Page 17 - Studio International - July August 1973
P. 17

t.  Through London as it always might be   became more theatrical: involved in shows and   What is that clicking tongue ? 'Just because it's
           A dry look at London throws up a profile of   happenings and things-that-went-bang-in-the-  different' ?
           those situations: strange, heady, sacrificial, etc.   night. Have the visual arts (always sickly in the   My crony, Cedric Price (one of the most
           Familiarity must not dull us to the fact that it is   face of our much stronger literary tradition)   innovatory thinkers in London), regards his
           a city with a tremendous reputation for ideas. It   once more been sacrificed to a more articulate   frequent appearances in the Private Eye
           is well infiltrated with refugees : from Hitler's   verbal activity ? The sixties are, however, over.   `Pseuds' Corner' with positive relish : 'Fingers to
           Europe, the West Indies and the equally    Can I communicate with them ?             the lowest common denominator', he shouts.
           cloying Eastern Universities of the United   Certainly not by recreating Dover Street
           States. It has a reputation for art in its pop   (which as I remember was beginning to feel   3. Between shyness and assertion
           music and gregariousness in its art music. Once   pretty seedy by the late 1960's). My own   Coming from a world of over-articulate
           it had a reputation for political tolerance. But   discipline (architecture) is essentially visual -  architectural students, and that architect's old
           most relevant: it has a penchant for curious,   whatever current prejudices night lead you to   mandate to work as 'a member of the team', I
           durable institutions that are neither definably   believe. My own reactions - as an outsider -  face the attitude of many would-be exhibitors
           Establishment nor Underground: that ride the   have always been in terms of the physical, visual,   with fascination. I had not realized that the old
           waves of cultural history : much to the irritation   iconographic, inventive - call it what you will -   romance of the artist as alienated from society,
           of a few pedants and the confusion of all (which,   experience : at the ICA or elsewhere. Is the   misunderstood, screwed, thwarted, had
           to me, is no bad thing).                   `Environment Game' more meaningful than the   survived so well. Yet my busy, pushy, perhaps
             To the optimist (and the opportunist) this   `New Art' or the 'Photorealists' ? My yardstick   opportunistic side has to suppress itself: despite
           adds up to a potentially mobile and       is that of the world, that they communicate in   my conviction that we have no time to waste.
           cosmopolitan culture - if we want it to be. To   imagery. Atmosphere emerges from a sense of   Beneath the indulgence of the romantic role
           this can be infused an element of our native   place, then of theatre, then of messages. But in   there is often a real shyness. Too little has been
           tradition of eccentricity - which gives it bite.   that order. Visual manifestations cut many   done by the so-called educators in the art schools
           If we had no ICA we should have to invent it.   corners when it comes to communicating belief.   (reluctant though I am to knock them just now)
           We should need a place in the centre of London   Visualization of dreams - though only a hint -  where the problem of public communication is
           (since our community is cosmopolitan) where   come nearer than descriptive passages. To cut a   concerned. So we use both personal grapevines
           we can sniff out the currency of ideas on a wide   long story short: I myself want to see so much   and a formal committee so that we can search
           front. Where we can jostle on the same day with   more in the ICA that I am consciously clearing   out the hopes and fears and enthusiasms of
           spotty architects who want to make art, and   as many decks as possible in order that marks   artists - as well as discriminate between the good
           introspective art students who have just written   and manifestations can again be made.   and the bad.
           a manifesto on the open-endedness of art (but                                          The ICA mustn't show work just because it is
           want it placed exactly 3 feet 2 inches up from the   2. Innovation                   well-meaning or supporting a good cause. It has
           floor - and not too near those posters, please):   Somehow, we are going to persuade as many   done so from time to time. Diffidence all-round
           all slightly suspicious of each other. We should   exhibitors as possible to make something new   has sometimes been an opportunity for the third-
           need to invent a place where we could exhibit   for the ICA, to create or re-create their personal   rate bandwaggoners. 'You ought to show it -
           work that has no kind of pedigree - if we think   position. Make statements that are not   he's ever such a sweet man, and all the work
           fit. Where the erratic is as tolerable as the   predictable. Pose questions. However difficult it   reflects the struggle of the Chinese - and he
           consistent. Where an unformed idea can be   may be for the English to tolerate and handle the   makes such socially relevant statements.'
           observed in the process of catalysis : without   existence of an avant-garde, this they must do -  It is time for excellence. To hell with the
           being prematurely forced into a particular   else they are throwing away this potential 1, have   labels. Photojournalists are more effective.
           discipline or tradition. Where we can stage an   already described.                  It would be better to show powerful work that
           exhibition with less than two years' planning.   There are two strong arguments in favour of   is reactionary - even if a secondary motive
           Organized in such a way that you are very likely   innovation: the creative and the academic.   would be the expected reaction to the reaction.
           to catch sight of something out of the corner of   Though they seem obvious, it would seem that
           your eye that is more exciting than the thing   they cannot too often be restated.   4.  Through architecture being art - or art
           that you came to see. Realistically : a radical   In terms of one's own creative development,   being architecture.
           alternative to the Sunday Times or the pub for   the incentive of originality forces one to tug and   In the last ten years there has been a complete
           that purgatorial first twenty years out of college.   pull and extemporize upon one's previous   cycle: both synthetic and expressionistic. In
           Even this is not enough.                  interpretations of an idea - this is at the lowest   architecture, of course, it takes longer for it to
           The ICA must be a place where you are upset,   level. Beyond this, it forces one to reconsider   get built, but in experimental and academic
           you are incensed by the opposition, and your   total concepts and motivations. It may force one   circles the full cycle has been lived out. The
           whole value-system, your art, your linguistic   beyond a disciplinary or contextual boundary.   early sixties were a formalist joy-ride that just
           props are being flayed and raked-over.    So one cannot always come up with something   had to fragment into concepts of the non-
           Where you can be inspired.                new. But one can sometimes come up with    building, the anti-building and the peripatetic
           I am bored and annoyed by the silly, scared   something strange: the implications of which   caravans, homes-in-domes and cushicles. In
           London scene: where nobody admits to liking   you cannot grasp at first. And the existence of a   1965 my most cussed student was describing his
           anything : to finding stimulus : to finding   platform is a necessary extension of the test-  design for an apartment block as 'a specification
           something great: to being inspired.       bed/drawing board/circle of friends/       for the terms of reference by which certain
             Yet we all know characters who are scratching   mathematical equation/studio floor.   conditions for the drawing up of a list of
           away somewhere past the Balls Pond Road, only   The academic advantages of conspicuous   (non-designed) alternative elements could be
           telling their closest friends, only admitting to   innovation are to the observer - who sees the   made' : conceptual architecture, in fact. This
           their inspiration when drunk. It is the ICA's job   best of the game. It is he who can take up where   was later to develop into a series of conversations
           to force them out of the woodwork.        you left off - exhausted and perplexed. He can   concerning the stripping away of preferential
             In the London as might be as can be, I am   see your efforts in a context, maybe. Reject   (and vestigious) aesthetic habits from the
           aware that I have to regain the trust of many   them. Or, more likely, graft them on to his   business of designing.
           artists who have felt that the ICA is no longer   eclectic growth. London at this moment is a   The parallel effort in the 'visual' arts is the
           for them since it has moved to the Mall from   somewhat shy academy of ideas. So the ICA has   better known story: and since there did not
           Dover Street : and have felt neglected as it    another task.                        have to be the 'functional' or pragmatic filter
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