Entries Tagged 'TECHNOLOGY, DESIGN' ↓

function follows form, sometimes, alas.

Marc Newson fork for Qantas.

euphemism of the day: “land fill”

Architectural Anomalies 101: was there a moment when

the architect of this UniLodge building in downtown Acton (the west facing wall here photographed at 2.30 on a sunny afternoon) said: “Merde! (he’s from France) We put the sunshades on the wrong way round! Do you think anyone will notice?” (Answer: only the residents. And they’re OK on the other side of the building. And they’re probably OK in France.)

This may have been the same architect who scattered this other kind of ineffectual shading on this other building across the road in the same complex. Clearly the designer does not subscribe to the design aesthetic (or should that now be ethic?) that works to reduce the heat exchange load of a building by designing solar-effective shading. Just provide the politically-correct appearance of same and it will look contemporary enough.

As opposed to the Tax Building in Civic, from the same angle as the first image, which looks good to me in every sense.

almost a work of art

Q: when is a motorbike a work of art? A: when it’s in the Museum of Modern Art.

Here’s the precursor: this 1949 Vincent HRD Rapide is currently on display in One’s Not Enough at the Canberra Museum and Gallery, the latest in a series of exhibitions of local private collections. This example is from the motorbike collection of Peter and Ann Toet. And here’s the 1949 Vincent Black Shadow, in pride of place in the MoMA galleries of architecture and design.

What, I hear you ask, are such things as a Cisitalia or a Black Shadow doing in an art gallery anyway? One of the distinctive characteristics of the MoMA collection is its integration of machine art/industrial design displayed in parallel to the evolution of modern art. And so it’s inevitable that this gorgeous example of early modern automobilia finds a place alongside everything from kitchenalia to a Bell helicopter. The 1946 Cisitalia 202 was designed by the famous Italian Battista “Pinin” Farina who in the immediate postwar era pioneered the idea of the application of aerodynamics to the automobile. One of only 170 produced, the Cisitalia epitomised the “pure, smooth, essential” lines that were to characterise the next age of automobile form. Slippery. Innovative. And very red.

What, I ask myself, are they doing side by side? This celebration of purity, pure red and pure black, is a very MoMA conjunction. But the Black Shadow, built by Philip Vincent and Phil Irving from 1949, is a classic example of stylelessness – of form determined by function – with nothing about it determined by fashion or aesthetics. Which indeed has been one of the criteria espoused by MoMA’s approach to design since its adoption in 1934 of the rubric of Machine Art. So the Shadow is present in the art gallery as the embodiment of mechanical essentialism – if anything, a late futurist expression of power, speed, plus a kind of madness, all present in the same moment as an expression of technological sophistication. One could say it is expressive of the modern in a purely mechanical way, which is how the MoMA first argued its approach to design.  Hand-built in the slipstream of the technological advances of WW2, it is said the Rapide and the Black Shadow were made for the generation who survived the war. For those who were prepared to take risks… But is it art?

Writing in 1984, Arthur Drexler explains: such “an object is chosen for its quality because it is thought to achieve, or to have originated, those formal ideas of beauty that have become the major stylistic concepts of our time.” Thus once its “balance of proportions and fitness for purpose” have been established, an object enters The Modern to be located within its art historical concepts of style… Admittedly, a quarter century has passed since this dictum was published, and the world has moved far beyond “Mechanical Art” as the paradigm of the future. And yet, with its underlying interests in design for mass production, these two hand-made objects represent the end of an era, worlds away from the age of digital design. Nevertheless, with “Painting and Sculpture” still the main game, these two icons are closer in time and sensibility to the beginning of the modern than to the present. So, with all options covered, anything is possible at the MoMA. Stand by. Before long they’ll be hanging them on the wall.

Let’s ask Joseph Kosuth: is a chair still a chair if you hang it on the wall?

(image: Sybil Gordon Kantor, Alfred H. Barr Jr. and the Intellectual Origins of the Museum of Modern Art, MIT Press, 2002, p.315)

Oh! The O

With apologies to James Thurber or Anne Desclos fans, but this is a story about another kind of O…

When you visit MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart), once you’ve made it past the engaging architectural effects and you’re standing in front of a work of art, you realise there are no labels! And so you turn to the “O” they gave you at the door. It’s a modified iPod (an OPod perhaps) which is (another) paradigm shift in the way you experience a museum.

Powered by 46 WiFi transmitters embedded throughout the building, at any time at least six of them know where you are, and your O presents you with a list of the things you’re looking at. And better still, you have options at your fingertips which allow you to go beyond the title data to levels of information and opinion which are inaccessible in other formats.

No longer do we have to engage in that forward and back dance to read the label beside a work of art: “this looks like…” “never heard of him, oops, her…” “when was this made?”  or “where on earth did they get this treasure/dudster from?” Now MONA’s O gives you access to all these layers of provenance and interpretation, and more. It’s very smart. You can even vote: yes, you can form a love/hate relationship with a work of art!

Other museums agonise over how much information to provide on their labels. Not enough, and you’re expected to buy the book. Too much, and it’s Anthropology. Don’t let the Words get in the way of the Art, they say. With the O, you decide. And if you enter your email, by the time you get home you’ve been sent a record of all the things you looked at, all the things you missed, and access to the layers you didn’t have time to read.

One of the tabs at the bottom of the gadget’s screen is GONZO This gives you David Walsh’s words… What made him buy it, among other things:

Enjoy the mini-essays by Jane Clark and others, under the ARTWANK tab…

And there’s the interactive diagram of your voyage through the labyrinth. Very cool indeed.

And MONA keeps all this info to tell them how to rearrange things in the future. According to David Walsh, if a work becomes too popular, it comes down!

Even though that’s unlikely in the case of the Kiefer Pavilion. The O is a product which DW would like to see adopted by museums internationally. It gets the Iconophilia vote, but we don’t yet have a museum to go with it…

the quality with no name: silver’s aura



OK so it’s just the ghostly reflection of this wonderful silver inkstand. During the first decades of the 20th century, silver was relatively much more valuable. So it evoked a different quality than it does now. As you see in this piece, made by Josef Hoffmann, for Moriz Gallia, in Vienna in 1911. Gallia was one of the patrons of the Wiener Werkstatte. He must have stared in wonder at this object every time he picked up his pen. Just as we do now.

You can see this and many other silver treasures on display at the remarkable exhibition Vienna Art & Design which opens today at the National Gallery of Victoria. It’s one of those exhibitions where there’s too much for just one visit. Your background reading by Tim Bonyhady is here, and here (the book)…

Jonathan (being) English

That’s Jonathan Jones, at The Guardian, who wants to defend the London skyline against the “shard”, a Qatar-financed Renzo Piano. Without mentioning the architect by name. How very…

auto fetishism: not exactly as you’d expect it

TEHRAN.- A Mercedes-Benz 500K built in the mid-1930s is seen at the Museum of Historical Cars in Tehran. The museum opened in 2001 has a collection of rare antique cars belonging to the former royal families of Iran and private collections. REUTERS/Caren Firouz. From Art Daily.

can a truck be a heritage object? you bet it can!

Curious? Then read this great Bob Gosford post on Crikey.

“the stones are part of the earth”

…and they blend with the slate floor. So says the Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Ron Radford, in his justification of the redesign of The Aboriginal Memorial. Well, true, but surely there’s much more to it than that? Loyal readers of Iconophilia will recall that on December 10th last year I published a letter I had written to him two months previously, asking a number of questions about the decision-making and consultative process which had led to the installation of The Aboriginal Memorial in its current guise. This was my original letter:

12th October, 2010

Ron Radford, AM


National Gallery of Australia

GPO Box 1150, Canberra, ACT, 2601

Dear Ron,

May I ask of you a couple of questions? I’m writing a piece on the new installation of The Aboriginal Memorial, and I would like to be sure I have my facts straight.

1. Whose idea was it, and who approved the introduction of the new material as a groundbase for the Memorial?

2. What was the consultation process with the artists and their heirs, at what stage of the design development, and with whom?

3. Has there been a “singing-in” ceremony, as with all the other relocations and rearrangements, (with the exception, I understand, of St Petersburg)? If so, by whom, and when?

Your reply will be much appreciated

With best wishes

Nigel Lendon

In the four months since this letter, there have been many posts and commentary on Iconophilia, and elsewhere. Now a reply has arrived. I reproduce it in full below. There are so many aspects to his account one scarcely knows where to begin. So, for the time being, I leave it to my readers to decide whether it is a satisfactory account of the processes and decisions that have led to the current manifestation of The Aboriginal Memorial.

P.S.If you’re new to this thread on Iconophilia, type Memorial in the search box at the top of the side bar and press Return to go to the other posts and comments on this topic.

P.P.S. Two months ago I first published my original letter, and in frustration, a hypothetical response, here.