the cafe

i feel like i’m some kind of 19th century flaneur, writing this down, but it has to be done.

i’m writing about The Cafe.

i’ve been frequenting passenger espresso regularly again. they’re coffee is great, it’s affordable and i’m now a regular. it doesn’t even matter that it’s a 30 minute round trip bike ride. exercise AND caffeine = win win.

and every day that i’m there, i read a little from their magazines and hear something great their playing on the stereo. every day.

in the last week or so, i’ve discovered the chances with wolves blog (i know, i’m so far behind) and their excellent radio program (the one with Talib Kweli as a guest got me through an all-night application-writing session); the soundcloud mixes of maart roux and a cell of one, plus charles mingus’ chazz! album (well, rediscovered). i’ve taken the time to chase up the links, downloaded tracks from those mixes or  tagged them on whyd.

i’ve followed the trails of music and incorporated new sounds into my life. it has been expansive.
just like i did when i was a teenager and i went to school and my friends shared music with me – they made me mixtapes and i read zines and ordered distro catalogues and ordered new stuff. it’s exciting and i feel invigorated by continuing to expand my taste.

and the same thing with the magazines – i’ve read great articles in magazines that i don’t have a chance to own, or would never have found otherwise: it’s nice that, frieze, 032C, der greif and datacide. i discovered cabinet magazine in a similar way in london.

now, i know that for those of you who are hipsters, trying to stay on top of the Next New Thing, or my fellow Music Snob brethren from back in the day, this will be quite passe. But I don’t really live that kind of all-consuming life anymore. I spend a lot of time separate from a TV or traditional radio programs. I livie quite a nomadic lifestyle and am often more consumed with my own art production, or keeping abreast of current affairs or reading fiction.

I have loads of friends, but they’re all spread out over the world and I don’t really have a posse close by who will say – hey, check this shit out, or lend me their latest issue of Frankie. Even the facebook like/share thing is not really so music/literature focused, but political (which i like, actually – replacing the newspaper).

so, this means that i don’t get to hear as much new music as i used to. i can’t afford to buy it all the time, or lug records’n’shit around for the old good stuff.

and i don’t have loads of space or money to buy new magazines, or space to lug new shit around. the good stuff isn’t all available on zinio or ebooks or newstand, and i don’t want to read all my stuff electronically. i’m a luddite at heart.

and new music, new magazines are important for keeping me stimulated with new ideas. sentimentality and familiarity are great (biggie smalls on a daily basis is a wonderful thing), but i also want to keep my mind expanded with discovery.

and i think i’m not alone here. although loads of the middle classes in australia and england are planted in front of TVs and radios, i think most peeps my age and younger than me (although not so young that they’re technically ‘yoof’), have a similar deal: not necessarily in situations that facilitate the discovery of new ideas in an accidental fashion. and i could be wrong.

regardless, i feel like the cafe is a really important site for this.

it’s the place where you can slowly ingest. even if you’re intravenously consuming your coffee like i do, you still get to slowly ingest the literature, or the music. you get to discover, without the committment of it having to be good, or even the time committment of having to do the discovery. you avail yourself of it.

and it’s still communal enough that you can chat and share with the baristas and other regulars about your taste-discoveries, which i think is an important aspect to really opening up your taste. that reinforcement thing in a meaningful way (ie: more than just a like or a single play).

the cafe is an important ‘incubator’ (to use a more stringent term) for culture, in the way that the library can be for books, that the agora/soap box/newscast was for politics.

i know it sounds oh-so fin de siecle modernity, but perhaps it is a similar state: the cafe then was the site where you could discuss politics. you could interact with The City, you could observe change and acquire taste – usually fashion/clothing/food, but still – taste. and in real time.

obviously the internet is a melting pot of taste, that you can find ANYTHING there. but sometimes it’s too much and it’s slightly abstracted and two-dimensional. it doesn’t fulfill all my desires for chance.

whereas i think the cafe is making a resurgence as a site to fulfill that purpose, augment the amazness of the internet and deal with our ghastly caffeine (as opposed to absynthe) addicitons.

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architectural form and political values

yesterday i officially registered as living in berlin. i had an appointment at the rathaus/town hall and on the way back, walked past this ominous-looking building: an office for health.

initially i laughed at how depressing and dry it looked and how that seemed to be the complete opposite to health. but then i realised that it’s an official building and, as such, it needs to look like one.

of course it looks like that. it’s a government department in the serious business of caring for the health of its citizens.

it got me wondering about current architectural form needing to reflect function, rather than reflecting coherence with the public office aesthetic. if all buildings – health, finance, town hall, social security, education all look like official buildings, are they simply read as part of the political fabric and thus a ‘norm’ for the values of that particular society.

and perhaps as opposed to some kind of aesthetic ‘choice’.

i know, this is getting perilously close to facism and facist architecture, but it did get me wondering that
if you get to choose what your education building looks like – if it looks different to, say, the aesthetic of the treasury, then perhaps, as a society, you get to choose whether it has authority or not. it can be dismissed as ‘different’ from where the money sits. for example.

whereas if the treasury and the education department and the health office and the PM’s office look like they’re belonging to the state, then all of those departments and their inherent priorities also belong to the state.

i think i might be suggesting that all government buildings need to look authoritative. i might backflip on that soon, but i had to wonder if there’s something in public architectural form being linked to the form of public values.

apologies to any architects, or architectural writers/researchers for this one – it’s a thought that popped into my head.

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I know that ‘mapping’ is a bit of a thing, and could likely be ground down in overuse, but today i did an impromptu project with some of the residents about mapping.

I need to make some maps for this saturday’s sound art walk, so i got some of the residents to help me make them.

They told me where to mark some of the significant aspects of the estate, especially the car park area above The Underground.

I was particularly impressed with Sean (9) –  his recall and attention to detail was amazing.
He and his mum spend a lot of time in the community garden, so he must have some really visceral memories of the place. In fact, he was quite passionate about it – correcting me and filling in parts himself. It was amazing to watch.

I also found it quite enlightning how Jessica (9) visualised the area with a bit of perspective – not an abstracted form. She loves art, and can’t read very well.

Dawn and Dolphin are in their 60s and have lived in the area a long time. Dawn was quite concerned about letting people know about toilets – concerned for people’s safety and comfort, and was happy to include whole sections as ‘the back of the high rise’.

Dolphin has a boxing ring and was still grieving the death of Joe Frazier. He did a great job of being able to describe the area to me, and of course talked about the ring.

Dawn's Mapweb

Dolphin's Mapweb

Sean's Mapweb

Jessica's Mapweb

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Art and The Housing Estate

Artist Talks

As part of the AURA Project residencies in the Collingwood Housing Estate, we are hosting artist talks and a panel discussion in The Underground studios.

Interested in questioning ourselves, as artists, on our role on the estate, the afternoon will encompass artist talks by the resident artists and a small panel discussion:

Art on The Estate – is art really an important part of life on a housing estate?

Friday November 4, 2011
3 – 5pm
The Underground Studios
44 Harmsworth St

If you’re interested in creative industries, social housing, the practicalities of art making a difference in people’s lives, come on down!

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knowing space

this is just a bit of stream-of-consciousness thinking about space at the moment, that has been cropping up lately. it mostly relates to a couple of projects i have lined up [especially in november], but you know, things crop up in the strangest of times.

as many of you will be aware, i’m interested in psychogeography, which is primarily the action of knowing ones place. slowing it all down, becoming aware and having an experience of a place which dictates its geography, as opposed to the maps, the signs, the images of it (thanks mr. debord for fucking up my mind on the images bit.)

well, as an adjunct to that, i’m doing a couple of projects that look at ways to know architectural space in the same way – cities can be walked or cycled through. but how do we have a humanist-psychological experience about the places we’re in? one of the ways which we can measure space and know it in this way is through touch – through a more craft-based, hands-on approach. once you have traversed a corner, or the north-east wall with your hands, in some way, you know the space intimately. you see it as it really is, blemishes, scuffs, bits of plaster coming off where the blu-tack holding up that placemakers exhibition poster was.

i’m interested in this process for a couple of reasons. firstly, as an artist working primarily with space, site-specificity and installation, knowing a space is crucial to my understanding of it. and my understanding of the space is crucial to being able to create work that fits. i think most artists instinctively need to know the space their working on in this way. whether it’s through painting the wall, measuring up to nail paintings to it, marking out a work on the floor, spending some time in the space, it’s part of the process of coming to terms with the place.

for instance, i recently helped out with installation for the urban interior and as part of that work, we stencilled out the words URBAN INTERIOR across the length of the wall. we did this through projection and masking tape, which we ‘drew’ out the words – it was typography with masking tape and quite an odd feeling to kern a 2m high font from 2 cms away. anyway, in being so close to the wall, we got to know it – where part of it needed patching, you could see the history of the place in the coats of paint, and experience the ecosystem of dust mites and fluff balls that resided in the 9mm between the sheetrock and floorboards. interestingly, as we spent more time with the space, the easier the process of lettering got. i’d like to think it’s because we started to really tune in with the nature of the place, our gestures became aligned with what was needed there. maybe we just ‘got the hang of it’. either way, that process of feeling our way, hands on walls, up-close-and-personal was an important element of the installation process.

a couple of the projects i’m working on involve measuring and making a pattern for the space, in the same way that we measure and make a pattern for clothing. and when we measure and pattern a person in this way, we come to know them reasonably intimately. ever put a tape measure around someone’s stomach and not felt how close together you’re really standing? same rules apply.

and then, perhaps, once you know a place in this way – it becomes a particular kind of place. a place that perhaps you know and remember in a way that you can’t make assumptions about. it becomes a private place, of sorts. and it becomes a different space. a space in which that knowledge dictates the true form of the place. the word inherent comes to mind.

as it becomes easier and easier to make assumptions about spaces, through technological advancement, how important is it to know a place? no, really know a place. like the back of your hand. is it as important as it is to really know people? i mean, i’ve never met some of my dearest friends. is it the same to have never been to my favourite places?

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when is a city a city?


is a whole bunch of big and impressive buildings put together a city? or does it feature other things? is the mark of a city in its infrastructure? roads, traffic systems, street signs, etc. or can you have a city without all of them? if there is no urban planning, is there no metropolis? and what about the people? can you have a city without buildings at all, just citizens?

again, inspired by the rmit architecture studio, where there was a megalopolis of models, all on the one table. it just got me wondering, that’s all.

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