my chimney's, which, among other things, has the centre of the house to himself, leaving but the odd holes and corners to me." (I and My Chimney) I begin to feel this way about My Wall. It leaves a little space for me, the margins of some much greater realm. It has a curious beauty, pale and wan, yet engulfing. And somewhere beyond is the frenetic life of the city, something which my wall demurs from in its quiet vigil outside my window.

Further south, the university town is oppressive not in its presence, but in its absence. Vast and sprawling, it is discomfiting. Setting out on a long walk to my destination I find myself trying to hug the boundaries, the edge of the forest, the road, to avoid being out in the open, exposed. The open and hostile expanses eventually gave way to the fabric of the university itself. Yet any signs of relief were quickly dispelled since the first building I encounter is the nuclear reactor. It is under heavy surveillance, pervading the surroundings with feelings of dark menace against the backdrop of the forest. After a long day and an even longer evening I later return to the hotel, out in the vast nothingness beyond the campus. The sinister moments of the day linger, but there is a certain fascination with this place which is so alien, so unforgiving. Switching on the tv, American Beauty is part way through. The claustrophobic scenography, the darkness, the rain, the brooding and foreboding, seem to amplify the setting I find myself in. And then the scene, the plastic bag which swirls in the breeze. The beauty. Pulling back the curtain to stare into the night I see the swimming pool aglow, like a radioactive puddle, and then beyond it, the darkness, into the forest. The unearthly green glow has its own toxic beauty, haunted by the strange calls of a unknown bird ... at the brink of blackness ...

Swimming Pool, PA, March 2009, JB

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Eye Candy

Len Lye - New Zealand filmmaker and kinetic artist, Swinging the Lambeth Walk, 1940

Excellent audio-visual therapy ...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Unknown and the Unknowable

Andrei Jewell, cover for new album by Rhian Sheehan, Standing in Silence

"The further we go to the limits of the Universe, the more we situate the Ungraspable within ourselves. "

Olivier Debré, Space and Behaviour, 2000, trans Michael Tweed

Caspar David Friedrich, The Monk by the Sea, 1808-1810

Rhian Sheehan - My Absolution

"Abstract art transfers attention from object-as-means to object-as-end. The art object no longer offers itself as a window on to life, but directly engages our cognitive faculties. By becoming an enigma it resists being emptied of meaning."

Robert Maxwell, Approaching the Void: Can the Tragic Appear in Architecture?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Perpetual Beauty and the Abyss of Oblivion

Still from Heike Baranowsky, Schwimmerin, 2000

Over and over and over again, Baranowsky's swimmer swims. Stroke after stroke, never reaching the end of the pool. Suspended in the vast, eternal blue, there is an almost chilling sense of the eternal which comes into the mind on imagining this video sequence. Like a fear of the eternal, the infinite, the sublime awe of the vastness of space when staring out into the night sky. At once the most supreme moment of beauty, and the utmost terror. The futility of the self aloft comes to mind, of floating within this endless pool, an eternal recurrence of space, an endless video loop.

The sublimity of relentlessness and infinite eternality stares into the face of memory, and what it is to 'memorialise'. A friend recently sent me news of a Colombian artist, Oscar Muñoz, whose work balances on this fulcrum of the beauty of the perpetual. Munoz confronts memory itself, turning ideas of permanence as a signal of remembering, through painting with water, and "As one image is in the process of being created, the water images on the other screens start drying out, and as soon as a sketch is completed, the brush moves quickly on to one that has almost disappeared, trying to save it from falling into the abyss of oblivion." Haaretz

Oscar Muñoz / Re Trato


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Psychogéographie: Paris

Saint Sulpice
& Saint Placide.

In the dark
The names elide,

Fusing together
As Saint Suicide.

Plaisance and Concorde.
Abbesses and Invalides.

Cité and Nation
and Pyramides.

Subterranean dérive.

(An echo of Ode to London ...)

Images: From the series Détourning Dubuffet: Jardin de Nuit (J Bowring March 2009)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Johnny Ray Huston in the San Francisco Bay Guardian
[click for larger image]

Eidetic Architecture

Le Couvent de La Tourette, France, 1957 - 1960
Le Corbusier
See here and here for my images of the interior