Monday, 31 December 2012

Making Audible - Polish Pavilion at the Venice Biennial

[based on a text I written for The Wire Nov 12]
Polish Pavilion at Venice Biennale
Katarzyna Krakowiak
Venice, Italy

At this years Biennale, full of clumsy pseudo-socially engaged statements, it was mostly the few art focused installations, that pushed the path of experiment. Perhaps it is impossible to make an exhibition as big as the Biennale something beyond polite mediocrity, to make people come back home happy. With the topic of ‘Common Ground’, the curator David Chipperfield tapped suitably into the contemporary economic crisis, bearing questions of ownership and communality within a capitalism-shaped world, but the outcome was rarely questioning anything beyond nostalgia after the western welfare state and modernism, beside the usual architects’ self-boosterism. Only one pavilion, by artist Katarzyna Krakowiak and curated by Michal Libera of Bołt Records, considered the relation between sound and architecture and took it to a new level, distinguishing itself strongly from its surroundings by an extremely sophisticated, if a little depoliticized installation, that can potentially change the direction of the sound art becoming increasingly conservative in terms of presentation – happening within white gallery walls, exploiting on and on the same subjects, for instance, the one of "the city" or making predictable installations, which think simply by using the sound they are sophisticated - not really adding anything new to the understanding of the sound.

Krakowiak specialises in complex, often inspired by classic texts on sound, borderline explorations, making us realise how our world is visual, optical. In a series of events called Expectative she mixed the F. Murray Schaeffer notion of soundscape with a 17th century scientist’s Athanasius Kirchner. There, Krakowiak embraced ideas derived from the acoustic ecology movement, with the artist looking at how sounds and echoes occur in the noise of a modern city. In Venice she goes further, putting the whole idea of a “pavilion” into question, as her work, entitled elaborately Making the walls quake as if they were dilating with the secret knowledge of great powers (after Dickens' novel Dombey & Son), relies solely on the assimilation of sounds from the mechanical construction of the Polish and the four neighboring pavilions: Romanian, Egyptian, Venetian and Serbia. All are a part of a heavy and sinister Fascist-era style structure on the border of the Giardini side. 

First, she stripped the previous additions to the architectural construction of the interior to the brick walls, to get to the rudiments’ (walls, floors, ventilation) genuine natural vibration – together with the acoustician Andrzej Kłosak, they discovered the building had a 6 second long reverberation. Then the building’s acoustics were examined thoroughly. This way what is subsequently, via filters, amplifiers and speakers, turned into a perceptible sound, is not just simply the sound of the building, but it’s orchestrated – Krakowiak made the resonant frequencies of the space audible, orchestrating them with a sequencing software. She decided which elements generated more interesting sound and augmented them in the final effect.

For instance, she installed sound absorbers behind the building where normally nobody goes, or in the walls of the neighbouring pavilions, which, in effect, are “eavesdropped”, so that we learn about the secret existence of those spaces. The floor hides the speakers, which send powerful shivers to the building and walls, which were newly covered with a layer of concrete to create more interesting echo. In turn, the speakers hung above the entrance to “push” the unaware public inside and make them walk in search of the sound. Suddenly, all the niches, vestibules, apses, bays of this pseudo-classical fascist interior “sing”. And we walk around this fairly sinister space, whose asutere, grey areas make it strangely beautiful. But what we hear is not “music”, not ambient, nor sound art: it’s the unreal, ethereal consequences of the construction of this particular building made audible. The noises were brutal, heavy, even disturbing. Stripped of all architectural elements, they embodied the final point of pivotal situations from the 20th century experimental art: an echo chamber of John Cage or Alvin Lucier's claustrophobic Shelter for amplified vibration pickups and enclosed space. Or in fact, they try to define a space for performing sound as such. Music is usually played in an interior, which is often ignored.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Things I enjoyed this year

the queen is only one

Some things I enjoyed this year, this time without the terror of ordering.



Lana Del Rey, Born To Die (though I wish Lana on the next album stopped her litanies to the bad boyfriends and took to slashing them or summat; and smiled a little)
Gudrun Gut Wildlife (especially T. Turner's cover the Best)
Julia Holter Ekstasis
Pye Corner Audio
Burial EP
Crystal Castles
Carter Tutti Void
Rouge's Foam compilation (incl. eg. Lotic, Mama Testa, Blunt & Copeland)

about which I'm in between:
still trying to convince myself to the new Scott Walker
Jenny Hval, kindof, which I consider an exponent of the so called by me "clitoris kitch"


a lot or Polish Radio Experimental Studio for research
anything, in any form, by Roxy Music, Andrzej Korzyński (especially Possession, and dusting his soundtracks to Andrzej Wajda films)ABBA, Bowie
Philly soul, various dubs & reggaes courtesy of Owen
everything by DAF
Izabela Trojanowska, Kora, Urszula and other Polish punk rock/new wave divas
Harmony & Style Lovers Rock in the UK comp
Kraftwerk Electric Cafe
Krzysztof Komeda
Disco Inferno; This Ain't Chicago UK acid house comp
AR Kane, very much; Grace Jones
Ute Lemper, especially Punishing Kiss & her renditions of Kurt Weill/Brecht & anonymous Berlin interwar cabarets
Goblin & people doing music for Jean Rollins' films.


Most books I've read concerned my topic, that is the cold war, ideologies thereof, communism and postcommunism, eastern Europe, the Thaw, art of the eastern bloc, especially cinema & music, yugoslavian modernism & selfmanagement, popcommunism, consumption in peope's republics, avant-garde vs realism, marxism & modernism. Here a selection.

Marci Shore: two of her books, The Taste of Ashes and collected essays Modernity and its Discontents (only in Polish) concerning the topic of legacy of communism in Europe and so called "Judeo-communism" were my absolute highlights of the year.

reading long essays in LRB & NLR, especially Neal Ascherson, Fredric Jameson, TJ Clark and Tony Wood

Eyal Weizman's The Least of All Possible Evils, for which I interviewed him, full version soon.

Kapuscinski's biography by Artur Domoslawski, first authentically good book on communism & aftermath from a perspective of its flag reporter, from this part of the world.

Jodi Dean, Communist Horizon, which's greatest feature is disenchanting the C-word and making a strong argument for a communist renewal without slipping into the "full communism" idiocy.

Several books from Zero: Daniela Cascella's En Abime, Neil Kulkarni, Architecture of Failure, iCommunism, Art Kettle, Brave New Avantgarde, Folk Opposition, The Sacred and the Profane.

rereading Bruno Jasienski's I Burn Paris in English!

Miron Bialoszewski, Diaries

Stanislaw Czycz, super obscure Polish writer and his experimental legacy.

David Crowley on socialist music, Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius on maps. Piotr Piotrowski on avant-garde.

Looking forward to reading Anne Applebaum's Iron Curtain, still looking awry at it.


It was an intense year of watching horror and exploitation films, which I've been avoiding basically most of my life. Since late 2011, I re/watched all of the Argentos, and what was available by: Jean Rollin, Mario Bava or Aldo Lado. The star was Macha Meril and her absolutely astounding performance in Night Train Murders. Lado's Who saw her die, an inspiration to Roeg's Don't Look Now, will remain a somewhat unexpected favorite. I also came back to the cheesy soft porn, enjoying early Emmanuelles and Story of O. similarly with the French neobaroque, with the stress on Jean Jacques Beneix. I also finally watched: Downfall, which I hated, and several Hammer classics, which I loved, especially The Quatermass series. I also spent fair amount of time watching the East German classics form DEFA, from which Konrad Wolf (Solo Sunny, Sunseekers, Divided Heaven, I was 19), The Rabbit is Me and Murderers are Among Us were the best. Trier's Melancholia. A lot of the BFI Flipside, with, finally, Skolimowski's The Deep End as the greatest. I watched and wrote on Christoph Schlingensief. Fassbinder's The Year of 13 Moons was probably the best film I saw this year, category-less.

Among the newbies:

The Young Adult, first truthful film about people living in crap modern towns & thirtysomething single women.
Barbara, quasi-successful take on living in the late GDR
The Consequences, first Polish film on the war-time pogroms on Jews...
also Margaret by Kenneth Lonergan was excellent.

ART (note: some of that may be in, heaven forbid, eastern Europe!)

exhibitions: William Klein and Daido Mariyama in Tate Modern, Tate's perm. collection, esp surrealism & John Heartfield, Sounding the Body Electric in Lódź Museum of Art, astonishing Art Everywhere on the, on the surface, Warsaw's fine arts academy until the 1940, in practice, a great survey on Polish modernism & art deco; Bratislava's National Gallery show on socialist realism; Unfinished Modernisations in Maribor & Belgrade; right wing at in Warsaw MOMA; Harun Farocki in Warsaw CCA, Kaliningrad scene in the same gallery; Patrick Keiller & Picasso's legacy show & in general, random visits in Tate Britain for their permanent modern expositions, especially Vorticists; Bruno Munari: My Futurist Past in Estorick Collection, London; Calvert 22's NSK & Sana Iveković, Soviet Modernism in Vienna's AzW; Ballgowns in V&A.

going to Venice Architecture Biennale for the first time & enjoing especially Kasia Krakowiak's installation.

seeing Laibach live for the first time and in Tate's Turbine Hall, despite giving them a scathing review, was a powerful experience.

disco party at Unsound in Cracow in the old ostalgic hotel Forum, which looked like straight from The Shining: nevermind the music, mind the Eyes Wide Shut feeling.

I feel lucky to have travelled to: Belgrade (and then to Ljubljana on a night train), Amsterdam twice, Rotterdam for its "madness of the new"; Bruxelles for the first time and seeing its Musee de Beaux Arts from Auden's poem, travelling with my beloved to Venice and Naples, and visiting finally its Archeological Museum and Museo di Capodimonte; I was shocked/seduced by Naples and its brusque haggardness, piles of trash and communist symbols sprayed on the walls more than with anything I saw this year. Also, doing the Vienna-Bratislava-Budapest KK of Austria & Hungary tour could've easily turned me into one of those horrific 'Mitteleuropa' nostalgic bores, but luckily, it didn't!

Separate category - Things I still haven't heard a single time, seen or read:

Frank Ocean, Holy Motors, Berberian Sound Studio, new Bond, Azealia Banks, any new Rihanna, Taylor Swift, sea-punk & gifwave (ok, by now I saw some), huge part of the Wire's top 50 (shame, shame), Tabu, Impostor, Two Years at the Sea, Patience by Sebald, Marx's Capital (but I've read Proust and Man Without Qualities and whole Mann & Dostoyevsky!).

Things that I thought were rubbish: The Master, the new Batman, most of the new sleepy music popular in the music press & festivals, the new Badiou 'for the militants', Shame (unlike Hunger), the New Inquiry, blog male bonding, Geoff Dyer's Zona, The new Stedelijk Museum (or rather the unimpressive effect after the 9 years and the money they spent on it), food in the UK, general up-tightness, music festivals, UK columnists, UK press, debates about 'bashing the rich' with the privileged posing as 'victims', and then privileged ppl on the left asking for stopping the debating of the privilege on the left, needless to say, all of the contemporary politics and bashing of the leftwing voices, the Polish misery & homogenisation. The shit we're in.

this year I was regularly jobbed in UK magazines and national broadsheets, which, considering my nationality & short stay in Britain, I dare to call a success.

I also still haven't finished my book, which is the main goal for the beginning of the 2013.

oh, and I've set up a tumblr, out of sheer contempt for being a net-technical idiot.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Portrait of a Woman as a Young Emigrant

Recently I had nothing but work on my mind, and despite the looming Xmas, this is unfortunately not the end for me...Here I'm just listing the recent publications:

- I wrote twice for Guardian's Comment is free, once on the silencing of the left, later, last week, on the reasons for the lack of cultural impact from the enormous Polish emigration, as the latest census revealed. Both have much longer versions, which I will share in here soon. Im still somewhat overwhelmed by this, as writing it in English made me ponder many unanswered questions about what do I do in here, that I preferred perhaps to remain in the dark: who am I, who am I as a journalist living abroad, what can I really say, and finally, am I "happy"?? (sic)

I have mixed feelings after publishing both: both provided me quite a lot of criticism, but also encouragement. I was, among other things, accused of undermining the cultural influence we have by some of the "creative" part of our minority; on the other hand, I had a feeling, that I couldn't really write about perhaps the much more important aspect of our stay in here: how does the Polish presence on the Isles express itself politically, if at all. This 800,000 people seem to have little interest not only in dropping their dayjobs for the sake of "creativity"; moreover, they are, similarly as in Poland, quite passive in gaining a political voice.

Last summer I happened to translate the leaflet for the Ken Livingstone's Mayor of London campaign, from English to Polish, designed especially for the Polish community in London, to encourage them to vote. Leaflet got published a bit late, but this is not to be blamed on the little turnout (and the loss by Ken). It is rather their disilussionment in whether they can make any difference or perhaps, disbelief they will stay here long enough to try to make an impact. Also, if anything, the latest few articles about Poland in the Guardian revealed lack of language: still fresh, we don't (including me) know how to express the meaning of this situation. It revealed an interesting position of a community in flux, whose language is also, by neccessity, shaky, but which, hopefully, will find itself able to express many issues that, no doubt, pervade this group: anxiety, anger, alienation, fear in confrontation with a stronger culture (no doubt, if all of us gained a similar upbringing: God, Honour & Homeland and so on, simmered in a deeply Catholic sauce; patriotism, that can turn into xenophobia) but also we will learn a lesson in tolerance - since the war, Poland, a multicultural country, where Poles, Jews and many other ethnic groups lived, albeit, as time showed, not peacefully, was turned by the USSR into a monolithic, nationalistic country, with no experience of multiculturalism. Stay in Britain can change that, especially, when we'll come back home. It's good some initial effort to discuss our status was done, maybe some wisdom will emerge from those bubbling tensions. Let's not be politically naive, let's be aware of what is going on.

- In this BBC 3 appearance at the Nightwaves programme I'm trying, cursed by the lack of time and suggestions like "aren't you jolly good in integrating??", to address some of those issues.

- I also wrote on one of the most visually rewarding "luxury books" of the year, Neville Brody's & Jon Wozencroft's brainchild, brilliant FUSE 1-20 anthology. It made me ponder many important things: the 90s, when my adolescence took place; beauty as it expresses itself in time; a weird story of punk and postpunk's romance with the avant-garde; contemporary "curatorial approach", that seem to consume many of the even most interesting artistic efforts; effortless beauty of this era, where the style was god and how much I miss it. When one had the style, and not necessarily the money. It's for Blueprint, which seems not to have actualized its website for some time, but is now at least edited by the wonderful Shumi Bose. It's a good 'un, if I may say so immodestly, so go an geddit ( though I may post it some day!).

- also, as every month, you can read me in the Wire. In November issue I wrote on the wonderful Venice Biennial installation by Kasia Krakowiak in the Polish Pavillon; in December issue I recommend equally passionate, delicate yet strong, new, poetic book by Daniela Cascella, En Abime, on how listening helped her to save her existence, briefly (ha!); Daniela also has a blog; I also share a lot of her anxieties/ views/ feelings about being a foreigner in the UK, so reading it was as moving as it was soothing; in the next, January issue I share my end-of-year thoughts and favorite records in the 2012 roundup. Next issue will hopefully have my 3 articles as well. My full list of this year's favorites will be up in here shortly before the end of the year.

- I also wrote for Icon, issue #113, another yet different approach to the legacy of Yugoslavian Modernism, this time on the basis of a good book by Maroje Mrduljas & Vladimir Kuić, with great photos by Wolfgang Thaler, Modernism In-Between; I also answer some quite hilarious questions about, warning, the weather! Longer version on here soon.

- there's as well an essay on the aesthetisation of Chernobyl, the legacy of Tarkovsky and how the current urb-exes have their role in abusing the living population in there, for the Architectural Review Asia and Pacific, issue #128, out Dec 31st, finally.

- moreover, a still unpublished, long review of Jodi Dean's Communist Horizon for The Guardian's Review, which, I'm told, will be finally published in the issue on January, 19th. Here we're in the future, so shall say no more, but reader, there's a lot to wait for.

- there'll be also an essay on Kaliningrad's emerging art scene and the neocolonialism within the former USSR. Are you ready for this gem? It'll be published at the forthcoming Calvert Journal, launched soon by the lovely Calvert 22 gallery, focusing on the art from the Eastern Europe. Can't wait for that.

Barney Bubbles ceratively "stealing"from Polish abstractionist-constructivist Henryk Berlewi, initiating the (unfortunately, ongoing) romance between the punk and early avant-garde esthetics, some good photos in here

- and a short recapitulation of the recent "Sowjetmodernism" trend in the forthcoming issue of Architecture Today.

- if this is not enough, Im also writing 3 other long articles right now (among others, a long essay on Polish "Judeo-communism" for a Polish journal, and and essay on avant-garde...), two book contributions, several translations and also trying to write MY bloody book (sic!!). I am truly reaching the levels of the Stakhanovite comrade Hatherley. I was never looking so much forward to Christmas (= rest) as this year, despite hating it since adolescence. Sorry I've been such a shoddy blogger this year, haven't even properly learnt English or posting pictures, and haven't realised so many of my blogging intentions, so many.... Have a good one, but don't forget: cynicism is a feature of intelligent people. This is all for now, Merry Xmas!!!!

An anthology on the Experiment in Eastern European Art & Science with my contribution

Today i want to recommend to you a new exciting Book with my contribution - thought as an inbtroduction to the practices, history and people involved with the Polish Radio Experimental Studio, an outstanding, today we'd say "collective", or rather, a communist era radio studio devoted to recording new electronic types of music, that, with the allowance of the state, could practice all sorts of new music without the necessary censorship or scrutiny of their actions. I wrote on them before. The book is divided into two parts: anthology and the lexicon, including entries on all sorts of experiments, from all around the world, with a focus on art & (a bit) on science or their mutual ways. In my entries (and a text on the "Warsaw experimentators") I tried first of all to excavate certain views and practices which I consider still unpopular in Poland: influence of socialist economy (and social control) on art, art and the environment, experimental architecture, competition between the Blocs, collectivity, reassesment of the early avantgardes and the social role of an artist under the socialism. You can purchase the book in here and as it contains also some English translations, it won't be wasted on you.

Monday, 3 December 2012

New tumblr devoted to my book

I have a brand new tumblr devoted solely to the book I'm writing, Poor but Sexy. Read it, like it, reblog, share, encourage me! #workinprogress

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Music of Our Time

[I am posting this while listening to a mixtape I got this morning from a friendly Rouges Foam, Heck, You will hit something that looks like Mount Everest. He also become, for this sake, a cut-and-paste collage master - lovely! - but not really sure what to think of this sport imagination (below) - you must've become very americanised, my friend, during your stay in the US! It made me think though I should post this spiked live review for the Wire, which didnt get the editors' approval, making me think what is it, that I'm possibly getting wrong here? Why I find myself unable to appreciate the new music, at least from certain post-hauntological spectrum, find it boring, uneventful, conjunctural, moribund-without-a -reason. Rouge's mix, which encompasses much more than post-hauntology, shows at least certain interesting creative ricketiness, de rigeur moribundity, sure, but at least soundscapes in which something happens; the more 'happens' in music, the better, in my view; too much is just enough. Recently I was giving a lecture at the Krakow's Unsound festival about the end of personality in music: how lack of authorship, from interesting (from ballardian The Normal and such industry-jokes as Silicon Teens to anonymity of techno & house and then hauntology, Burial and so on) becomes today just a pose, just another element of reversed fashionable identikit. Characteristically, also in terms of sound, of things actually happening in the music, post-hauntology is rather uneventful and hollow, so alienated, so bleak (and so depoliticised). How strange, but also how apt, given this generation was born already to neoliberalism, from the beginning saturated in "there's no alternative"...Anyway, here're my thoughts after going to a gig of some of the hottest artists of the season, trying to at teh same time reflect on a style, of which Tri-angle roster seem most obvious exponent]

[wrote sometime betw. June-July 2012]

Holy Other + Vessel + LIE + Haxan Cloak + Evian Christ
Islington Mill, Salford, UK

There must be a method behind the intense, exhausting boringness of contemporary electronica shows: a group of people stand in complete darkness, listening to hisses and breaks coming from nowhere, while a stroboscope glides over their eyes from time to time. On some level it appeals to me: it helps contemplation. It seems to me musicians are trying to demonstrate the identitylessness of music-making in the times of the disappearance of much bigger things. Or indeed they transmit this identitylessness. Hidden under mysterious monikers and all that, in the darkness, amongst strobes and huge amounts of dry ice, Holy Other, Vessel, Haxan Cloak and Evian Christ, new artists on Brooklyn’s Tri-Angle label, presented themselves recently to the Mancunian public.

The evening at this former working mill, now artists’ residences, seems very much of a piece, a homogenously designed environment. Similar murky moods sweep into each other with no irritating changes. The most interesting of the pack is Holy Other, not for their sampling of soul singers, but because their sound seems to have more substance and physicality. Theirs is an airy, spacey music, like an all-encompassing cloud over which beats, samples and clicks occur, strangely deprived of the sensually charged atmosphere of R&B and hiphop. Evian Christ produce a similarly slowed down, foggy take on dance music using hiphop and R&B cut-ups. Vessel finally provides some opportunities for dancing within this stasis, with more readable beats and breaks. Haxan Cloak’s set has a Lynchian (or Badalamentian) moodiness, with violin and cello parts played from computer, but unfortunately this evokes a cheesy soundtrack to an improvised black mass rather than existential shivers. And as I understand this may be the beginnings of some of those very young artists playing live, and how this may differ from the recorded and mixed material, I can still expect from music to grip me, to take me, transport me with it. I see where they're going: Joseph Beuys on the cover, strong fascination with Joy Division, love for GYBE! And nowhere may be a still interesting place to be,  no doubt, but to me, this is still too uneventful even for a limbo. 

Tri-Angle (and not only, cos those artists now transcended their initial label) initially attempted to achieve a contemporary Gothic a la 4AD, but with various forms of urban music as source material. Its output may be juxtaposed with some of the music only a few years earlier, associated with Hauntology – not necessarily through how they sound, but in the mental climate they evoke. Hauntology has been criticised for empty miserabilism, philosophical vacuousness and occultist nonsense, but artists associated with it, like Rolan Vega or Burial, were at least addressing issues such as the decline of social democracy or the death of rave culture. The music of younger generation represented by Tri-Angle doesn’t match the activity of that same generation on the streets, though. but it’s telling, how much it is a music of the cold late capitalist world: with its energy as if from the start stifled, sucked in. Here, mourning has developed into melancholy and can’t really place its reference anymore. Fascinated by darkness, they make music which evokes depression in form, but seems to suffer from the more general malaise - lacking the potentially activating political claims. They add a different set of nostalgic references, sampling hiphop, crunk, triphop (Vessel’s Sebastian Gainsborough is from Bristol), UK garage or r’n’b, but the result seems purely decorative, very much ‘late internet’, where all those elements collide and mix into a nondescript mass.

There’s something Catholic about the show, but without the dramaturgy, leaving pessimism, eschatological thoughts and, finally, misery. There’s no doubt those musicians are adept at putting music together in a lush, Gothic way, but the paralysis they induce is sometimes unbearable. This is not music to bliss out to, like My Bloody Valentine, nor anything holding a hidden menace, like, say, Basic Channel or Tricky: it is a continuous wallow. A live recording from this gig could be added to Dominic Fox’s Cold World, a book on depression and melancholy, but whereas Fox sees a chance to turn passivity into militant negative euphoria, I can’t see much in this music beyond the contemplation of mental paralysis. There is a huge turnout – Salford is now a newly emerging space for indie culture – but while the gig may have taken place in a post-industrial space, its direct surroundings are a mass of recession dereliction, the ruins of new Great Britain, casting a longer and longer shadow.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Architecture of Pleasure

Lina Bo Bardi, Museum on the Seashore, Brazil, 1951

[longer version of a review for Architecture Today #232)

Rowan Moore Why We Build
Agata Pyzik

Rowan Moore’s ambitious book starts with an image that is hard to beat: as a prominent critic of The Observer and a former Architecture Foundation director, he is taken by the Dubai’s satraps for a helicopter flight over the now so familiar landscape of thrilling, yet deeply unsettling city. The list of financial excesses and cost of the inaugural parties can be probably matched only by the declining Roman Empire. And just like with the Romans, the Emirates' millionaires seemed decadently aware of the fall that was just round the corner. Moore sees a greater meaning in this, and as if responding to people, who’d like to see architecture as something purely functional, makes a quasi-antimodernist argument: architecture was, is and will be built partly as a result of our madness, as a folly responding to our desires to change the world according to our visions.

VDNKh Moscow
The motor may be love for beauty, for money or for vice, or for power – all of those wishes are reflected in the madness of Dubai, as they are in seemingly much less controversial projects. His book then continues as a catalogue, or an atlas of human follies as architecture. His greatest interest and fascination lies with the fantastical. The most inspiring chapters consider the fake in architecture (or the fake that becomes real), the spaces for love and lovemaking (or simply sex trade) and spaces, that are expressions of power. He discusses alongside each other, Richard Rogers flag projects of Centre Pompidou in Paris and Lloyd’s in London, Stalinist Moscow’s metro and the unbelievable VDNKh, the All-Russia Exhibition Centre for all the Soviet Republics; John Soane’s uncanny house-museum, the billionaire Larry Dean’s Xanadu or rather Dynasty-like Dean Gardens, and the driven in its literalness phallic brothel by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, famous inventor of “architecture parlante”. He’s interested in how an even single building may change the city, always ready to give dozens of examples and in our fascination with power, stating very truthfully, that “we often like a presence of force in a  building, as long as we feel it’s not directed at us”.

Dean Gardens

My definite favorite is the erotic chapter, where Moore assumes a role of an infinitely interested observer, yet not a pornographer, with a wit confirming London’s reputation as a city of vice much surpassing anything ever done by the French. He gently mocks Le Corbusier and Adolf Loos, both erotomaniacs, who were in love with Josephine Baker, and their male fantasies about women’s sensuality and sexuality. Let's not pretend in the case of many of the cherished great inventors in architecture, starchitects as well as their less monied, less talented, but still powerful colleagues (all no doubt The Fountainhead lovers), their sexual (sometimes not only) fantasies laid way to many ridiculously self-indulgent projects. Money and power meaning abuse of women shocker; to which probably the chapters on fascinating brutalist Italian architect Lina Bo Bardi, as well as Zaha Hadid can be a counterbalance. Architecture remains a hopelessly men-dominated area and as I would oppose simplistic oppositions, it is rare on Moore's part to point out what often is hidden behind the spiky ambitions.

If the erudite delicious passages about the French neoclassicist architecture, bathed in erotomania have any predecessor, it will be the Anthony Vidler’s Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely or Robert Harbison’s unique Eccentric Spaces or Reflections of Baroque. Both are stylists, who want to take the architectural writing to somewhere more interesting, than just sheer journalism. The postmodern era in building spawned not only the atrocities of Philip Johnson (who gets kicking), but also some the most sophisticated writing devoted to make it an expression of the personality of both author’s and the strangeness of the built space.

The consequences of the financial aspect of those follies are present, but not those, that drove the Pomo architecture into the atrocities of the zero degree of architecture, which is speculative housing. The quality and at the same time problem of this book is that Moore doesn’t want to focus on mediocrity, and if so, only on the splendid, larger-than-life mediocrity, like China Central TV Headquarter, project in Beijing by OMA/Rem Koolhas or their Olympic Stadium from 2008. Despite pointing out the cynicism of the authorities, who publicly aim at the ‘openness’ and internationalism, it’s hard to resist an impression Moore is sparing us the final word. The time now is hectic and the readers become more and more aware of the political complications of the last 30 years in building – Moore resists yet an overarching argument, which would turn his book inevitably into a diatribe. Although it announces at the beginning it’s purpose is to “explain this universal drive to build”, we’d still expect more of an erudite of his sort.

LIna Bo Bardi, SESC Pompéia Sao Paulo, 1977

 This book is not a manual, the charm lies rather in those little snippets of information, some great lines ready to be quoted, especially on Soane, Ruskin or sex. it is a formidable puzzle trying to hold together as an answer to how we build and how we used to build, written with grace, a bit in the way of ancient, renaissance or baroque authors of architectural treatises. But what is sometimes lacking is the future tense here. for those willing to know more on architectire t is a great journey though, which in the end, makes us read his author’s and our own judgment between the lines.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Auf wiedersehen, Mr Beckett!

[text written and then shortened as a review for The Wire #333 which was in September last year]

Deborah Weagel
Words and Music. Camus, Beckett, Cage, Gould

In a way, relationships between words, especially poetry, and music, are self-explanatory, because poetry started as music or music started as poetry (Orphic hymns, oral epics, vocal music, oratorios, masses, operas). In turn, the idea of synthesis of arts, and especially a kinship between word and music appears first in the Greeks as ekphrasis, which is, in literal sense, an “expression” of an idea, a rhetorical device of expressing one art via another and perhaps also first ever definition of intermediality. Modern view on correspondences comes from German Romantics, who insisted on the idea of the interdisciplinary. Since then the idea of synthesis of arts was attractive to many, with Wagner’s Gesamtkunswerk as a most famous example and all kinds of 20th century avant-garde experimentation: Dada poetry, visual poetry or even concrete and sonorist poetry or contemporary hypertext. All that was usually evoking musical language, but treated rather as a metaphor, neglecting its primary meaning. Yet something about the idea of blurring the distance between music and literature still haunts the humanities and interestingly it is usually the literary scholars than musicologists, who want to prove it.

In Words and Music Deborah Weagel interestingly overlooks all the literary avant-garde traditions, from symbolism to dada, and chooses to focus on four artists, two writers and two composers/musicians, Albert Camus, Samuel Beckett, John Cage and Glenn Gould respectively, which also happen to be well established High Priests of Modernism. She also states from the beginning, that what interests her are only two aspect of musicality of literature: music in literature and literature and music. First surprise may be engaging Camus to this crowd, whose work is not obviously musical. Yet, as it is exposed, author of L’etranger had a great affinity with both Mozart and Bach, believing, that music is an expression of “the unknowable world”, asscribing to certain natural phenomena, such as the look of the morning sun or of the sea thinkgs, like tonality and counter-tonality. Camus lived in an era full of all sorts of experimentation in music, from Schoenberg to Stravinsky or Messiaen, but it was a traditionalist Honegger, that composed music to his play. As we realise, the most common and perhaps basic way Camus and many writers understood musicality was a simple sonata form, A-B-A, that is: a topic, its variation(s) and a reprise. Yet the banality of the idea seems to be able to express itself in infinite number of ways.

In turn, there’s no doubt of Beckett’s interest in avant-garde music: minimalism and experimentalism of his work, from Godot to Krapp’s Last Tape invite comparisons to music and in his case rightly so. Sensitivity to voice, pitch, resonance and duration often make his manuscripts look like musical scores. There’s clearly parallelism between Beckett’s and some avant-garde artists, culminating in his collaboration with Morton Feldman on the play Neither. Playing with the idea of test/textlessness, Beckett’s primal element was word, and again, depending on what we understand by musicality of literature, we can take those experiments as inventing a new form or simply densifying of the linguistical texture. In turn, John Cage, everybody’s favorite avant-gardist, used certain musical procedures in his texts, such as Lectures on Nothing and Something or his famous book Silence. They were avant-garde, so not rooted in music or language yet – what gave an interesting, but perhaps one-off effects, that cannot be really pursued by anyone else. Cage’s elusive philosophy of work remains ever attractive, but it wasn’t actually a more flexible language of art, because it only can be bowed to Cage’s experimentation.

The last chapters, devoted to genius interpreter of Bach Glenn Gould are perhaps the least predictable and focus on his rarely discussed amazing radio works and auditions, like Solitude Trilogy, highlighting the piety and obsessive perfection, with which Gould approached editing and recording of sound. Trilogy is three sound documentaries, exploring the lifetime obsession of Gould, the counterpoint, with the spoken word, using the sound of the sea or train as basso continuo and exploring culture of Canadian Mennonites combined with songs of Janis Joplin. The author of The Prospects of Recording believed in the improving role of technology in maintaining our environment. Various kinds of sounds and the account of his less known work sound fascinating.

Yet, while being very informative, extensively footnoted Words and Music contribute less new to the general subject: it gathers the material, but do not attempt to demystify or challenge artists’ methods. What about Schwitter’s Ur-Sonate, Cage’s important influence: it’s a musical score written for speech apparatus, but there’s no meaning to it, then what does it have to do with literature, apart from its looks? You could say that these classifications aren’t necessary, that they impoverish an artform that is completely self-sufficient. Does this mean the efforts are futile? Not at all: it makes us contemplate the mystery even more.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Commemmorating Loss. Warsaw Jewish Community Today

[I was thinking what I could possibly post to resuscitate blog a little, and because it's Nov 1st today, which in catholic countries is the Day of the Dead, I decided to publish this essay written on the occassion of reviewing a Jewish music gig for The Wire #344 10/12. The great photo above is that of Guta Berliner, a beautiful athlete in 1930s Warsaw, who was a promising sport star of the Warsaw's Klub Makkabi but in 1934 decided to migrate to Palestine, which saved her life. Photo was for a sculptor Nathan Rappaport, later an author of the Ghetto Heroes Monument in Warsaw, Guta's sculpture was either unfinished or destroyed by the war...More photos of Guta and Warsaw prewar Jewish sportsmen here]

OHEL – 70. years of the liquidation of Warsaw ghetto
Ircha Gdola + Shofar + From thee to thee

For obvious reasons, playing music in Jewish tradition has in Poland special repercussions. But it must be said: in the last few years especially, the Jewish music has experienced a revival unheard of in this country before, that made this music enter a wholly new level. It is largely due to the rebirth of the Jewish community in Poland as such, which today still counts only around 20,000 in comparison to three million population before the Shoah. It’s thoroughly moving, how the community is growing back, but it is also, as one might expect, quite divided ideologically, namely around the question of Holocaust and Polish anti-Semitism, that did not ceased after the war and continued more or less in communist Poland, leading to the 1968 purges and many people forced to emigration.

There’s no place in an English music magazine to consider the complexities of Jewish identity and its crucial problems today, like relation to its past, politics of Israel and politics of memory, but discussing Jewish music renaissance we also cannot completely by-pass it. Pre-war Warsaw was one of the most vivacious Jewish and Yiddysh centers in the world, where different Jewish cultures and political factions - that of Bund and that of Zionism and many others existed. You cannot overestimate the weight the occasion of the concert: 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, which started July 1942, could possibly carry, in a situation, where Jews are still looked at suspiciously by some groups in Poland, despite their incredible suffering and sacrifices they made for the Polish nation. All three acts that participated in the concert are formed by young musicians in their thirties, that at certain point in their careers decided that their identity it too important to be left out of their music, especially, since there’s quite 'radical' (also in the Zornesque meaning of the word) sense to performing Jewish music, especially today. But the ways of resurrecting this music can be as diverse as the community itself – and lets be aware of the danger of the holocaust kitsch hanging there with great possibility.

The open-air event took place near the center of Warsaw, on the terrain of the ex-ghetto (everyone walking around Warsaw cannot miss it, as the wall is traced with a memorial line on the pavement), from the beginning had an incredibly solemn atmosphere. Between the recitations, the musicians were actually trying to decompress this slightly po-faced seriousness. Ircha Gdola is a Polish-British fusion of the talents of many improvisers: saxophonist/clarinetist Mikolaj Trzaska, Michał Gorczynski, Paweł Szamburski, Waclaw Zimpel, and Ollie Brice and drummer Mark Sanders, Trzaska, experimental jazz musician, known for participation in many dissimilar around-jazz projects, from Łoskot to Milość and playing on polish avant pop records, a few years ago felt he has to pay a tribute to his own jewish tradition, absent form his music. His aim is to play Jewish music, as if the tradition wasn’t suddenly broken with the war, but continued, to keep it alive. And to get it, he goes to ArmeniaTurkeyEgypt or Transilvanian Roma, where you can hear untouched Jewish influences.

The act was based on the melancholic sound of the many clarinets and , with tone predominantly elegiac and longing – I was curious, how the musicians are going to make it more diverse? And this way was supposed to come from free jazz, with which Trzaska, collaborator of the likes of Peter Brotzmann, is not a novice. Discreet microtonal whistles and rustles pervaded the sound, which nevertheless couldn’t overcome a slightly ethnographic tone and Mark Sanders, known for many more outré projects with Evan Parker or Derek Bailey, unfortunately wasn’t trying to intervene too much, being entirely a background to his friends efforts. Simple arrangements and harmonies were sweet, but didn’t really stopped sounding a bit too predictably. Does melancholia have to express itself only as a lament?

Raphael Roginski of Shofar says he wants his music to be a musical equivalent of Talmud; as many traditions there is of commenting the scripture, it should be reflected in the music. Songs come from musicological expertise done in result of research and traveling around UkraineMoldova, former pale of settlement. Roginski, supported by Trzaska and Macio Moretti on drums, bent so low over his guitar you can believe he’s really in a trance. Drastic sounds of electronic guitar spread from his corner, while Trzaska finally dropped his melancholy and Moretti was his equal partner. This project, though too often looses edge in noisy jamming and juvenile garage spirit, at least put a bit of life into this a bit too static event. I’m not entirely sure Rogiński is right, but in that night he displayed Marc Bolan’s groove.

That certainly wanst the case with the last band, From Thee to Thee, which succumbed to all sorts of solemn Schindler’s List kitsch. Dozen of musicians supported by singer Ola Bilińska drowned in pseudo-seriousness, that made them only generate somber, one-note elegy, with pseudo-poetical lyrics vaguely waxing on loss. I instinctively feel this is not the way to do it. The question of appropriateness of commemorating such occasion without becoming sacrosanct, falsely pious is a difficult one. When Schoenberg, such rigorous objector of any unnecessary ornament, composed a very sentimentalist Survivor from Warsaw, his previously biggest proponent Theodor Adorno noted, as a larger stamement on post-Shoah experimental music, that if even him cannot convey thsi experience in a way that is not kitsch, no one could. Up to now, there’s no view of musical version of Paul Celan - poet, who managed to reinvent the language to talk about the trauma - but with the two first acts, especially Shofar, I felt Warsaw community got at least some not entirely embarrassing way of commemorating their loss.
Agata Pyzik

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Boris Mikhailov: A Retrospective in Berlin

[based on a review originally published in Frieze D/E Issue 5 Summer 2012]

Only over the last twenty years Boris Mikhailov gained recognition in the Western art world. Without a doubt, the belated discovery of the 74-year-old Ukrainian photographer’s work has to do with the collapse of communism and its aftershock. This large-scale retrospective in Berlinische Galerie reaches back even further and reveals Mikhailov as an avid chronicler of both the pre- and post-Soviet eras by presenting works made between 1966 and 2011. His photographs from the last 10 years are devoted to street life in Berlin where he has lived since 2001. The 1990s saw the first publications on art from the Soviet Bloc with special issues often built on simplistic anti-communist praise; recent years have seen exhibitions mourning the perhaps too easily dismissed socialist order, after the brave new world of capitalism provoked unprecedented economical damage and societal degeneration.

Despite the broader historical perspective, the exhibition seemed weighed down by some ideological prejudices – albeit from the West. When we read in the catalogue, Berlinische Galerie director Thomas Köhler writing that ‘in the 1990s [Mikhailov’s] focus was existential, threatening. When the Soviet Union collapsed, he turned to those who had lost out in the social transformation, took their portraits and depicted them in their poverty and despair, the result of the merciless, repressive Soviet political system’, we see what theses Mikhailov is supposed to help in proving. This overlooks the blindingly obvious fact that the photos actually depict the effects of a merciless new capitalism on the post-Soviet poor.

In fact, the whole show challenges a view of the Soviet system, in which the monster is controlling every aspect of every citizen’s life, just as much as the condescending sympathy about those "repressed by socialism". This view is often followed by something like ‘but of course the bold Soviet people were capable of finding the ways out, there was also space for laughter, picnics, flirtation, sex and silliness’ or worse, by that ‘actually a little bit of ideology would be nice’, that for example some of the recent shows or books on the ex-communist countries often imply.

Mikhailov is some of the most prominent artists emerging out of the crashed Soviet Union, who basically continued what he was doing before the collapse, but without making his art in any way more tasteful or palatable for the foreigners. He was influenced by Russian conceptual art (Moscow Conceptualists, Collective Actions) and to a degree, sots-art, but evolved it in its own, sublime, and  documentary way. His attitude varies from a Czech New Wave little realism, not afraid of the abject and sarcasm, but still sweetly funny, and something much darker and visceral. He's also a well known erotomaniac and exhibitionist. when the nude pictures of his wife were found by the KGB, he was fired and decided to take up photography full time.

Then he made his first and incessantly stunning, Red series(1968-75). Mikhailov obsessively photographed red-coloured fragments: found on a girl’s knickers and in blood on her buttock, at a playground, on socks, trams or a babushka’s headscarf. He’s haunted, not so much by the colour of communist ideology, but by the ever changing world around him. It’s as if he believed that looking at something long enough might lead to the discovery of its molecular construction. On his photos the ideology is present in the micro- as well as the macro-image, like in the mass ornament, parades, flags, commemorations. Yet seeing only the ideology behind the colour would be akin to following the official party line; so much more is going on. Anyone looking for unhappiness under the regime couldn’t find the evidence in these completely unofficial photos. Crimean Snobbery (1982) – a monochrome rest after the brightness of Red, where the young and old, skinny and obese, enjoy the sensual pleasures of the seaside resort – could be seen as a parody of the propagandist Bloc newsreels explaining why we’re no worse than Saint-Tropez. But these images also offer an anthropological and behavioral inquiry, much like Black Archive, series compiled from 1968 until late 1970s, another series full of sexual mystique, made by an author simply fixated with the woman’s body. The leitmotiv of his art remains Mikhailov’s subjects: strangely exhibitionistic, open, giving him a large access to their privacy. We never know if they’re acquaintances, lovers or relatives.

Regardless of the political system, Mikhailov has always refused to be a passive observer and kept on actively looking after 1991. The horrifying Case History (1997-99) and At Dusk (1993) series centre on the newly homeless and dispossessed around the ever appearing hometown Kharkov. They’re the biggest accusation of what happened after, not before 1991. It’s a complete collapse of any acceptable reality, of any limits of existence we could still call ‘humane’ (this word happens to be often applied to Mikhailov). The first are full format portraits of the homeless, presented in all their degeneration and disintegration. Extremely harsh, even too intimate in their frankness, they at least do not repeat condescending views on “the poor men and women”, but let them be just the way they want to be, grin, cry, showing their tattoos or genitals. At Dusk shows blue-suffused everyday scenes from Kharkiv: begging, lying with face on the street, dying. Cripples, drunks, old people, ill people.

If I was a German…(1993) where the naked author, his wife and friends are playing scenes dressed as Nazis occupying a small Ukrainian village in kitschy, SM pornographic poses, comes as a relief, although a brief one: soon discomfort takes over. Mikhailov took his stay in Germany seriously, picking the most taboo fragment of its history; self-mockery and exhibitionism are a vital part of the series’ creepiness and power. Why are you looking at me looking so hideous and ridiculous, viewer? – asks its protagonist. Aestheticized, campy Nazi imagery is nothing new to the fashion photography and indeed, in keeping with the original portraits of the perfect Aryan bodies. David LaChapelles of this world, beware: horror can turn back onto you.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Travels in Rural & Municipal Britain: Patrick Keiller in Self-Retrospective

[alternate version of a review of Patrick Keiller's Tate show from ICON #110]

From a foreigner’s point of view, it is hard to find an artist more parochial, more English (not even British) than Patrick Keiller. This filmmaker, researcher, former architect, polymath, obsesses over Britain, the relation between the land and economy, but strangely, it is not making him provincial, because it’s hard to be provincial, if one’s obsessive topic is the logic of western capitalism, hardly a local phenomenon. But Robinson, the character he created, is himself a kind of an exile, an outsider, a queer, and this is precisely, what allows him to see “the problem of London”, problem of the UK and subsequently, the whole western world, increasingly endangered by the food and natural catastrophy.

The current show in Tate Britain is a complex course in Keillerism and Robinsonism, but already so advanced and multilayered, such a rhizomatic net of references, varying from general, historical and political to extremely personal, that a novice may have easily get lost in this construction. It’s as if it was trying to imitate this arch-English novel, Lawrence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, with the complicated, impossible storylines displayed as paintings, books fragments, photographs and scattered data (which makes you wonder what kind of architect Keiller could have been if he didn't drop it years ago; we know he was in the team designing famous London brutalist estates, Alexandra Road and Thamesmead); as if begged by his fans, Keiller made a map of his brain and way of thinking. But no worries: it’s a very rational, very logical brain: even English romanticism was rational, and in dealing with the monster of the late capitalism, one should be rather cool-handed.

The exhibition itself is divided in eight sections, each a small platform, like a dry herbarium, with screens, canvases and memorabilia. And as if straight away answering the “but I haven’t seen any films of his” dilemma, he, the most ferocious chronicler of the present financial crisis, makes a shift and retraces us to the very beginning, the start of industrial revolution. One of the first objects in the show is the threshing machine, one of the first ever technologies introduced to the countryside, forerunner of mechanized production and the object of Luddite movement’s hate and destructive attacks. It’s huge and heavy – hardly a precursor to an Ipad. In his Robinson film trilogy, Keiller examined the tension between the rural and industrial Britain. Where has the 500 years of capitalism led us and what maelstroms happened on its way?

We come back to the prehistory of modernity: the land enclosure changed everything on those isles and in the perception of the world as such. The show documents many movements of resistance to this act, mutinying peasants, who saw it as a seizure of their freedom. From now on it’s impossible to imagine common land with no possessions, where people live together and share, although the show also documents attempts at independent communities. Since then everything becomes a potential profit-maker, open to the speculations of the market. Keiller shows how our thinking would be impossible without this revolt, with signs of melancholy, even nostalgia after an unmechanised, rural world, a ‘biophilia’, as he calls it, to the most basic forms of life. But it is in a landscape after the humanity: we exploited everything, we had massive food crisis, we disappeared, leaving behind the scorched earth. But even at his most ‘biophiliac’, Keiller is not Tarkovsky gazing melancholically at the Zone, but an ironic, politicized observer. With what delight and suppressed anger must have he displayed the screens with the war economy (multiplying maps of the war zones, photographs of roads, lanes, closures, private accesses, warnings). Maps of Oxfordshire and Berkshire, primal locations of his films, overlap with maps of Iraq – because maybe the truth of one can be found in the other. Robinson believed he can best explore the world by walking, as if then the land unfolded itself in an act of political-economical transformation. We can also only do as much, images at the show haunt us, as if staring at them intensely enough, we could see the molecular basis of the historical events.

This obsession pervades his work. In London (1992) he looked at the UK capital of the late Tory rule, where, interestingly, only capital itself is left: we see what happens, if all the social relations are gradually stripped of any additional meaning than monetary and reduced to generating income. We see the strife of London of the early 1990s, with the systematic destruction of declining socialist infrastructure, IRA bombings, and other sinister effects of the Tory period. The city there was becoming a dark, independent organism, slowly decaying amongst the technocratic negligence. Then, in Robinson in Space from 1997, he went outside the city to see what happened to the countryside, finding the non-architecture of corporate sheds, retail parks & military zones. This was where the machine was still working, unnoticed. It anticipated the New Labour, also in terms of their architectural legacy: sheds, speculative, shoddy and expensive housing, symbolising the “boom” and what came after the bubble cracked.

In Robinson in Ruins (2010), after his tormented and ferocious Robinson is released out of prison, put there after he invaded a closed military zone, he relocates to a caravan, where he collects all his previous research and then mysteriously disappears, leaving his legacy to the Institute. The film itself, narrated by the person from the eponymous 'Robinson Institute' (after the real death of Paul Scofield, role took up by Vanessa Redgrave with a perfect, emotionless, flat voice), previously involved with the now deceased Robinson's ex-lover, is supposed to be fragments of his own film-reels. What a beautiful way of building another level of mystery and shaking off rules of autorship Keiller takes his final epopey's element to, denying himself not only the auctorial voice, but also any involvement in what we see on the screen. And what we see is filmic rudiments, stripped to absolute basics: no music, not any non-diegetic score, only nature's images, in long, neverending shots, eternally contemplative, and, one could seriously ponder, an anti-thesis of Tarkovsky's wistful, metaphysical approach to static filming of nature.

And so in the latter, we feel the presence of God, who is 'looking' and 'directing' the image, when the human is absent (nature is never solitary, remember), it is left in its eternal "beauty and mystery"; but of course, we know: we feel such an immense, stubborn presence of Tarkovsky's own eye and sensibility, that we cant really stop thinking about it. Keiller is not giving himself this luxury of rich directing. Of course, like only the great ones do, he is capable of 'directing' the nature, but in his films there's no one looking. Nobody watches, God's dead (sic), people disappeared, even work as such is dead, replaced by machines, there's nothing, only a very uncanny presence of machines (let's not forget the lichens too, of course); and the anonymous, deadly Production going on, that could seemingly go on even after we're all dead (at this moment of crisis, which may also become a serious food crisis, so and so megatonnes of food, it's said, mostly oil seed rape used as biofuel, was not meant for human or animal consumption). Invisible hand of the market at play. Tricks of the trade. Nature's pure relentlessness.

'Robinson's Institute' is also such an erudite delight all along - Warhol’s portrait of Goethe with Kippenberger’s The Happy Ending of Franz Kafka’s “Amerika”, novel, from where Robinson was born; Richard Hamilton intaglios of uncanny agricultural equipment, looking rather like some medieval miniatures, fragments of Quatermass series – and dozens of books. But something tells me that the copy of Borges’ Labyrinths is there less important than, say Engels, Marx, Hobsbawm or Karl Polanyi. And the ultimate message of the show may be to read and use this knowledge against the state of things, rather than attend a psychogeography evening.