Monday, June 20, 2011

White Walls, Soft Wear (Part 8)

Whitey on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, looking exhausted; Gil Scott-Heron, mad as hell.
(Return to Part 7)
Had NASA engineers been less enamored with AX hard suits, the most glamorous failure of it's military-industrial culture of design/production, and more conscious instead of the success born out of that failure, the soft complex layering of hand-sewn textiles actually worn on the moon by Apollo astronauts, perhaps when it's systems engineers turned to urbanism they may have approached the "problem" of the city with a bit more humility and flexibility. But I doubt it. The engineer-urbanists were primed by decades of wrong-headed idealism espoused by authorities like Lewis Mumford to "solve" the blight of "metropolitan centralization," and "remedy... increasing congestion" of cities like London and the "dingy railroad metropolis of Chicago" by turning them into country estates.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

White Walls, Crime Waves (Part 7)

Peter Seville, New Order, Substance (1988); Matrix Code (1999)
The art blogger, Hrag Vartanian, pointed out at a party recently that there is a disconnect between the whiteness fashioned for the Apollo missions and the whiteness of hi-tech today. For a time the look of the future was black diode screens with carbled green fonts. He is right, whiteness, as a marker of hi-tech  cool, seems to have disappeared sometime in the late 70s and only reappeared recently.

Monday, June 13, 2011

White Walls, Hard Wear (Part 6)

Parthenon Frieze; Telephone Switchboard
When Corbusier wrote in 1923 that, "Architecture can be found in the telephone and the Parthenon," he was not thinking of whiteness as part of an inheritance of immutable visual meaning like Albert Speers and other devils who dreamed of white neoclassical cities, he was thinking of whiteness as a way to express a modern system. In his book, White Walls, Designer Dresses, Mark Wigley observes:
The Parthenon has to be thought of as a system of communication like the telephone. And the telephone is has to be thought of as a means of production of space like the Parthenon. The telephone, like all systems of communication, defines a new spatiality and can be inhabited... Like the coat of paint, the telephone is a form of clothing that can be occupied, but not by the preexisting culture.