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yeats and the imf, harry potter brutalism, apple store art museums: aesthetics via the wsj 19/11/10

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In addition to my IHT, I like a financial paper every day, as the “business section” is the only section where the actual news happens. I used to read the Financial Times until, at MSA 2008, I saw Frederic Jameson carrying around a copy to match mine (we’d probably both walked to the Borders down the road as there was nowhere else to buy such a thing in Nashville) and realized at that moment that this FT shit had, as they say, jumped the shark. So now I kick it old school with a subscription to the Wall Street Journal – European Edition, which is cheaper by miles anyway.

(a joke, btw – in case it’s not clear. maybe a joke. i dunno)

Anyway from yesterday’s WSJ, a strange melange of aesthetics / politics / commercialism that gives us the present state of play in snippets. First, from an article on Ireland’s debt crisis / IMF intervention:

It (an editorial in The Irish Times) went on: “There is the shame of it all. Having obtained our political independence from Britain to be the masters of our own affairs, we have now surrendered our sovereignty to the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.” In Ireland’s parliament, a deputy recited the stanza of Yeats from which the editorial takes its title, an elegy for the dead of an earlier, failed, revolution.

Let a billion quasi-leftist grad seminar papers bloom. Folks have been – at times very cheaply and with a tinge of, dunno, residual and deeply perverse ethnocentrism – using Ireland and its literature as a way to be a “post-colonialist” without dealing with, you know, black people. This would seem to me to be the wet dream via Naomi Klein version of this…. The quotation in question, as another article in the WSJ indicates, was from ‘September 1913’:

Was it for this the wild geese spread

The grey wing upon every tide;

For this that all that blood was shed,

For this Edward Fitzgerald died,

And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,

All that delirium of the brave?

Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,

It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Funny thing is that there are better bits from that poem to cite on this occasion, namely the first stanza (“What need you, being come to sense / But fumble in a greasy till / And add the halfpence to the pence” etc). If I were one of those erstwhile hibernian pocoists, that’s where I’d go with my deconstructively angled paper…  Alternately, if I were still attending “mass” on weekend evenings at the Boston Arms in Tufnell Park, I’d ask and receive, I’m sure, incredibly fascinating analyses of this poetry-cum-or-anti-economics issue from the (sometimes) friendly and strangely erudite pensioners who go there to receive liquified communion.

And then there’s this from an article about the CGI in the new Harry Potter film(s):

Leavesden (Studios) is also home to the fictional Ministry of Magic, which is supposed to sit beneath a real street in the London government district of Whitehall. To create the ministry, which first appeared in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” in 2007, Mr. Craig studied underground structures such as the London and Moscow subway stations.

For the new film, Mr. Craig added a towering monument to the ministry’s atrium. The Soviet-style sculpture shows wizards crushing cowering muggles—people without magic powers—and bears an engraving that says “Magic Is Might.” The totalitarian aesthetic, Mr. Craig says, highlights the theme of a world dominated by evil. He used seemingly long, winding corridors to give the ministry a Kafkaesque feel. As the characters explore the building, including an upstairs office and a basement courtroom, viewers soon feel as if they know their way around the place.

Leaving aside the sublation of the Red Menace into noseless (syphlitic?) baddy magicians, that final phrase is a bit bizarre: “viewers soon feel as if they know their way around the place.” Location, Location, Location real estate imaginineering meets Kafkaesque Unheimlichkeit in some sort of illogical and unholy union, no? Perhaps that, my friends, is the definition of the uncanniness of our times: bureaucratic befuddlement that somehow you feel cozy in, that you want to take out a variable-rate mortgage in order to buy-to-let, even though there are no mortgages to be had…

Finally, and winning today’s Rem-Koolhaas-Was-So-Right prize, is this on forthcoming renovation of the Mauritshuis Museum in the Hague:

“You can think of a cross between the Apple store in New York and the Louvre,” is how Mauritshuis Director Emilie Gordenker describes the museum’s hopes for the extension and renovation. “We’re going to open up the gates. Then you come in and you end up in a very large, spacious and light-filled foyer.”

And things finally head full-circle. The Apple Store aesthetic, stolen from what I can tell (or remember) out of certain now-lost Soho (NYC) sleek coffeehouses, which in turn had stolen their look out of the galleries that were just then on their way out, returns to garnish the place where they keep Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring.” What is the next turn of the screw to come in our frenetically static cultural world, the palpating infrastructure built atop an ever self-renewing base? Apple Stores shaped like Aeroflot terminals? Childish pre-sex fantasies (wtf?) cast in the light of Allende-ite democratic socialism? Ezra Pound cantos about usury and the Jews recited on the House floor?

Written by adswithoutproducts

November 20, 2010 at 8:56 am

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  1. This is interesting, but I can’t follow most of it. Was interested in that brand of coffee house in SoHo which took the place of art galleries, hadn’t known that or thought it, except now I see that much of what you see along those lines does look different from coffeehouses that just changed hands from restaurants that closed. They’re biggier, and they do invite a trendy crowd. There are still plenty of galleries in SoHo too, but I seem to have missed when so many began to disappear (they used to be nearly wall-to-wall); but Chelsea is the big scene of hundreds of galleries (esp. those 10-storied buildings which may have 30 or more galleries mixed with artists’ own rented studios in them; these sometimes have the old-fashioned elevator with the man operating it even, but this is rare anywhere) just musing about this…I don’t know if it’s related to what you think, but I first became aware of old buildings being used for computer businesses in 1988: There was a marvelous old building on Franklin Street just below Canal that was now called ABT, which to most people means American Ballet Theater, but they didn’t care, the people who mattered knew it was Applied Business Technology, and it was frightful. Of the ‘antiquites’ still extant, there was a superb men’s room, and I was inspired, in order to keep from going crazy from the paranoia the place induced to leave a message on an old answering machine to a friend ‘There is a very elegant urinal here’. That’s all I said, and was terrified I’d be heard, this was my first taste of certain brave new world specifics. These ‘new-use buildings’ remind me of the neuronovel, which probably has been around in some form for some decades or even more, but not so opaque about it (as in some examples–it occurs to me that that has been my attractio to DeLillo, that he tends to be able to write a non-neuronovel still without seeming ‘out of fashion’, but the thing I’d thought it was, and am sure still is partly, is the ‘hype shtick novel’ such as Rushdie has written, and where I can find myself enjoying it occasionally for its virtuosity. otoh, novels like Eco’s ‘Island of the Day Before’ are even more evaporative, and this has seemed a trend too, but you’re more the ‘lit jock’, I suppose the ‘neuronovel’ as a thing you can’t miss because of the concentration of these ideas, images, and even items, may be newer, I haven’t read enough…but even ‘the Ground Beneath Her Feet’ was often full of shit, I thought, even though I liked it, there’s just something that ‘won’t stick’ about some of this stuff). Now I’m used to all of the buildings on 6th Avenue as BB&Beyond, Old Navy, etc., I don’t even have to develop a ‘prepared language’ to navigate Rite-Aid and Duane Reade the way I used to. And I DO have to use them, instead of the neighborhood ‘charm drugstores’. I’ve been to Pittsburgh only once, but as usual, like to inform myself as much as possible about what I might see, and there just weren’t any steel mills operating, everything had been malled and sterilized. Well, Owen Hatherley has been talking about this kind of thing, and more expertly, for a long time.

    I don’t know if you were living here when a new neighborhood of galleries popped up on West Street and the Meat Packing District, plus Belgian cafes galore and twink clubs. I’m used to all of it now, and have stopped kvetching about some of it. In one of your recent posts, you were talking about ‘wasteland’ type areas, old factory districts in London as opposed to New York. Actually, there’s still a lot of the old Meatpacking District, even though the movie stars have moved into the Richard Meier glass apts., and they’ve been moving to the waterfront for some 20 years, I’d say, now the process is complete. But I was thinking about those areas of Brooklyn under the BQE, those are beautiful huge areas of old buildings still there, although they mostly seem out of service, I could look it up, I think it’s over to the river around 4th Street, I was going there for wicked reasons, but it’s unspoiled. Okay, I’ll slow down.

    “What is the next turn of the screw to come in our frenetically static cultural world, the palpating infrastructure built atop an ever self-renewing base?”

    Not sure I get this either, although until very recently I was everywhere talking about something like a ‘freneticaly static cultural world’, and now don’t see it as such. I thought I always would, and especially at my age. Now I find that the locus that disproves the ‘static’ is almost always some kind of ‘biological sport’ in almost any form, field of endeavour. Things don’t follow a pattern that gets estabished, whether in theater or music or fiction, and the ones who try do seem static; and then some fresh blood will come out of nowhere, and it will not be just ‘better than what we’re usually getting’, but good by seemingly lost and unattainable standards. But what came to mind here was Owen’s photos of Shanghai, which don’t really entice me personally all that much yet (although they may yet), but they don’t seem like the Americna Disneyfications either, they don’t seem like Las Vegas or the ‘new Times Square’, although they are related. I don’t quite ‘like’ them, but they don’t seem dead either.

    Anyway, I am sure I am way off, since I can’t figure out much of your post, so just played with some details.


    November 20, 2010 at 8:27 pm

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