London NW1 2BE
yesterday sarah mosca and i went on a mission to teufelsberg in berlin – to the old NSA listening station. a proper structure for sound/listening in the public realm.
and oh my god, it was fucking amazing.
we had a string of excellent luck: the weather was great, we found our way ok, dodged fences, security and ticket inspectors.
we were like two of the famous five off on ad adventure. we even had a packed lunch – a thoroughly modern version of ‘slices of ham and lashings of ginger beer’.
the station was unbelievable – visually and acoustically.
sarah and i did an impromptu quasi-performance of sorts, fucking around with the zany acousitcs of the listening dome – something that both blixa bargeld and alice hui-sheng chang would have been proud of.
i then tried to squeeze in a quick listening project of the lift shaft before die sicherheit arrived. fingers crossed i can go back soonish.
here’s wikipedia’s history of the place, just to put it into perspective.
I’ve just popped down to the Adriatic for a couple of days to absorb as much sun, saltwater, blue sky and ‘la dolce vita’ as I can before my second winter of the year in Germany.
I can tell you that it suits me here: the coffee, the chillaxed pace, the sun/water combo. Even the madness of Venice isn’t bothering me like it did last time.
I came to check out the architecture biennale (last time i was here for the art biennale) and I kind of cheated – I pretty much Followed Architecture curator/writer Rory Hyde’s suggestions (with a few added extras of my own) and it was actually perfect.
In a way, I’m lucky that i’m not an architect. Whilst I have a level of critical understanding and certainly believe that architecture needs to be political, with its undeniable relationship to people (ie, without people, architecture is dysfunctional), but I haven’t formal training, so I can be more easily pleased than when I go to the art biennale. I can also ‘skim’ things a little easier, which is a necessary skill for any trade fair.
Rory Hyde’s suggestions are here
And it was an excellent itinerary. I had slightly different highlights, but still massive thumbs up to Mr Hyde.
And here are my top tips:
Japan – form is great, politics is satisfyingly present and videos are excellent – I watched all 3.
Australia – they managed to make the Cox disaster pavilion into a great space. It’s immersive, interactive and the floodslicer movie is a great clip of the best of Australian architects, which I also watched all the way through. I also bought a t-shirt (sucker).
OAM preservation – The photo index, the alternate history, the not-so-slick look was a relief.
The Selgascano flexible corner space was also an excellent antidote to all the furrowed brow gloss of the rest of the biennale spaces.
Hans Ulrich Obrist the Ubiquitous – his interviews really were (begrudgingly) great – especially as they were still very ‘current’ – undertaken within the last few weeks. Sadly, no where near enough time to watch them all.
Janet cardiff – Motet for 40 voices. In the round, multi-directional sound sculpture. Personally satisfying to see acoustics – sound relating to architecture – getting a look-in.
Transsolar+Tetsuo Kondo – Cloud Room. It wasn’t as claustrophoic as the Gormley White Light show at the Hayward Gallery, so it was truly engaging. Being up in the clouds near a ladder looking out a window, it also managed to create a Rene Magritte-style space, probably by accident, but still cute.
The Studio OE (Olafur Eliasson) water whip – Wet contrast to the previous works’ smoke, it uses water, light and motors to articulate space and trajectory. It is spectacular and an artistic way of interpreting interior elements and movement.
Studio mumbai – not on its own, but as a follow-up to the 1:1 architecture exhibit at v&a.
Oh, and Venice itself. It’s still pretty impressive, especially on a sunny September day.
Wim Wenders’s film – interesting idea, but could have been halved – and if I saw one more person close their eyes and ‘drink in’ the building, I was going to vomit on the carpet.
The Aalto exhibit in Finlandia was extra disappointing. Given his standing in design, I was hoping that would be overwhelmingly inspiring.
Given the theme of the biennale being on the political/social interaction of architecture/design, there were still a lot of ho-hum architecture presentations that don’t necessarily deal with real people, or the nature of public life.
However, the small snippets of brave exhibitions and bold expressions maintained a relevance for the issues of the day.
last night i was an interesting night for thinking about the use of sound to appropriate space.
it started with a series of performances for listening spaces, as part of the sound art program at ars electronica. of course i missed the first set trying to find something to eat without meat in it. which i’m still cross about – it included a perfomance of luigi nono’s la fabrica illuminata, which i only just heard about last week (thanks huw!).
but, after that i saw/experienced some brilliant works – two by arvo pärt that took place in a room where there is a water-based sound-wave visualisation work. both works, at either end of a long warehouse space, influenced the play of light onto a wall from the shimmering water. the light and water articulated the acoustic resonance of the music in terms of the space – it was perfect. for the first work i watched the performers and the space, for the second, just the space.
after that, we all went outside to listen to another work, in the ‘public’ space. it was amazing and shocking for me to see immediately that being ‘outside’ in ‘public’, all prior codes of music listening etiquette went out the window. people were walking around, drinking beer and eating, i was tweeting about it, people were talking, facing all kinds of directions and there was hardly any ‘attention’. there was no ‘performer’ as such, although the context was still within the frame of this series of sound perfomances.
i always knew that the place of the stage/frame and black box/white box was to bring people to attention, but i had never seen it contrasted and enacted so quickly. it was amazing.
next, we were in the sound space – part of the tabakfabrik that has been singled out as an amazing resonant space and within which a lot of minimal sound works have been played over the last few days – because of the amazing acoustics and reverb. rubert huber with franz hautzinger played a sound field, which i mainly experienced by lying on my back and staring up at the ceiling, letting the composition envelope me.
i noticed how people listening throughout these performances, and it was interesting to note the dynamics in this last spatial work. the traditional dynamic between performer/audience was rendered useless by the end and again, it was about the work and how it was experienced.
it started off with a stack of people facing the centre, where the instruments were. after half way (during which i had been lying down the whole time), i noticed that people who couldn’t “not-watch” had left, and the rest had found positions lying down on the floor, propped up against the wall, relaxing into their chairs and assuming positions more conducive to a non-visual attention.
right up my alley.
in fact, people were so relaxed that the last 5 minutes of a performance included a new bass-line: from a snoring member of the audience, which reverbed throughout the building. me and a couple of peeps almost wet ourselves repressing our laughter.
then, as a compliment, or adjunct to that on the way home, i was walking home through the empty streets of linz when a pair of drunks came walking down the hill, singing. i could hear them from about 500 metres away and it was such a beautiful sight – arm in arm, walking and singing some english pop song together. as we got closer, they didn’t even stop singing – we just waved at each other and they carried on belting out this tune, which carried through the whole city. i could hear them for about 500m after we passed too – i giggled my arse off the whole time.
i loved it! they were using the empty city as a perfect acoustic stage, again not for the audience/performance dynamic but for the work itself.
image thanks to rubra from flickr. i will upload my pics a bit later
when i was in dubai a few years ago, i had an amazing time – such a mind-opener for me. the excess and excessive development was fascinating. and the polarity between rich and poor, ruling minority and voiceless majority was powerful.
on the way to visit the sharjah biennale, my friend and i drove past some of the labour camps and the workers walking home in 50º heat (no public transport there, darling). their accommodation was abysmal – fibro, prefab saunas dumped in the desert. you could see from the number of coveralls hanging on the rails how many people were crammed in.
it was desolate.
i was super sad and angry to read this article on al-jazeera english that speaks of the decreasing conditions for these people in the financial crumble. the rich developer skips out, no problem, of course.
it’s all very well to speak of the amazing creative output of dubai architecture and the boom of the architects’ playground, but it disgusts me to see an industry treating their labour workers as ‘collateral damage’.
policy that protects the most vulnerable in any system is exactly for this purpose – not to spoil the fun and excitement of business risk and entrepreneurship. but to account for the reality of life when shit hits the fan and the oxygen masks drop down.