Wednesday, August 27, 2008

(Un)compromising War on Whimsy

More evidence of a well-timed restlessness brewing in the internets. Exhibit A: Kazys muses on the intense hyperreal renderings of Lebbeus Woods, asking whether anything remotely as interesting will ever come again. Kazys notes how
The boom has not only produced almost no good buildings, by distracting architects from the proper task of developing the discipline, it has set our task back by over two decades. There is almost no speculative work worth mentioning, almost no serious research going on in a field that begs to be rejuvenated. A few people, generally at the intersection of architecture and media, do interesting work. But they don't get the attention they deserve and are constantly tempted by industry money. The architects I respect the most today work outside of the traditional field. They make exhibitions, set designs, graphics, program computers, and make maps but they tend to be abandoning a dying field rather than applying the defibrillation it needs. The boom has undone architecture. There are no new ideas and architecture is hurting.
Exhibit B: in yesterday's issue of Things Magazine, a riposte against the triumph of whimsy. The editors note that
This is a multi-disciplinary world where art direction, amateur photography, architecture, illustration, craft, cartoons and technology all fuse into one another, creating - dare we say it - a homogenous pop culture aimed at the attention deficient more than anything else. It's also a global culture (see 360 magazine from China, for example), having evolved from the enthusiastic sub-cultural adoption of Japanese Manga in the West into an ability to absorb specific local influences to generate an all-pervasive yet ultimately placeless sense of the 'exotic'.

So where does the profusion of imagery leave actual, concrete, physical design? We'd speculate that architecture has been fairly comprehensively damaged by the attraction and dominance of the ephemeral - what might rather unkindly be called the triumph of whimsy. Consider Ruum, a new architecture and design magazine (found via Creative Boys Club, which is a mecca for the New Eclectic). With layouts and type that draw on a variety of sources, fashion shoots that have a kitchen-sink inclusiveness and a collage-friendly emphasis on the collation and presentation of imagery, Ruum demonstrates the influence of 21st publishing successes like MARK magazine and, to a lesser extent, A10.

In these publications, architecture is reduced to being little more than the generator of the layouts, not a series of three dimensional spaces but a 2D form that inspires print design, rather than spatial interaction. MARK and A10 differ from late C20 eclectics like Nest through their fatal attraction to novelty, a fascination with the sheen of what is apparently innovation, but is more usually the blurred hinterland between render and photograph, the point at which the computer-generated becomes indistinguishable from reality. Ladel on the increasingly clip art-like imagery found on art, architecture and illustration aggregators, and you end up with design that is simultaneously timeless and utterly of its time.
Exhibit C: wherein Kazys echoes a similar sentiment:
This essay from the photo blog "the Luminous Landscape" (must reading for photographers) suggests that just as film has faded into history, the print will too. As high definition screens exceed anything that print can do (this will come one day soon), why continue to valorize an outdated technology?

And why not? I already barely use my printer for my photographic work. It's either printed in books and magazines or viewed on the Web. Can any gallery deliver the kind of recognition that Flickr can? Why own? Of course unless things go awry, high definition screens for viewing art will be open and works will soon be pirated and traded openly. You'll be going to rapidshare to download the newest Gursky. Artists may protest that this is awful. But it isn't, really, it's just a different model of property that other fields, like music, have to deal with.

1 comment:

things said...

Thanks for highlighting that and setting the post in a wider context.