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Monthly Archives: November 2009

Mon Dieu ! Apple Store Coming the Louvre

Malin comme tout !
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There’s a price for everything, even in the Louvre: Tomorrow, Apple will be opening up their very first Parisian Apple Store, and it’ll sit in the concourse right below I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid.

According to Bloomberg, this’ll be Apple’s 277th store, worldwide. It’s set to be slightly smaller than the one on Oxford Circus in London. But it’s not tiny: The bilevel store will employ 150 people. You can expect the place to be mobbed. The Louvre concourse is one of the most heavily trafficked places in Paris. It links all of the wings of the Louvre, and visitors to the museum have to pass by before entering the museum.

For Microsoft, it comes at a particularly irksome time. Last month they opened a very sad looking cafe to coincide with the launch of Windows 7.

By next summer, Apple will open two more stores in France–one near Opera, a major hub on the Left Bank, and another in Montpellier, the economic powerhouse of southern France.

You’ve gotta wonder just how many records the Louvre location is set to smash. The 5th Avenue store in New York, which isn’t very big at all or even particularly pleasant as Apple stores go, is thought to earn far more than any of its neighbors, with yearly receipts of around $350 million.

Come to think of it, design wise, coming to the Louvre actually makes a lot of sense–the glass cube of the 5th Avenue store was basically a straight-up theft of I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid, and his widely celebrated idea of turning the entrance to a dark, underground space into a dramatic point of pride:

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[Via Bloomberg; picture by Al Ianni]

Haus proud: The women of Bauhaus
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Bobbed, geometric haircuts. Chunky jewellery. Vegetarian diets. Saxophone playing. Breathing exercises. Painting. Carving. Snapping with brand new 35mm Leica cameras. Dressing in the artiest handmade clothes. Attending arty parties. Ninety years on from the founding of Walter Gropius‘s legendary art, craft and design school, the female students of the Bauhaus appear to have been as liberated as young women today.

At least they do in the photographs in Bauhaus Women, a book by Ulrike Muller, a “museum educator” in Weimar, the German town where the Bauhaus opened in 1919, declaring equality between the sexes. Where German women had once received art education at home with tutors, at the Bauhaus they were free to join courses.

And yet the photographs of those seemingly liberated women tell, at best, a half truth. Yes, the world’s most famous modern art school accepted women. But few became well known. While the men of the Bauhaus – Gropius, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, László Moholy-Nagy and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – are celebrated, names like Gunta Stölzl (a weaver), Benita Otte (another weaver), Marguerite Friedlaender-Wildenhain (ceramicist), Ilse Fehling (sculptor and set designer) or Alma Siedhoff-Buscher (toy maker) mean precious little.

If these bright young things came to the Bauhaus as equals, why are the women so obscure? The school’s fleeting existence (just 14 years), the rise of the anti-modern National Socialist movement and six years of world war may have been factors, but the uncomfortable truth is that the Bauhaus was never a haven of female emancipation.

More women than men applied to the school in 1919, and Gropius insisted that there would be “no difference between the beautiful and the strong sex” – those very words betraying his real views. Those of the “strong sex” were, in fact, marked out for painting, carving and, from 1927, the school’s new architecture department. The “beautiful sex” had to be content, mostly, with weaving.

The school’s students produced radical work, but Gropius’s vision was, at heart, medieval, if apparently modern, and he was keen to keep women in their place – at looms, primarily, weaving modern fabrics for fashion houses and industrial production. He believed women thought in “two dimensions”, while men could grapple with three. ()

The Freedom to Dream

IS IT POSSIBLE FOR PUBLIC ART PROJECTS TO ADDRESS ISSUES OF SOCIAL AND CULTURAL JUSTICE? YES, ARGUES ZAYD MINTY IN HIS PROFILE OF DOUAL’ART, A CAMEROONIAN PUBLIC ART ORGANISATION 

Ananya Roy’s injunction that a shift in urban planning practices towards a distributive justice that profiles the object of urban planning – the people themselves – forms part of a growing critique of dominant modernist paradigms of planning.1 According to Roy, a comparative urban studies and international development expert at the University of California, Berkeley, this dominant paradigm is founded on an overriding “ideology of space” in which the built environment is given priority over people and their livelihoods. She suggests we need to engage with the so-called developing world more pragmatically and practically – to become involved with the “Politics of Shit”.

Roy’s critique proposes a city that is at once socially and culturally just, wherein citizens are active players in re-imagining and making real their own conception of place (rather than having it planned for them from above without their involvement). Collective or participatory engagements with planning are seen as particularly necessary. Such seemingly utopian approaches, which centre on dreaming better cities, propose that vibrant groupings in civil society can and do create such outcomes – better cities. It is precisely this sort of approach I hope to argue is what makes doual’art’s practice special. This Cameroonian public art organisation’s independently developed practice, which draws heavily on its work with artists, resonates strongly with a critical planning that emphasises the need to ensure a re-imagining of city through collective engagement. Doual’art’s greatest strengths, suggests artist Achille Ka, resides in its ability to allow the residents of a crumbling “pirate city” the freedom to dream new futures.2 Founded in 1991, doual’art’s premises are located in an old cinema behind La Pagode, an exquisite 1905 landmark in Bonanjo, Douala. A small garden cafe leads into espace doual’art where a small bar and stylish gallery – together with mezzanine offices and resource space – are located. The venue is used to host exhibitions, performing art events, conferences, seminars and a residency programme.

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Aqueous

New York architects The Living, mentioned in an earlier post, have completed another recent project called Amphibious Architecture. This one is an environmental monitoring station—a subtle filigree of colored lights—floating in the rivers of New York.

 

As such, it is more or less a direct outgrowth of their earlier project River Glow:

Amphibious Architecture is a floating installation in New York’s waterways that glows and blinks to provide an interface between life above water and life below… Two networks of floating interactive tubes, installed at sites in the East River and the Bronx River, house a range of sensors below water and an array of lights above water. The sensors monitor water quality, presence of fish, and human interest in the river ecosystem. The lights respond to the sensors and create feedback loops between humans, fish, and their shared environment. An SMS interface allows citizens to text-message the fish, to receive real-time information about the river, and to contribute to a display of collective interest in the environment.

The idea of text-messaging fish adds a dream-logic to this project that I find intensely enjoyable. A man lost somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean who retains his sanity only by texting Leviathan. Screenplay by Ernest Hemingway.

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Protected by pictures

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An interview with Ai Weiwei in the cellar of Munich’s Haus der Kunst, as the artist was preparing to turn the place into a battlefield. With Hanno Rauterberg

What would megalomaniac modesty look like? Is there such a thing as relaxed rebellion? A state of peace which is all get up and go. Well Ai Weiwei certainly exists. An artist who is not afraid to take on the mightiest of enemies, the dictators in Beijing. Who demands democracy at the top of his voice, freedom of speech, equal rights for all! Who refuses to be silenced, even if they lock him up, even if the police break down his door in the middle of the night and beat him to the ground, as they did just recently. He kept up the protest , even as the blood pured down his face, pulling out his camera and photographing the the police as they carried him off. It looks likes a family outing. The whole world should see this image: the terror and the un-terrified.

And now he’s sitting here in front of me, a man of substance and pride, yet so completely withdrawn into himself. His voice, a whisper, his eyes flitting about the room. “I was so shy in school,” he will tell me later, “that I’d blush every time someone looked at me.” A man, who now has so many eyes trained on him, whose voice is heard like no other, a man who is probably the most famous fighter of injustice in the whole of China.

“I’m an ordinary person, very ordinary,” he says and rubs his fac eyes light upe vigorously with both hands. “It was nothing to do with me,” he says. “It was the others, the interviews. I’m probably the most interviewed person in China.” Then he smiles for the first time, shrugs his shoulders cautiously, a shrug of wonder – how peculiar, why me?

Right now, the most interviewed person in the whole of China, is living in the cellar, in the catacombs of a Nazi palace in Munich. There, in the Haus der Kunst, which was built between 1933 and 1937, he has made himself at home for a few weeks, setting up camp with a 20-man team on folding beds all crammed into four rooms, to prepare for his first ever major exhibition worldwide, which opens on October 12. He has everything he needs down there, armchairs, TV, computer, close friends, a cook. He has effortlessly transformed this fortress into a cheerful shared apartment. Every now and tempting smells of Chinese food waft up into the museum halls, a museum attendant tells me.

“I’m not really a fan of museums, it so often feels as if they only display the corpses from long forgotten wars. We want to do something else here. We want to turn the Haus der Kunst into a battlefield.”

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John Bulmer Retrospective

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A pioneer of colour photography in the 1960s, photographer John Bulmer began his photographic career in Cambridge, where along with Peter Laurie Brendan Lehane and Adrian Bridgewater they founded Image. The magazine’s aim was to provide its photographers with experience to work as professional photographers in London and Bulmer duly joined the Daily Express in 1960.

Bulmer was a devotee of the new photographic technology and quickly embraced the 35mm format. This enabled him to work with greater flexibility and faster than his other Fleet Street colleagues who were still shooting on Rollei cameras.

From the Express, Bulmer started freelancing for Man about Town, later renamed Town, working alongside Terence Donovan, David Bailey and Don McCullin and it was here that he shot one of his most celebrated works on the North of England and in particular his documentary of the town, Nelson.

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Ever Spero

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Nancy Spero, who died on October 18th in Manhattan at the age of 83, was a woman who possessed immense courage, both in her art and in her life. For more than half a century, this courage propelled a practice of enormous imagination that moved across painting, collage, printmaking, and installation, constructing what Spero once called a “peinture féminine” that could address—and redress—both the struggles of women in patriarchal society and the horrors perennially wrought by American military might. Nevertheless, Spero’s art was ambiguous and never merely illustrative, and her treatment of these subjects came through a complex symbolic language incorporating an extraordinary polyphony of goddess-protagonists drawn from Greek, Egyptian, Indian, and pagan mythologies. She once told me that “goddesses, as is true of the gods, possess many characteristics of the eternal, which range from the tragic to transformation into a state of pleasure or even extreme excitement or happiness.”

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