architecture

‘I’ Review of Art Exhibition on Ecological Crisis and Some Solutions

Also of interest in yesterday’s I was a review by Sarah Kent of the exhibition, Eco-Visionaries, at the Royal Society in London. This was about the current ecological crisis, and showcased some possible solutions to the problem, some of them developed by architects. This included a moving desert city, the Green Machine, which also planted a watered crops as it moved. The article ran

Melancholy humming welcomes you to the exhibition, with a globe suspended in the cloudy waters of a polluted fish tank. This simple installation by the artist duo HeHe neatly pinpoints our predicament: our planet is suffocating.

“The absence of a future has already begun,” declare Ana Vaz and Tristan Bera in a film, Reclaimed (2015). We know this already – according to the UN, we need to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050 if we are to prevent the collapse of the Earth’s ecosystem. So what are we waiting for?

Vaz and Bera highlight the problem. The situation requires a wholesale change in attitude: minor tinkering can’t solve it. We need “reciprocity with nature rather than domination… We are nature.” We are mesmerised by events such as the Arctic on fire, Greenland’s ice-cap melting and Venice drowning. But the scale of the problem is so enormous that we can only watch, “fascinated by the acceleration” of the crisis.

The collective Rimini Protokoli encourages us to confront our imminent extinction. On film we see a tank full of languidly floating jellyfish. They flourish in the warming seas and, with diminishing fish stocks, there’s less competition for the plankton they feed on, so their numbers are increasing dramatically. Humans are similarly multiplying – by 2050, according to the UN, there will be 9.7 billion of us – but unlike jellyfish, we require too much energy to adapt to climate change so, like the dinosaurs, our days are numbered. At the end of the presentation they invite us to go with the words: “Your time is up; you will have to leave.”

The Royal Academy is to be congratulated for hosting an exhibition that tackles this urgent issue, but the show exemplifies the problem. The warnings are persuasive, but the solutions envisaged are pitifully inadequate, mainly by architects who don’t address the catastrophe but instead offer us post-apocalyptic follies. The Green Machine (2014) is Studio Malka’s answer to desertification. Resembling a giant oil rig, this monstrosity trundles across the Sahara on caterpillar treads that plough the ground then sow and water the seeds to produce 20 million tons of food per year. Solar towers, wind turbines and water-capturing balloons create a “self-sufficient urban oasis” for those inside. What percentage of the 9.7 billion will they accommodate, I wonder?

Studio Malka’s Green Machine mobile desert city.

It’s a grim subject, and clearly the ecological crisis requires drastic action across the entire globe and very soon. But I am fascinated by the Green Machine. It reminds me of the giant moving cities that cross the devastated future Earth in the SF film Mortal  Engines. As for how many people such a machine could house, the answer is: very few. Douglas Murray’s book Last Futures: Nature, Technology and the End of Architecture predicts that if we carry on as we are, we will end up with a future in which the rich will inhabit closed, protected environments like the various biodomes that were created in the 1990s, while the rest of humanity will be left to fend for itself in the decaying world outside.

It’s a bleak, dystopian prediction, but one I fear will come true if we carry on electing leaders like Trump and Johnson.

Video on My Model of the Neolithic Mortuary House at Loftus in Britain

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 22/12/2019 - 3:39am in

A bit more archaeology now, for those interested. Four years ago in 2015 I made this video about the model I’d made of the Neolithic mortuary house and palisade around its forecourt discovered beneath a long barrow, also from the Neolithic, at Loftus in Cleveland, Britain by Blaise Vyner during excavations from 1979 to 1981. The Neolithic was the period c. 4,000 BC when hunter-gatherers were settling down into settled communities and farming. The built long barrows to house the remains of their dead. The remains come from many different skeletons, and are often sorted according to body part. Long bones, for example, may be stored in one chamber while other parts of the skeleton were kept in another. Many of the barrows also have forecourts, some of which have traces of burning dating from the time they were built and used. From this archaeologists have suggested that the barrows were also the centres of religious ceremonies in which parts of the skeletons were handled in order to commune with the ancestors.

Mortuary houses are structures in which the bodies of the dead are kept during decomposition, after which they are buried for a second time with appropriate rituals. It’s a funerary practice found in many different society throughout the world, including North American First Nations and the people of Madagascar.

Incidentally, today is the winter solstice, which some archaeologists believe was the real time the stone circle at Stonehenge was built to mark. This is the shortest day of the year, after which the sun returns and the days start lengthening again. This would be seen by the monument’s ancient builders as the return of warmth, light and the revival of life after the cold of winter, and so an important event for early agricultural communities.

But considering how cold and miserable it’s been, I think it’ll be a very brave set of pagans, druids and hippies, who would go down there to celebrate it today. But I’ve no doubt some hardy souls will do it.

 

Unbelievable! Woman in Food Bank Says She’ll Vote for Boris

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 25/11/2019 - 9:33pm in

Okay, this is a bit of hearsay, as I didn’t see the piece on the news myself. But I’ve no doubt it’s true. Points West, the local Beeb news programme for the Bristol region, this past week went down to Avonmouth near Bristol to see what people there thought about the coming election and who they’d vote for. And one of the locations they filmed in was a food bank. One of the customers there, a woman, blandly told the interviewer that she intended to vote for Boris Johnson.

Say whaaaat!

Yes, she’d vote for Johnson. The man, whose party had forced a quarter of million people to use food banks through their punitive attitudes towards welfare and poverty. When the interviewer asked her about this, and told her she’d be voting Conservative, she apparently denied it. She would not be voting Tory, she said. She would be voting for Boris, because he was a strong man, who would get things done his way.

Er, no. Boris isn’t strong. He really isn’t!

Boris has been a massive failure as a Prime Minister so far. The last time I looked, he had managed to pass none, or almost none, of his policies through government. In fact his stance on Brexit had further split and alienated members of his own party, rather than unite them around a core of principles. Much of the effective work of government and politics generally is about negotiation and compromise, altering policies and decisions so that they overcome opposition enough to be passed by a majority. Boris Johnson is atrociously bad at that. He’s even worse than Tweezer, which is really saying something.

He only looks strong because he’s a massive egotist.

Boris is a massive narcissist with grandiose fantasies – about his own importance, and about the great projects he will achieve. He sees himself as a statesman of the same stamp as Winston Churchill, hence his biography of the wartime prime minister. But he comes nowhere near Churchill’s level, who in any case also committed some truly monstrous failures himself. Like Gallipolli, which killed and injured tens of thousands of allied troops, and the horrific Bengal Famine, which claimed the lives of 2 – 6 million Indian peasants. While mayor of London he threw away millions on three watercannons, which could never be used ’cause they’re illegal over here, a garden bridge that was never built, and various other vanity projects that have been massive white elephants. As a leader, he’s a disaster. But he’s very good at self-publicity. Although even here, he has arguably managed to antagonise and irritate as many people as he appealed to.

And the woman has exactly the same attitude that Hitler openly manipulated in his rise to power.

Yeah, I know I’ve just proved Godwin’s Law again: that sooner or later any debate on the internet will end in comparisons with the Nazis. But this is true, rather than just hyperbole. The woman, if she did say all this, has precisely the same mentality Hitler looked for in prospective voters. He aimed his propaganda at people we would now politely call ‘low information voters’. People, who were politically naive and poorly-informed. What he called ‘silly old women’. And he considered ordinary people themselves to be essentially passive and feminine. ‘The masses are like women’, he opined, ‘they want a strong man to lead them.’

Feminists and working class activists will naturally bridle at this, along with just about every self-respecting woman and member of the working or lower middle classes. But that was how Hitler saw women and the masses.

But as Paul Weller and the Style Council once sang, ‘You don’t have to take this crap’.

At the risk of being accused of ‘mansplaining’ or otherwise being condescending, here’s a bit of advice. Have a bit of self-respect. Educate and inform yourself about how the Tories regard you, how they manipulate you into voting against your own interests. Don’t let them use cynical appeals based on personal strength – whether in a man, Boris, or a woman, Tweezer, to trick you into voting for them. Vote instead for people who will genuinely empower you, rather than themselves and their upper class chums.

And that can only mean Corbyn and the Labour party. 

 

Radio 3 Programme Monday to Friday Next Week on Blade Runner

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/11/2019 - 10:10pm in

It’s November 2019, the time when Ridley Scott’s SF classic, Blade Runner, is set. Radio 3’s programme, The Essay is running a series of programmes next week entitled The Essay: The Year of Blade Runner, looking at the film and the issues it raised. The programmes are all on at 10.45 pm. The first installment, ‘Los Angeles, November 2019’, is on Monday, 4th November. The blurb for this in the Radio Times runs

Ridley Scott’s 1982 Sci-fi classic film Blade Runner, based on Philip K Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is set in November 2019. Five writers reflect on the futuristic elements of the film and what it is to be human or a machine starting with Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum in London. He considers Ridley’s depiction of Los Angeles and its life beyond the screen as its influence bled into architecture and design.

There’s another little piece in a sidebar on the same page by Tom Goulding, that says

Like Kubrick’s vision of 2001, or 2015 as depicted in Back to the Future Part II, in November 2019 we have finally caught up with the future envisaged in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. The classic sci-fi noir, an adaptation of of Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is often touted as a benchmark of the genre. This week the Essay’s presenters offer their thoughts on the film’s grandiose themes, starting with how its dystopian versio of LA compares to cities of today. Let’s hope things have improved by the time we reach Blade Runner 2049.

Tuesday’s installment is entitled ‘The Year of Blade Runner 2: Sounds of the Future Past’. The Radio Times says

Frances Morgan, writer and researcher into electronic music, explores the sonic landscape of Blade Runner, with a Bafta-nominated score by Vangelis, and how the film shaped perceptions of how the future will sound.

Wednesday: ‘More Human than Human – Ken Hollings’

Writer Ken Hollings takes the film’s Voight Kampf test as he examines the ethical barriers between humans and machines.

Thursday: ‘Zhora and the Snake – Beth Singler’

Dr Beth Singler, junior research fellow in artificial intelligence at Homerton College, Cambridge, is inspired by Zhora the snake-charming replicant to ask what is real and fake when it comes to AI love.

Friday: ‘Fiery the Angels Fell – David Thomson’

Writer on Film David Thomas takes a look back at Ridley Scott’s rain-soaked mash-up of existential noir and artificial souls, released in 1982 and set in November 2019.

Blade Runner is definitely one of the classic, and most influential Science Fiction films, and it’ll be very interesting what they have to say about it.

And just to remind you how awesome the film was, here’s the opening titles from Guillermo St’s channel on YouTube.