Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Box Nests

A couple of months ago, just days before Spring finally sprang, I saw this lovely piece of bird architecture in Kings Wood in Kent. It is the most engaging of three animal/bird residences in a small enclave in the woods called Super Kingdom, by artists Londonfieldworks. They describe the project as 'a sculptural installation of animal 'show homes'... inspired by reports of anomalous animal behaviour in nature as a response to a shifting environment'. They talk about an interesting web of ideas to do with urban encroachment and displaced ecologies, and the purposeful reintroduction of species (re-wilding) and assisted migration - all considered in the context of Kings Wood, a working woodland managed for timber production, recreation and conservation, and the wider environment of nearby Ashford and its ever multiplying Barratt Homes. Slightly puzzlingly the artists also mention being inspired by despots palaces, this particular structure is called the Mussolini Bird House (adjacent are the Caecescu and Stalin bird houses), an unnecessary connection - there seems to be plenty to think about already.

So there are lots of ideas behind it, but they are not the reason that I stopped and took a photo as I read about them afterwards. Here are my reasons:

1. I like the way the tree looks as if it is wearing a jumper.
2. I like that some of the boxes are really tiny, more insect sized than bird sized.
3. I like the way that lots of rectilinear boxes have been put together to form something extremely un-rectilinear.
4. I like imagining that it is fully occupied, tweeting and rustling.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Shed Nests

Wobbly planks, loosely attached to one another perch amongst the steel struts and tubes of the Pompidou Centre's façade. Like giant nests for some as yet unevolved breed of enormous bird.

I first noticed them from afar, across the plaza. Strange messy blips interrupting the familiar primary coloured rectilinear facade that isn't a facade. Yet they also had an unsurprising quality, as if they were quite normal.

Things accumulate. Dust, old newspapers, leaves, people, pigeons. All trying to find a quiet corner. The city could be understood as a giant machine containing a thousand different mechanisms to counteract the incessant accumulation of stuff. Street sweepers, bin men, window cleaners, little anti-pigeon spikes on statues and ledges, signs warning of fines for bill posters, little metal studs on horizontal surfaces to dissuade homeless people from settling down, buses and metro trains to keep everyone moving.

These wooden structures are commissioned artworks, so they are not going to be cleared away until their official art work installation period is up. We know that they have been carefully planned and constructed. But how nice to play the game and imagine that they really are strange nests or cocoons for a mysterious urban creature, or sheds hastily constructed by claustrophobic Parisians living in tiny flats.

'Huts' au Centre Pompidou
10 avril - 23 août 2010

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Stones of Menace

On Saturday June 26 (2-6pm) I will be participating in a one day art event about Brutalist architecture. I will be reading a short text about the modernist sculptural structure the Apollo Pavilion by Victor Pasmore, and showing a series of images I took last year of the dilapidated concrete play spaces at the foot of Balfron Tower.

Blurb from the website below:

The architecture of New Brutalism has some severe critics, one of the most famous being the Prince of Wales whose speeches and writings on architecture have excoriated Brutalism, calling many of the structures "piles of concrete". In contrast, John Ruskin faulted Palladianism in his book The Stones Of Venice (1850) for the “screamingly harmonious” quality of its designs.

Such debates about architectural aesthetics usually go hand in hand with convictions about architectures’ ideological foundation and social function. Whilst the austere architecture of New Brutalism is often vilified as producing social neglect rather than securing the vibrant community life envisioned by its architects, contemporary art is almost required to ‘stir things up’ through expressing discontent and exercising criticism.

This show will explore polemical perspectives on architecture and art and open up a debate on the role of culture as a source of conflict and criticism. The exhibition will display art work that reflects on the relationship between art and architecture and its social and physical context or on issues around creative expressions of violence and social discontent.

The event will take place in the main space of St Pauls Bow Common, a New Brutalist church from the late 1950's and showcase work by architects, artists and members of the local community.

St Paul's Bow Common, Burdett Road, E3