Friday, February 29, 2008

Pulling down the Vendome Column

Daniel Vierge : Chute de la colonne Vendome ,drawing -1871

Creative Class, Dismissed

By Laurie Fendrich

Recently I've been teaching, in a couple of undergraduate seminars, Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Letter to d'Alembert on the Theatre (1758), the most provocative essay on the arts ever written. It is about the unintended effects of theater — which, for Rousseau, stands in for all of the arts — on an audience. The essay is an impassioned rebuttal to the 1757 entry on Geneva, written by Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, in the huge Enlightenment project, Encyclopédie, in which d'Alembert says that Geneva would be an even finer city if only it didn't have laws banning theater. Rousseau says that, au contraire, theater would actually be harmful to the citizens of Calvinist Geneva and tries to prove that the prohibition is a good thing.
To my students, Rousseau's astonishing position collides head-on with the TV-drenched, movie-dependent, iPodified, grind-dancing world in which many of them spend a good part of their lives. The idea that their world of stories and entertainment — even in its more respectable precincts such as Masterpiece Theatre and U2 benefit concerts — could possibly be harmful to them is the furthest thing from their minds. In studying Rousseau's essay, my students directly confront their stormy love affair with mass culture. They learn the extent to which their youthful values are already in deep conflict with one another. They experience — albeit in fitful spasms — a sense of urgency about their lives, realizing with a kind of awe that their college years mark one of the most significant life passages they will ever face.
In the Letter, Rousseau's preoccupation is with how to sustain "virtue" in the face of modernity. "Virtue" is a word that nearly all of my students initially choke on, as its contemporary meaning applies mostly to anachronistic notions of female chastity. None of them have ever thought much about virtue, but Rousseau, drawing inspiration from ancient Greek political philosophy, is deeply attached to the idea. For him, virtue existed only in communities whose citizens knew how to put aside self-interest for the sake of the whole. The places where Rousseau could find virtue, alas, were confined to a few small, free republics scattered through history, such as ancient Sparta or 18th-century Geneva, and not in freewheeling metropolises such as Paris, awash in urban luxury. Rousseau's essay argues that the twin vices of vanity and competition, born when man left the "state of nature" and formed societies, inevitably destroy virtue and happiness.
Rousseau, the Enlightenment's party pooper, shocks college students by trashing education and reason, science and art, and the advancement of knowledge in general. Most students have come to college at least partly to "make themselves better." Rousseau seems to be telling them not to fool themselves. Their real motives, he implies, are vanity and ambition. And nothing fuels those two vices, Rousseau says, like the arts.
Such a counterintuitive attack on the arts jolts my art students in particular. Since their early childhoods, they've been taught that by making and showing off their finger paintings, class plays, and rhythm-band performances, they're somehow doing a very nice thing for themselves and everyone around them. Although my students readily concede Rousseau's initial premises that theater's purpose is to entertain (that is, to give pleasure) and that it's a luxury rather than a necessity, they have a hard time accepting the possibility that it might be truly deleterious.
But the pleasure that theater provides, Rousseau argues, is based on the display of unruly passions, and it's addictive: Almost everyone who encounters theater wants more and more of it. Worse, Rousseau says, theater "tends everywhere to promote and increase the inequality of fortunes" because it triggers a host of artificial desires. And even when theater is great, and its audience consists of decent people, Rousseau argues, whether or not we're made better by it depends on who we are to begin with. Many of us are made worse by theater precisely because we're introduced to bad ideas we'd never thought of before. The modern media echoes Rousseau's claim regularly, especially after tragedies like that at Virginia Tech: Villains "accustom the eyes of the people to horrors that they ought not even to know and to crimes they ought not to suppose possible."
Theater also engenders in us the fuzzy feeling that we become good people merely by watching other people — none of whom we know personally — pretending to be good or bad people on the stage and then identifying ourselves only with the good ones: "The continual emotion that is felt in the theater excites us, enervates us, enfeebles us, and makes us less able to resist our passions. And the sterile interest taken in virtue serves only to satisfy our vanity without obliging us to practice it."
In short, theater's smoke and mirrors seduce us into substituting art for moral action. And even though theater might keep unvirtuous people in big cities distracted and somewhat in check, Rousseau thinks it causes generally good people to become restless and unhappy with their own lives because it makes their own lives seem, by comparison, boring. In fact, the better theater is, the more inherently debilitating it is to real life. In sum: Theater is slightly good only for bad people, and quite bad for good people.
This conclusion puts my students in a philosophical pickle because they tend to be convinced by Rousseau's logic but still think of their theater-liking selves as essentially good. They're good people, they think, because they're reasonable people getting an education that will make them even more reasonable. But Rousseau, borrowing heavily from Plato, argues that reason, compared to the strong force of habit, is pretty weak in determining human behavior. Habits, Rousseau says, come from three sources: law, pleasure, and — the most powerful of all — public opinion. And habits are, by definition, resistant to change. Even the law is ineffective when it tries to get people to change their ways too rapidly. The best way to change engrained habits lies in gently manipulating public opinion.
Now, most of my students have thought very little about either their own habits or habits in general. In closed societies of the kind Rousseau admired — small republics with strong censorship and active, virtuous citizens who know one another — every member of the community enforces the habits of every other member with spying eyes. My students see communities with spying eyes in terms either of wicked foreign theocracies or small, rural American towns. To them, lives lived in such communities seem boxed in, if not outright oppressed. But Rousseau teaches the opposite — that these are good lives. Artists, with their vanity and longing for fame, have no business intruding in them. Their meddling — for example, putting on plays — can result only in destabilization and destruction.
Most of my students struggle hard over this idea. They arrive in college assuming education and the distribution of knowledge are, prima facie, good things. The idea that the opposite might be true — that art and science destroy the joy in many people by making their way of life seem stupid and unsophisticated — rattles everyone in the room.
Tucked into the middle of Rousseau's inveighing against theater is a discussion of women that makes the remarks of Larry Summers, Harvard's former president, seem almost conciliatory. Rousseau claims that the equality of the sexes is a foolish, modern idea. The differences between the sexes are there for anyone to see, linked as they are to anatomy. Rousseau will not quarrel with nature's plumbing. Women, he argues, are not only the receivers of sexual advances, but the inherently weaker sex as well. But, he says, nature gave women a weapon to protect themselves from more powerful males: modesty.
For Rousseau, modesty is the means by which women fend off undesirable males and encourage only the ones they regard as potential mates. And once the appropriate male has been snared, Rousseau says, women employ another tool to keep their otherwise hit-and-run mates around for the long haul: love. "Love is the realm of women. It is they who necessarily give the law in it, because, according to the order of nature, resistance belongs to them, and men can conquer this resistance only at the expense of their liberty."
Rousseau turns upside down the ideas my students carry about the sexes. He seems to say that women are fit only to become dutiful, breeding Stepford wives. Most of my students are outraged when they first read this part of the Letter. During one of my seminars, students unanimously contended that modesty is imposed on women by insecure men.
As repugnant as Rousseau's precepts about women are, they're crucial to his argument about theater, and, as much as I'd like to, I can't simply sweep them under the rug. He says that going to the theater destroys female modesty and replaces it with vanity (I always bring up the irrepressible female longing for a new dress for a party). When female modesty declines, Rousseau argues, men stop loving women because they no longer trust them. Who else, the husband asks himself, is my wife preening for? Such distrust, Rousseau says, in the end obliterates love.
In class discussion, when my students invariably protest that Rousseau is an outdated chauvinist, I ask why most women in contemporary society wear makeup and most men don't, and why there isn't a store called Victor's Secret. We talk about Jane Austen's women, their trade-offs between true love and men who, however repellent, provide security, and how much of that kind of social survivalism is still practiced today. These discussions are unsettling, I admit, even to me. But whether by habit or nature, I unfailingly wear lipstick to class.
Concepts of the sexes aside, my students can readily see that when Rousseau goes after theater, he's also going after their movies, music, and television. He attacks most of their largely unexamined ideas: that small-town life is stultifying and big-city life is where it's at; that artists and intellectuals are superior to everybody else; that censorship is bad; and that art is uplifting and good for a society. Most upsetting, Rousseau challenges them to look at their reasons for being in college. The platitude pounded into them since kindergarten — "Education is the key" — suddenly seems meaningless. Key to what? No matter how learned or artistically sophisticated we become, Rousseau teaches, we still have but a frail grasp of what it takes to be good or happy.
Most of my students end up reluctantly siding with Rousseau. His rhetorical passion for virtue, coupled with the fact that he follows up general observations with particular, well-chosen examples, can't easily be refuted. But siding with Rousseau leaves them incapable of justifying their lives. To open the window to criticism of Rousseau, I point out what I see to be flaws in his argument — for example, that he ignores how often small towns wreak misery on good people who happen to be a bit different, which is why they hightail it to big cities. I raise the problem of how often good people have narrow minds.
There's no happy reconciliation of art and morals at the end of reading Rousseau, as there is in, say, Kant or Schiller. There's only a stark question: What do we choose — art or virtue? Generally speaking, my students are fraught with contradictions. They sense that they face the moral job of finding the courage of their convictions — even in speech, in our seminar meetings — but their youthful intellectual blossoming confuses them about exactly what their convictions are. Rousseau teaches that reason and moral conviction are often in tension with each other, and that their reconciliation may not be possible.
Rousseau has an overarching thesis that considers people to be good by nature but corrupted by society. My students like that, since it reassures them that it's not entirely their fault every time they do something bad, but rather that some larger social force "made me do it." And Rousseau articulates the longings in my students for more of a reason to live than competing for who's the best looking and smartest, or who ends up with the most toys.
Many students tell me that reading Rousseau makes them conscious of the fact that ineluctably fascinating human wrongdoing almost always trumps the dullness of virtue, and that people who cheerily trumpet art (especially that which showcases bad behavior as entertainment) are blind to both art's power and its peril. One of my former seminar members recently wrote me that he was glad he'd read Letter to d'Alembert because he'd learned from it that, in the end, he prefers being miserable and loving art to his earlier childhood state of being happy and ignorant of it. This student was clear, at least: He was choosing art over virtue.
Whatever their ultimate opinions, I like to think Rousseau's essay humbles my students just a little, in just the right way, and at just the right moment in their lives. It reminds them that the kind of moral person they are becoming will never, ever hinge on the fact that they're getting a college degree. 4

Source : Chronicle Review's blog

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Skyscraper Style Bookcase

Skyscraper style bookcase, contrasting shades of lacquer, designed by Paul T. Frankel,
New York, about 1928.

Monday, February 25, 2008

How the Other Half Feels

Do you usually only look at the works around you when you visit an upcoming place for kunst ? I’m much more strongly inclined to conclude that Tassos Langis is, indeed, at least for me more interesting as a subject and object of references (his position disrupts all the routine gaze of the cultural viewer) than any recently piece by Vanessa Beecroft ..(which is anyway very charming) and additionally i like his work..

He came from some place called Imperial Valley

Dorothea Lange: Ex-Tenant Farmer, Imperial Valley, CA, 1936.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Please Adolf Act Naturally

The house has to please everyone, contrary to the work of art which does not. The work is a private matter for the artist. The house is not. The work of art is brought into the world without there being a need for it. The house satisfies a requirement. The work of art is responsible to none; the house is responsible to everyone. The work of art wants to draw people out of their state of comfort. The house has to serve comfort. The work of art is revolutionary; the house is conservative. The work of art shows people new directions and thinks of the future. The house thinks of the present. Man loves everything that satisfies his comfort. He hates everything that wants to draw him out of his acquired and secured position and that disturbs him. Thus he loves the house and hates art. Does it follow that the house has nothing in common with art and is architecture not to be included in the arts? That is so. Only a very small part of architecture belongs to art: the tomb and the monument. Everything else that fulfills a function is to be excluded from the domain of art.

Loos, Adolf. "Architecture," 1910.

Recent Private Shows

Qbox Gallery opens the 2008 exhibition program inviting Sotirios Bahtsetzis to curate an exhibition on identity and difference. In the group exhibition my dear deer the curator presents works by five emerging international artists, whose work negotiates gender identity and desire. The positions of the artists present specific versions of lifestyle and practices of social expression. They also take a critical stance towards fixations, fetishizations and the ideological instrumentalization of “gendered” identity. They participate the following artists Susanne Winterling, Tobias Zielony, Endre Aalrust, Slava Mogutin, Hairwerk.

One of the most interesting shows that I ve seen recently in Athens was the solo exhibition of Kai Schiemenz (Kappatos Gallery)

and finally i enjoyed a cryptic furniture based sculpture of Apostolos Karakatsanis (Alpha Delta Gallery)

The Unfair Fair

This blog catalogues the inaugural UNFAIR FAIR, which takes place in Rome from Friday 29 February to Monday 3 March 2008. The UNFAIR FAIR project is a sort of event, situation, exhibition, intervention, action and infiltration timed to coincide with two new contemporary art fairs in Rome - ARTEcontemporaneamodernaROMA and ROMA (The ROAD TO CONTEMPORARY ART). The UNFAIR FAIR is in no way formally associated with these art fairs, though it does have a strategic relation to the mainstream economy they represent. Whereas the raison d'être of the contemporary art fair may be characterised by maximization and accumulation, the conditions of the UNFAIR FAIR relate more comfortably to the states of minimization and disintegration.

Three propositions inform the makeup of the UNFAIR FAIR - Marcel Duchamp's Unhappy Readymade (1919), Robert Filliou's Principle of Equivalence - Well Done, Badly Done, Not Done, and the state of the contemporary art-market economy. Rather than reflect the overweening economic formula common to most art fairs, in which the art on display becomes little more than window dressing for current market forces, the UNFAIR FAIR adopts an economy of form and means where experimentation and the poetics of play are emphasised over commodified products and the imperatives of the market.

More then 50 international artists have been invited to contribute to the UNFAIR FAIR. A special exhibition set and display will be created by German artist Wolfgang Berkowski.


Dates: 29 February – 3 March 2008

Preview: Friday 29 February , 18:00 to 24:00

Venue: Loto Arte, Via Civinini, 41 - 00197 Rome

Opening hours:
Friday 29 February 18:00 - 24:00
Saturday 1 February 9:30-14:00 and 15:00 - 24:00
Saturday 2 March 9:30–14:00 and 15:00 - 19:30
Monday 3 March 9:30–14:00 and 15:00 - 19:30

Current list of participating artists (subject to change)

Caroline Achaintre
Nina Jan Beier & Marie Jan Lund
Walead Beshty
It's our pleasure to serve you (Kerstin Brätsch, Allison Katz, Georgia Sagri, Adele Röder)
Susanne Bürner
Tereza Buskova
Etienne Chambaud
Nicolas Chardon
Jason Dodge
Claire Fontaine
Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard
Mauricio Guillén
Alban Hajdinaj
Bethan Huws
Bettina Buck
Benoît Maire
Charlotte Moth
Guillaume Pinard
Falke Pisano
Navin Rawanchaikul
Lili Reynaud-Dewar
Manuela Ribadaneira
Jacopo Miliani
Italo Zuffi
Eléna Nemkova
Ra di Martino
Massimo Grimaldi
Carla Zaccagnini
Georgia Kostretsos
Christodoulos Panayotou
Stanislao di Giugno
Alessandro Piangiamore
Sandrine Nicoletta
Stefania Galegati
Magnus Thierfelder
Artemis Potamianou
Francesco Arena
Maria Birgita Karantzi
Allsop + Weir
Alessandro Sarra
Federico Pietrella
Rossella Biscotti
Giuseppe Pietroniro
Kostis Velonis
Isola e Norzi
Dane Mitchell
Nico Dockx
Christian Proaño
Gregor Passaens
Richard Crow
A Constructed World
Andrea Salvino
Bik van der Pol
Carl Trahan
Cesare Pietriusti
Cindy Smith
Valentino Diego
Domenico Mangano
Gea Casolaro
Pernille Kapper Williams
René Gabri
Richard Aldrich
Ursula Mayer
The Metropolitan Complex
Jacob Dahl Jürgensen
Johan Tirén
Pietro Sanguineti
Benedetta Jacovoni
Marco Raparelli
Haris Epaminonda and Daniel Gustav Cramer
Lorenzo Scotto di Luzio
Luca Vitone
Meris Angioletti
Özlem Altin and Olivier Maarschalk
Robert Orchardson

Produced by 1:1 projects
in collaboration with Ines Musumeci Greco, Loto Arte

Curators: Cecilia Canziani and Vincent Honoré

Communication and Production: Athena Panni

Editor: Louise Garrett

Catalogue Designer: Wolfgang Berkowski

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Shadows and Beyond

antri euripidou Αντρη Ευριπιδου

efi nikolaou Εφη Νικολαου

Lina Mante Λινα Μαντε

Lina Mantikou Λινα Μαντικου

Monday, February 18, 2008

Four Corners Twice

Eric Brown
Four Corners Twice, 2005

Street Poster , 1927

Photo: Germaine Krull
Panneau Publicitaire L1Affiche des ŒNicolas Fines Bouteilles1, 1927

the Housewife and the Cult of Bibelot

Lisa Tiersten


..Just as high modernism defined itself in opposition to neoclassical forms and to the notion of absolute beauty associated with nobility, bourgeois wifes were instructed to dismiss of the traditional authorities on decorating , and to assiduously avoid the neoclassical values of symmetry and uniformity. Rather than discard the aristocratic heritage entirely, however , bourgeois women were to reinterpret the past in personal terms by pillaging, appropriating, and merging a variety of noble styles. Far from elaborating a new unitary aesthetic code, then, modernist –inspired bourgeois decoration privileged the expression of individual sensibility over conformity to a particular style. Eclecticism, or the ability to absorb and recontextualize elements of the past, stood as the signifier of individual sensibility and, at the same time, of bourgeois modernity.

..In contrast to the noble conception of home as a public theatre for the display of the family’s caste status, bourgeois housewives were taught to consider home decorating as a mode of personal expression and a means of creating as aesthetically –pleasing, but also a comfortable and intimate space for the family’s domestic life. The public character of the aristocratic hotel had demanded the skills of the professional decorator; but as the private arena of family life , the bourgeois home could only be properly decorated by the lady of the house.

..Attitudes toward the bourgeois housewife’s new aesthetic authority varied tremendously. For critics of bourgeois philistinism, both modernists like Baudelaire and |Flaubert and antimodernists like Maurice barres, the conflation of art and decorating in the women,s press an advice literature of the late nineteenth century meant that , as decor was elevated ,art was proportionately diminished in status. These critics objected strenuously to the cult of bibelot as symptomatic of the middle class debasement of art to the level of mere ornament ; for them, the bibelot’s vulgarity derived form a combination of shoddy craftsmanship, cloying sentiment , uninspired imitation, and , in spite of all this, the presumption of artistic value.

..By contrast, proponents of the aesthetisation of the home, whether from the camp of the decorative arts movement or that of the marketplace , promoted the blurring of the borders between art and decor and the creation of the modern domestic aesthetic....similarly , the critic Jules Claretie likened the modern Parisienne to the bibelot, as opposed to the “marble statuette” evoked by other (perhaps aristocratic) genres of womanhood, and insisted that the bibelot was more beautiful than the conventional artwork.

..A publicity piece for the Grands Magasins Dufayel celebrated the trend toward homespun, cozy interiors not only as an aesthetic development but as the moral triumph of bourgeois domesticity over aristocratic values..
..exalting hospitality and coziness over “absolute authenticity” – a code word for the hand –crafted expensive objet d’art- the advertisement suggested the tasteful consumption and decorating were a means of constructing a bourgeois style of livng available to the humblest housewife. The quality of the objects themselves did not mater so much as their disposition and arrangement , the aesthetic composition which revealed the originality and artistic vision of the lady of the house.

"The Chic Interior and the Feminine Modern: Home decorating as High Art in Turn-of-the Century Paris”

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Julia Peirone
no title #2, 1997.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How it was the Future

In 1967 the Philco-Ford Corporation released a short film titled 1999 A.D which demonstrates the advances of the future. Here the young boy of the techno-philiac family is not avoiding school but is trying to improve his leaning skills through a kind of machine very familiar to our pc's.

Source :

Revolt of the Misanthropes

S.P.Bobrov, Revolt of the Misanthropes, 1922, cover by L.Popova

Peasants On Alert

200 x 158 cm x 100 cm
tissue, wood, acrylic, spray, veneer.

F.Panterov, Bruski (A Story of Peasant Life in Soviet Russia),
vol.2, 1931, cover, designer unidentified

Couples or Comrades

Couples in the cover of Soviet Life Magazine

Cruel Cactus Country or How to Win Over the Sun

wood, acrylic, water color, felt, veneer, porcelain, plaster
220 h x 97 w x 115 l cm

Malevich's costume design for the opera "Victory over the Sun" (1923)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Algebra Is Drunkenness

Artist: Melvin Way
Medium: ink and tape on paper
Date: 1990's

Review for the "Craft Boy" Exhibtion

The inconspicuous How One Can Think Freely in the Shadow of a Temple, 2007, appears almost as an afterthought to Kostis Velonis’s current exhibition. The Tarkovskian “sculpture in time” is a video loop of a magazine tear-out from the 1960s hung from a clip on the wall of Velonis’s studio. A breeze from a nearby window periodically flutters the page, interrupting the camera’s fixed stare on the image, which depicts two youths engrossed in dialogue before ruins of a Greek temple.
Despite its apparent modesty, the video encapsulates Velonis’s poetry in a nutshell. Both matter-of-fact and nostalgic, it ironizes the failure of revolutionary ideologies while concurrently celebrating the quixotic leaders of ill-fated avant-gardes. The current exhibition focuses on Velonis’s recent series “Craft Boy,” 2007–: three sculptures exploring the modern myth of craftsmanship as the heralded savior of a world invaded by industrial objects. Bauhaus Cathedral DIY and Craft Made the Universe, both 2007–2008, seem to comprise merely recycled materials thrown together into rough abstractions, but further observation reveals figurative elements and, on the wooden planks that make up the totems, partially exposed layers of color that lend a rich luminosity to the black acrylic topcoat. Found objects like a decorative wooden box and a ceramic doe are transfigured by other “crafty” interventions: The former is resurfaced with leaf-shaped cutouts of wood-grain laminate; the latter is covered in an armor of salvaged wood chips.
Posted on Velonis’s blog in November, an article by Marina Warner begins, “Writers don’t make up myths; they take them over and recast them.” Velonis recasts the Bauhaus craftsman, a relic of modernity’s central political principle the people, into the contemporary “craft boy,” one of the wanderers and fugitives that Warner identifies as the mythic figures of our era. Indeed, it is the many “with no home” that semiologist Paolo Virno references in his use of Spinoza’s term multitude to analyze changes in political identity after the death of the state. As a representative of this contemporary nomadic condition, the craft boy skips from the collective to the individual imagination without hesitation, mining anywhere and everywhere for refuge from the inescapable anguish of in-betweenness.

Emily Verla Bovino

Viale delle Mura Aurelie 19

January 14–February 29
Source :

Medium: ink and tape on paper
Date: 1990's

Friday, February 8, 2008

Dear Catastrophe Architect

By Benjamin Tiven

I have never believed the innovators who maintain that pillars and portals are no longer permissible.
-Albert Speer, from Spandau: The Secret Diaries

During his 1946 Nuremberg trial for war crimes, Albert Speer, Hitler's chief architect and minister of armaments, gave calm, rational testimony that hinted at remorse. He claimed that Nazi Germany's vast apparatus of genocide had been largely unknown to him; he had simply done what his country required of him. He had also been assisting the Allied forces with the planning for reconstruction in the months before his trial, and some speculated he was destined for acquittal. But Speer had superintended Germany's wartime military production, masterfully coordinating industry and material and relying heavily on slave labor. He was sentenced to twenty years in Spandau, a massive nineteenth-century prison complex in West Berlin.
Untenanted save for Speer, Rudolf Hess, and five other Nazi military officers who had managed to avoid execution, Spandau was a vast echo chamber. In secret diaries, Speer reminisced about dinner parties with Hitler, wartime decisions that might have gone better, and the details of his architectural ambitions. It was a lonely existence; despite their shared history, he and his fellow inmates revived old grudges and alliances, and petty disputes were inflamed by the boredom of prison life. Speer was especially ostracized for his critical take on the former regime, and for his stated determination to finish out his full sentence, even as the others schemed for backchannel pardons. Speer felt he deserved his punishment.

Spandau prisoners were denied access to contemporary journalism, mail had to be smuggled in and out, and the rare visit from a spouse or child was strictly monitored. Isolated, Speer read every book he could find. And he wrote, mostly on cigarette wrappers and toilet paper: the diaries, his memoirs (multiple drafts), a history of the Third Reich, a treatise on the history of windows. He also kept up his drafting skills, hoping that he might reestablish his architectural practice upon his release.
In the summer of his fifth year, to keep active, Speer took over stewardship of the prison's courtyard vegetable garden. He drew up plans to recreate the space with elaborate landscaping based on designs he and Hitler had once made for Berlin. Speer's rock garden was organized around a north-south axis, with elaborate topiary arrangements along either side. The project took him three years to complete.
At the end of his eighth year, in the autumn of 1954, Speer happened upon the idea that would occupy him for the remainder of his sentence. He began to keep meticulous track of every meter he walked in the garden during his daily perambulations, imagining, with the aid of travel guides from the prison library, that he was walking to other cities and other lands. His first trip took him to his family home in Heidelberg: 626 kilometers. In his diary, Speer wrote, "This project is...a battle against the endless boredom; but it is also an expression of the last remnants of my urge toward status and activity." The walking project took on unexpectedly vast dimensions: from Heidelberg, Speer set off through Eastern Europe to Istanbul, passing through Afghanistan into India, through China and Russia all the way to the Bering Strait-which he crossed-continuing south down the western coast of North America. His trip ended twelve years after it began. In his final week in prison, Speer sent a postcard to a friend, asking to be picked up some thirty kilometers west of Guadalajara, Mexico. His diaries tally the total distance he walked: 31,936 kilometers, enough to have circled the globe at the equator.

As an architect, Albert Speer is most famous for the public works he designed for the Nazi regime-the Nuremberg Zeppelin Field, the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, the German pavilion at the 1937 International Exposition in Paris. They share a simple visual vocabulary: large-scale stone exteriors whose cuts imply immense thickness in the wall, tall windows set low to the ground, axial symmetry, lots of columns. His imposing stone buildings quoted equally from the long line of traditional Prussian neoclassicism, the wild drawings of revolution-era French architects Boullée and Ledoux, and the emerging archaeological evidence of the ancient Greek world, much of which had been excavated by German scholars. (Speer specifically cited the austere Dorians as an influence-a pitch-perfect choice, since the terror regime that controlled Sparta presaged Hitler and Stalin with uncanny accuracy.) But despite the mash-up of aesthetic citations, the resonance of the classical-its appeal to some vague notion of tradition, to governmental stability and authority-provided just the façade Hitler wanted.
The Third Reich was meant to subsume and reenact all the great empires that had come before it, including at the level of style. Of course, the only visual cues left by those empires were their massive and mysterious ruins. So, in a twist of thought so wildly illogical it somehow makes perfect sense, Speer set out to create buildings that would retain their gravity and power even after they had collapsed. Under the rubric of an idea he called "ruin value," Speer designed ruin-friendly structures made out of natural stone blocks, with heavy exterior walls that would stand even after upper floors were gone; with open courtyards and long hallways. One fine day, centuries into the future, his buildings would remind the world of a once-great Germanic empire, the way the ruins of Greece or Rome remind us of ancient powers today.

Though it did have roots in the nineteenth-century architect Gottfried Semper, who advocated using natural materials and who had developed a baroque neoclassical style of his own, Speer's ruin value-misreading the trajectory of the ancient world and then fetishizing its traces-was a thin disguise for his larger rejection of modernist architecture, perhaps even the modern more generally. The formal, material, and aesthetic revolutions in architecture that began in the late 1840s and culminated in the Bauhaus were, to a large degree, tied to the use of new building technologies, chiefly poured concrete over reinforced steel frames. In 1923, Walter Gropius, then director of the Bauhaus, had announced that "a new aesthetic of the horizontal is beginning to develop which endeavors to counteract the effect of gravity." It was poured concrete that made this kind of aesthetic possible, and during the early decades of the century, architects like Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Auguste Perret, and Frank Lloyd Wright all made substantial use of it. The impact of technology on building practices, and thus the nature of what buildings were supposed to look like, was uncertain, if also exciting and charged with potential. But in speeches and essays, Speer rejected poured concrete outright, arguing that its limited lifespan and poor weathering made it unsuitable for the great public works of the Reich. It was not grand, not classical, and would not look good after catastrophe. Of course, to keep pace with Hitler's frenzied building schedule, Speer had to use contemporary tools and technology: beneath his limestone exteriors, he later admitted, there was often reinforced concrete framework.

In an essay on Hitler's architecture, Speer once wrote, "My buildings were intended, as I specified in 1936, not only to express the nature of our movement. I went beyond that. They were to be a part of the movement themselves." And sure enough, Speer's buildings embodied the jumbled, confused, self-contradictory, and even self-hating relationship with modernity that National Socialism espoused. He ultimately came to feel that his greatest contribution to the Nazi regime wasn't architecture at all, but rather his plan for the 1934 Nuremberg Party Congress. It was Speer who visually coordinated the columns of marching soldiers, and Speer who turned the imposing array of aircraft searchlights toward the night sky, what became known as the "cathedral of light." The outdoor rally was so mediagenic that it became the centerpiece for Leni Riefenstahl's film Triumph of the Will.
Speer's greatest gift, it turned out, was not for architecture, but rather for set design. He imagined radical possibilities for the visual presentation of power: the style and placement of Hitler's rostrum, the endless repetition of the Nazi flag, the parade routes that moved motorcades of politicians through vividly symbolic scenery. Nazism had a whole host of mythologies, public rituals, and invented traditions that had to be playacted at elaborate social gatherings. The historian Peter Fritzsche explains that the Nazis created a parallel world for their citizens: "Amidst a familiar universe of stable links to family, region, and social milieu, the Nazis constructed a second world out of a network of organizations in which the traditional criteria of social worth and social placement had no validity." Seen in this light, Speer's work makes a different kind of sense. He was to build the scenic backdrop for a fascist dreamworld, stage managing the theatrics of social control among set pieces he had specially designed.
As it happens, the idiom of fascist architecture is actually quite generic. During the 1930s, the style known as "stripped classicism" (or "modernized antique") was as popular with the Works Progress Administration as it was in greater Europe. Paul Cret employed Speer's beloved large-scale Doric motifs for his United States Federal Reserve Board building in 1937. In Berlin it would have stood for National Socialism, but in Washington it symbolized democracy. So what distinguishes the two? Speer's work is fundamentally defined by its theatricality-the sacrifice of use value in favor of aesthetic and historic value, since the main purpose of the Nazi-built environment was the production of its own identity. To that end, Speer ran counter to the essential modernist tenet that form ought to follow function. For him, form was paramount.
Descended in spirit from Germanic classicists such as Semper and Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Speer derided and ignored the intellectual ferment of the day, clinging to the nineteenth century's great fable of the reconstituted classical (which was, it should be noted, a critical expression of the modern consciousness in its time). Speer's was the last gasp of the Romantic traditionalism that the Deutscher Werkbund and the Bauhaus were systematically dismantling. But unlike Gropius, Mies, or Le Corbusier-"Of course, I know them all," he ruefully noted while in prison-Speer did not believe in architecture as architecture, as a practice on its own terms. No one who did could build failure into the works themselves. Speer didn't believe his buildings ought to survive.

Of course, nobody wants to live in a Le Corbusier building, either, these days. The rationalist salvation promised by modernism proved hollow in its own way; the buildings were as inhumanly proportioned as anything Speer designed, and drew myopically from a limited repertoire of shapes. Today their aesthetic rigidity bores and agitates architects and audiences alike. It is possible, perhaps, that Speer's engagement with traditionalism gave him a more realistic sense of his work's impermanence, unlike his contemporaries and their quest for the radically new. In any case, failure unites all the branches of the modernist tree.
Albert Speer had been an unworldly and unsuccessful architect when he joined the Nazi party in the early 1930s, in the midst of the global depression. Hitler was his ticket out of perpetual underemployment. Speer proved so adept at pleasing the Führer's particular taste that he became the leading architect in Germany without truly completing his studies. Speer's Wanderjahre, the travels one undertakes as part of one's apprenticeship, came to him late: he never actually saw the world he helped destroy until he walked through it in prison. And in the safe, comforting routine of Spandau, his Wanderjahre mutated into a wistful wanderlust. The regime he'd enabled had forced millions into labor, death, or the stateless wandering of exile, and his punishment afforded him more than a decade of exploratory tourism.
In prison, Speer returned to the primal act of his craft: walking. The construction of space, physically or symbolically, depends on that space being experienced, demarcated, mapped, and comprehended on a human scale. Before recorded history, before even the most rudimentary stone cairn, there was the path. To pass away his interminable present, Speer pretended to walk the earth, and unwittingly walked himself deep into the distant past. His working life had rested upon a wild restaging of history, and here, with every loop around the endless courtyard-touring ancient and modern cultures simultaneously-he lived out the same failed idea that sent him to prison in the first place.

Source: Bidoun magazine , Issue 11, summer 2007

How Dark a Red can be?

Galleries Lafayette et origami

Galleries Lafayette, 1927

Obvious influences from japanese origami with a taste of cubism and une legere atmosphere ottomane

Profesionalna Vatrogasna Brigada

Kantona Sarayevo

Post Yugoslavian Architecture and the Supression of Coziness

Sunday, February 3, 2008

10th St.Studio

William Merritt Chase (1849-1916)

La Porte

by Rachel Webster

In the seam between day and night, wind
ruts the dirt road and
ruffles the milky way of dandelions.

The young among them are greasy gold and urgent,
while the old are balanced
between growth and that burst past

growing—annihilation, culmination
of a beginning each has always been
ending toward, admitting more and more

space, until what's left is
beyond color, a bleary truss
of matter and air. Shocked

accomplice of the rounding light,
how you tremble in the stretch
of your death, which is like all deaths,

geometric with seed. Wind-swimmer,
eye-floater, white nightgowned grandmother
dancing your platelets on the head of this pin,

can you show me how to wish,
how to gather and scatter
this single hooped breath?

Source :,Jan. 08

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Ok Nerone : Colosseo quadrato Scene

Two American sailors, Fiorello (Carlo Campanini) and Jimmy (Walter Chiari)
are slugged while sight-seeing in Rome and, together, they dream they are back in Rome in the days of Nero.
Directed by Mario Soldati (1951)

Colosseo quadrato

Photo by the architect Giuseppe Pagano

Modern Ceasars in Rome

Visiting Lorenzo Romito apartment and after looking at some books of his bibbioteka ,
I'd have to admit that my interest in Rome's modern period was exremely intensified.
Here's my brief look on the Fascist style at E.U.R district