Hannes Meyer’s New World

In the years after the war, Germany and Austria were boycotted by both the League of Nations and more importantly by the international scientific and humanities institutions formed in the wake of the League and affiliated to it, hence, questioning the apparent neutrality projected by these institutions. The ‘boycott’ was rooted in a stand against the German scientific communities’ sanction of its study for unmeasured brutality during the Great War. While, it is unclear if the boycott debilitated scientific development in Germany, it is however, clear that it fractured relations between the central powers and the allied powers. Till 1924, it appeared absolute – German and Austrians scientists were rarely published in international papers, were rarely invited to international congresses, and Germany lost its position as a leading host of scientific conferences. It included a rejection of the German language, which was the preeminent scientific language of the day, in an effort to reduce the country’s influence in the sciences. The ‘Boycott’ was reciprocated by a ‘Reaction’ enacted by the German scientists, supported by the public, who felt that they were being unjustly ostracised. In the years of the thaw, from 1924, they were reluctant to resume active participation in the international scientific community, despite the pressure exerted by German foreign policy which, by this time, was keen on resuming international relations. [1] Germany joined the League of Nations in 1926; Hannes Meyer’s manifesto calling for a ‘New World’ was published in 1926 and within this context his urge – ‘a ruthless denial of the past’ – acquires a poignancy that was not limited to the architectural orders. Continue reading “Hannes Meyer’s New World”

Glasarkitektur reflected in War

“German Expressionist writer Paul Scheerbart (1863–1914) articulated his convictions on the power of architectural construction and its relationship to the modern world in his final fictional narrative of 1914 entitled Das graue Tuch und zehn Prozent Weiß. Ein Damenroman [The GrayCloth and Ten Percent White. A Ladies Novel].” ([1])

In September 1909 spectators at the first International Aviation Exhibition (ILA) in Frankfurt, were enraptured by a display of the German version of an aircraft by the Wright brothers, the rights of which were bought by the German Flugmaschine Wright GMBH.[2] This event roused Paul Scheerbart and it resulted in his ‘pacifist tract’: The Development of Aerial Militarism and the Demobilisation of European Ground Forces, Fortresses and Naval Fleets.[3] Scheerbart’s disposition was hardly surprising in light of the umpteen peace conferences hosted in the first half of nineteenth century, which temporarily revved public passions.[4] Rosemarie Haag Bletter underlines Scheerbart’s concerns about war[5] as discernible in his  short stories, for example, ‘Transportable Cities’, and ‘Dynamite War’, writing: Continue reading “Glasarkitektur reflected in War”

Seeing Through Light

Summarising: Alice Barnaby, Light Touches: Cultural Practices of Illumination, 1800-1900

Barnaby departs from Jonathan Crary’s ‘landmark study’ Techniques of the Observer: On Visions and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century. She states that Crary’s description of the changes in techniques of viewing from the Renaissance to the nineteenth-century propounds that as optics developed, it constructed and rationalised vision as something that was ‘calculable and exchangeable’ and that ‘from these practices the modern, fragmented, alien subject is born’. While she finds his argument persuasive, she disagrees with it: she argues that the instruments of optics, with their focus on light did not construct a passive observer who was controlled by predetermined visual effects. On the contrary, she argues, that light, embodied vision. She faults Cracy’s singularly-focused Foucauldian method that views all objects and systems as an interconnected network of power relations that negates the role and agency of the subject and instead, she studies optical devices for the pleasure and the playfulness they elicited, to augment an understanding of the nature of subjection and the role and agency of the subject in it.

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In Bed

It rained non-stop last Saturday in London. This in itself is neither impressive nor surprising. It is not uncommon for it to rain in September, or for that matter in any month in this city. However, on that Saturday, Beatriz Colomina was hosting a bed-in at the Serpentine Pavilion, which, this year is designed by Frida Escobeda. Escobeda’s design is reminiscent of a wicker-basket and is made up of numerous charcoal-grey tiles. It is roofed by a swoop of a scaled-up profile of the tile where, the ceiling is clad by a reflective surface. The reflections on the ceiling, already distorted by its curvature,  ripples along one of its edges pulsating like a poked blob of mercury salvaged from a broken thermometer, where it mirrors the shallow open-air pool. The falling rain would have been a spectacular and pervasive in the ambience of the pavilion, not least due to the reflections on the ceiling as it impacts and disturbs the surface of the pool, but also because the building is porous – in the design of its skin and in the materiality of the tiles.  Continue reading “In Bed”

‘The Future’ by Nick Montfort

While I was living in Singapore in 2008, I lost my job. While on most days I would optimistically cart my large portfolio from one office to another in the clammy Singapore humidity; however, every once in a while I would stay-in, in my beautiful condiminium in the centre, and wallow in self-pity. On one such day, my Chinese -Dutch flat-mate with his customary sense of humour thought it would be fun to have me watch a Korean film to raise my spirits, which was called ‘A Sad Story’. I did not dwell on its name – a rose by any other name is apparently just as sweet. It surpassed the level of sadness indicated in its name. To be fair, it began in a mild unpleasant sadness but ended in heart-wrenching hopelessness. For relief, somewhere towards the middle of the film there was a sliver of hope, which was brutally and unequivocally quashed.

It in inconceivable for us to believe that the future could be much worse than the present or the past. It would make living pointless. Progress, Potential and Possibilities are the prerequisites of our modern era. Since the Enlightenment, the future is imagined as a designable object backed by technological, legal, and scientific advancements. The future is synonymous with progress, civilisation, growth, development…

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Imaginary Wars: Benjamin and Scheerbart

“It will surely appear self-evident that the furniture in the glass house may not be placed against the precious, ornamentally-coloured glass walls. Pictures on the walls are, of course, totally impossible. Given the highest intentions, this revolution in the environment is inevitable. Glass architecture will have a tough fight on its hands, but force of habit must be overcome.” – Paul Scheerbart, Chapter 8, Glasarkitektur

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Shakespeare on Love

In Shakespeare: Love Across the Racial Divide, Mohini Patel supported by numerous Shakespeare scholars and theatre personalities, talks about interracial love in Shakespearean drama and their relevance to British society today which, allegedly, records the highest number of interracial marriages in the world. Patel strings across Othello, Titus Andronicus, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Anthony and Cleopatra bringing forth issues centring racial identity and ‘betrayal’. The questions that stood out and that were asked are: does the woman, in an interracial relationship, inevitably forsake a piece of herself – her identity, when she marries outside her race? Does the man, feel guilty of betraying his heritage when he marries outside his race? Continue reading “Shakespeare on Love”

The Architecture of The Trial

The Trial by Franz Kafka is often commented upon for its commentary on bureaucracy and its insidious effects on society and man. My reading on the other hand, while not in disagreement with this view, looks at the manner in which Kafka uses space to display the relationship between the state apparatus and modern man. This relationship is intricate and displays both, the entrapment of the bureaucrat and of the modern man within the system where, as in many power relationships, it ceases to be clear who  has a greater leverage. Continue reading “The Architecture of The Trial”