So there I was, out east, exploring what was happening to the canals in the Bow, Hackney Wick part of London, photoing photos like this, …:
When, rather suddenly, I came upon this:
All that grubbing around the canal being to create the sort of place where Desirable Apartments can be constructed, and Desirable Apartments need Desirable Sheep Sculptures.
Have you noticed how upmarket sculpture, and also upmarket toys, made of wood, make it very clear that they are made of wood? The woodenness is emphasised. Downmarket sculpture, and downmarket toys, are as realistic as they can be made to be, with the how of it left entirely behind. I veer into toys, because this sheep looks a lot like a toy, I think.
I see a connection between this emphasising of the particular material that the Thing is made of, in sculpture and toys, with Impressionism. Posh paintings, like Impressionist Paintings, make it clear that they are indeed paintings, made of paint, as well as paintings of something. I mean, take a close-up look. Paint! Paintings for peasants just look as much like what they are trying to be of as possible.
In 1984, I was one of many who helped organise a big Libertarian Conference at Royal Holloway College. US libertarian Jim Turney was one of those who attended, and he took these photos, which he has just emailed to me:
Left to right there: the late Chris R. Tame (who was the super-organiser of this gathering); me; Peter Breggin.
Left to right: John Hospers; me again; a guy who wrote and writes regularly for the IEA, and whom I know well but whose name is locked in a getting-old brain cave (anyone?); Nigel Ashford.
Left to right: Hospers again; me again; the guy I know well but … again; Ashford again; and a guy I genuinely do not know after all these years. Sorry if it turns out I should know him. Anyone?
Turney picked out the photos he had of this event with me in them, and there I am, the thin geek in the glasses. You can tell he’s a politician, can’t you? I can’t be the only person whom he has photoed during those long ago times when only Real Photographers had cameras and the half dozen digital cameras in existence all belonged to NASA. Think how precious such photos might be to some people, compared to photos photoed more recently.
I will now email Jim Turney back, thanking him for these remarkable photos, and asking if he has any more of this event, and in particular any more of Chris Tame.
I do ever more trawling through my photo-archives, and every time I do this, I seem to come across more Wicked Campervans, Wicked Campervans that I have not shown on a blog before, like (I’m pretty sure) these two, which I photoed in the summer of 2014:
I don’t really understand either of these WCVs, but the one on the right has definitely non-human creatures on it, so it’s suitable for a Friday here.
I miss these vans a lot. They used to live not far from Lower Marsh, where I used to go to buy second-hand CDs. And there was a brief time when they used to congregate in Lower Marsh itself, in a piece of dead land now built upon to a much more lucrative purpose.
That arrangement was never going to last, and they’ve now moved up north.
Nowadays, cameras can tell you exactly where you were when you took a photo, as well as exactly when you took it. But I can’t be doing with all that. I prefer taking photos like this one as I do my out-and-abouting, that say, as this one does, “You Are Here”:
And that one says it in French. Excellent.
We’re in the Pompidou Centre in Paris, in the bitterly cold February of 2012. Even remembering how cold that visit was makes me shudder now. But the Pompidou Centre itself was warm enough, and the views in it and from it were most diverting.
I have quite a few Paris postings here now, but have yet to transfer any of the postings from the old blog that I did about that earlier 2012 trip . My favourite, from a more recent and much warmer visit, featured my all time favourite food photo.
I particularly like how this shows the architectural dominance of old St Paul’s, on the right, and even more so of the Tower of London, to the far left. These were, for many centuries, London’s Biggest things.
In 1666, the Great Fire damaged old St Paul’s so badly that they had to build a new one.
I get regular emails about new architecture, and trust me, there’s less of it happening now. And what there is now being done is mostly generic machines-for-living-in and machines-for-working-in. The age of starchitecture is pretty much over, for the time being. Covid? That hasn’t helped to be sure. But it felt like it was slowing down well before that.
So, to cause a stir and get noticed, what do “designers” now do? Answer: They paint eye-catching murals on the faces of all those regulation boxes.
The official explanation of this mural is that it’s something to do with the environment, human impact on, blah blah. Like that’s a bad thing. But, as Mick Hartley (at whose blog I found this) says:
… you’d be forgiven for not quite grasping the ecological message.
Indeed. It looks more like a celebration of how humans are able to subjugate their environment and make it their own. I’ve never been to Russia, but my understanding is that their “environment” is a lot scarier than ours is, and that they consequently sentimentalise it a lot less than we do.
But whatever this Chelyabinsk mural may “mean”, it is yet another straw in the wind of colourful applied decoration that is now seriously blowing around the world. If you can’t do new buildings of note, you can still paint the buildings you have, old and new, in a newly colourful way.
Also, I suspect that paint for use outdoors is getting better, as in fading more slowly. I tried googling about this, but all I got was stuff about how to become a better painter of indoor pictures. Can anyone offer any pertinent links on that subject?
I tried to find a bigger version. I failed, but did encounter this, from the Daily Express of June 4th 2012:
WITH its spectacular pomp and ceremony, yesterday’s river pageant evoked the alluring images in Canaletto’s painting The Thames on Lord Mayor’s Day which depicted a royal flotilla against a backdrop of the City and St Paul’s Cathedral more than 250 years ago.
That “backdrop” is not what it was. St Paul’s is still St Paul’s, but what’s in front of it has taken rather a turn for the worse.
I’ve surely photoed photos of that scene, although not with that many boats. I recall getting interested in the Faraday Building, the one with the green roof in the photo above, which was the first big architectural violation of that St Paul’s view.
In the Canaletto, notice all the spires there, of other places of worship, most of them also designed by Wren.
A somewhat nicer way to apply colourful decoration than what’s in this photo, I think. Besides which, applied colour need only be temporary, so all tastes can take it in turns. If you want to make it permanent, photo it. Photos like that one of the painted butterfly will last longer and better than the painted butterfly will.
In London, and I suspect elsewhere, interesting new murals now seem to be more numerous than interesting new buildings. And more interesting, I’d say. To put this another way, murals are now the latest architectural thing.