Thursday, May 22, 2008

Peter Doig

I very often find myself torn between the dialectics of being able to understand art and architecture through the context, and on the other hand being able to appreciate and asses it for its inherent beauty (if we acknowledge such a possibility exists). ‘A minute in the world’s life passes! To paint it in reality and forget everything for that! To become that minute, to be the sensitive plate....give the image of what we see, forgetting everything that has appeared before our time’ is the way Cezanne explains a painter’s attempt to depict a moment in time such that, its success depends on bringing the observer within the confines of that moment and closing the gap of time between the artist who witnessed it and the observer who centuries down stands and gazes at this moment. In such a case as Berger explains a very simple act of pouring milk (Vermeer) can be beautiful enough to be appreciated within itself, without being aware of Vermeer and women’s role in society.
I am not advocating being blind or ignorant to the politics that lie behind us, but after seeing an art exhibition by the artist Peter Doig (Tate Britain) I find myself a bit more disturbed and confused. I had no clue about him or the nature of his work, but I loved it, I felt happy and very refreshed and even more so, after I had agonized myself looking at some works by the Camden group downstairs. But I had to resolve this feeling of ‘liking’ in my head and somehow tame this stupid subjectivity under some kind of objective reasons. Few days after the exhibition, one morning, when I looked outside my window, I could see the world outside, overlapped by the glass that reflected my room on it and all this being bent by the warm vapour emitted by the heater and a mirage of my own thoughts. Peter Doig’s choice of subjects and their depiction I feel is similar to this experience that we all have, where our eyes lost in thought land on an obscure view of the world and languidly relish staring in air at the mad haze of colours that our unfocused (or politically myopic) retina tries to dwell on.

The most impressive of all the canvases was the painting that showed a view of La Marseilles’ Habitat (Corbusier) from a forest of maple trees. The hard architecture with defined edges and multi coloured patches being interspersed with the organic splatter of leaves and nature was simply beautiful. Also the painting of the Swamp with coloured flora and fauna merging with coloured atmosphere of fog, mist and smoke, being reflected in waters of the swamp influenced by the colour of the sky and the chemicals that make it, was very good. I think I liked it for the mad colours but beyond that there is no objective reason that I can find.
Over the next three months I and Kostas are planning to make a book of “invisible Cities” within London where, we plan to look at this relation between Surrealism, Language and Subjectivity.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The three Sirens of Altes - Amazon, Nefertiti and Nike

Embedded within Berlin’s masculine flesh of chauvinist architecture evolved through multiple palimpsests of memory and power, are three transplants that very gracefully tread the tight rope between the poles of elegant power and absolute beauty. Ironically all the three foreign feminine bodies belonging to different culture, space and time have lodged themselves within Schinkel’s Altes museum. Each of these three women to me seemed to emit an Aura Borealis that seemed to pass through every other artefact in stone, wood and clay and mesmerizing every visitor as they through their composure held the reigns of power and rode the chariots of beauty to become the very symbols of their civilizations within the space of the museum.

The first sculpture is along the steps guarding the gates of the museum. The sculpture of woman, stead and beast (by August Kiss and Albert Wolf) engaged in a battle for survival is frozen in a moment where the potential difference within the struggle has reached its peak and the very next instance the act of throwing of the spear will determine the outcome. The arm that holds the spear is stretched to its limit and points towards the heart of the beast with a calm composure that promises assurance of the outcome. The scale of the statue is about 1.5 times the life size, which makes it small enough for the observer to be a witness and at the same time big enough to restrict ones role only to that. This statue called ‘the Amazon’ beats most of the Victorian lion riders, golden angels, baby cherubs, grumpy queens, gate keepers etc hands down.

In contrast to this sculpture that bears the wind, rain and snow, the other two are highly prized and protected artefacts separated by level difference and civilizations- ground floor dedicated to the Greek civilization and the first floor to the Egyptian civilization. As one enters the central room on the first floor, which is comparatively dimly lit and has only one artefact- the bust of Nefertiti. Seeing it is like seeing the real queen and feeling her gaze on you, with her chin held high, sharp features, beautiful eyes and the head that bears the weight of the crown. She is encased in a glass box that tends to throw multiple reflections of her from different perspectives, in a manner such that one stops acknowledging it as an artefact but starts referring to it as ‘her’, the ultimate three dimensional Fayum portrait that comes to life and asserts to us that ‘I existed’ and ‘I was beautiful and powerful, behold me’.
The third sculpture is not something which is displayed as impressively as Nefertiti or is poised like the Amazon at the steps. The third is in the central rotunda arranged as one of the ten odd Greek gods of love, hate, sex and whatever that the Greeks worshiped.

One might even miss her, but if you do glance at her and especially her feet, all the images of present day science fiction and media’s portrayal of flight seem rather bland in comparison to this statue of Nike’ the goddess of flight (and victory). Looking straight ahead, her clothes flutter and show us the wind and her legs elevated above the ground by just a few inches, a detail I could never forget in my entire life! And then this piece of marble takes flight! I can only imagine what might be the impact of another such statue of the headless Nike in the Louvre in Paris that is positioned at the end of a long circulation axis and is in a pose that is about to leap and challenge gravity. Never before have I been so excited on seeing sculpture, but these three sirens are simply fabulous. Madly in love with all three.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Excavating the Future

Our city is a spatial interpretation of a possible future community in the region of Poplar located north of Canary Wharf. From the present context to the frozen image of a possible future in 2088, the leap in time bridges the two moments and also produces a blind field in between. During these 80 years the community has transformed into a new spatial agglomeration. The project involved tracing one such possible trajectory of the future and imagining a ‘world’ born out of reaction / revolution against the unsustainable polarized geography being produced by the global capital.

(photo courtesy Nora Karastergiou)
The development neither has any singular narrative (history) nor any masterplan diagram (structure) to explain the formula of everything (strips, bar code, contraction, expansion, leaf, fingers, donut, computer chip and many other metaphors and patterns that we repeatedly use as architects or urban designers). The city has narrow dark alley ways of Paris (pre-haussmannization), Industrial pollution of Victorian London and Zeppelins that cast shadows below as they make their way to their destination within the city connecting this pocket of collective resistance to other places.

(photo courtesy Nora Karastergiou)
The representation of this unhygienic, unsustainable development with multiple poorly lit and ventilated spaces, crowded public realm and dangerous streets is attempted by us through multiple fragments of this M C Escherian Metamorphosis that has black, grey and white spaces housing fragments of history, narratives of future and glimpses of different spaces unearthed by us as we - the archaeologists of future excavate this future artifact and make our way back to the present......

(This is the brief of the project that I, Kostas and Barbara did for our final presentation with enough rhetoric and aggression ensuring our success at not being employed in any architectural or urban design office ever in our life time!!)
next plan is to illustrate a Fairy Tale book, design a city making machine and paint.