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”

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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The Areopagus and the International Criminal Court

I. Law as a performative mode of practice

 In July, I went to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. After a series of security, passport and baggage checks, I seated myself on the audience balcony in courtroom 1. At 12.30 the judge called for recess and we rose to mark respect. As the judges left the room, I too turned to leave, but just then, curtains snaked across the glass fronted balcony. Heavy pale green velvet, slowly cloaked the courtroom and it was then that realised that sometime in the last few hours the line between reality and play, trial and performance was not so crisp anymore.

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Mind the Gap!

In the Eternal Evidence, René Magritte portrays the idealised nude as an assemblage of body parts rather than a whole. Undeniably, at a distance it is still possible to read the image as a single subject; however, as one gets closer to the work the fragmentary nature of the object dominates the vision. The fragments are constructed by a gap that is composed of two distinct elements –the emptiness between the framed canvases that is suggestive of the missing parts of the painting, and the frame around the canvas which defines and articulates the part. The disposition of the canvases on the wall surface in their deliberate misalignment ensures that they appear as if they do not quite fit with each other. Magritte was known as an artist who ‘rendered thought visible’.[1] I would like to suggest that in this particular piece of work, the design of the gap is as much a part of the painting as the fragments itself, and allows the provocations fundamental to his work to reveal themselves – the ideal nude as a set of perfectly formed parts that do not necessarily fit perfectly together. Continue reading “Mind the Gap!”

Black Box- White Box- Light Box?

“In the disposition of the Greek theatre, the audience was closely related to the chorus. It almost entirely surrounded them, and the auditorium was an extension of the orchestra circle…”

“…Although the chorus is still physically present the orchestra is no longer the focus of the action. That role has been transferred to the skene. The orchestra is now a void, looking forward to the time, not far distant, when the chorus has only a vestigial presence; when the orchestra circle, impinged upon on one side by the enlarged stage area and the other by seats of honour for the dignitaries in the audience, has been reduced to half its original extent; and what was once the centre of the action has become a gulf, with the spectators on one side and the performers on the other.”

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The Pink Veil: Hawa Mahal in Jaipur

In April, earlier this year, Wes Anderson’s movie Isle of Dogs was released. I read an article in The Guardian that discussed Anderson’s aesthetics and how it was a look that was easy to copy poorly and without body. Embedded within the writing was a link to a website ‘Accidently WesAnderson’ where Instagram followers uploaded and shared, cropped squares of buildings around the world that could be attributed to  Andersonism. A number of these images included images from Jaipur, which in of itself is hardly surprising. The beautiful Mahals or palaces, symmetrical, rendered in pastel marble and sandstone with contrasting saturated coloured inlays of a variety of geometric and floral patterns, a beautiful composite of Rajput and Islamic architecture make quite the perfect set piece.

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