Strange Harvest
Architecture / Design / Art
StrangeHarvest is written and collated by Sam Jacob.


The Velvet Underground at the Glass House



This summer the Phillip Johnson Glass House opens to the public, and to celebrate this there's a Gala opening on Saturday June 23. Amy Grabowski, the Glass House's director of external affairs describes what's planned: "We are specifically restaging a performance by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from a 1967 benefit at the Glass House that we unearthed in our archives. At that event, the Velvet Underground performed later in the evening."

rem_lou.jpg

I originally came across this seemingly obscure moment researching a piece for Volume - 'The Exploding Concrete Inevitable' on Rem Koolhass/OMA's Casa da Musica. Volume set me up an interview with Lou Reed after he'd been the first to perform at the new concert hall.

andyattheglasshouse.jpg

And somewhere between Lou Reed, Electricity, Marshal McLuhan, and Andy Warhol - I forget exactly the circumstances - I drew a comparison between the translucent walls of the Johnson Glass House, and the metallic-reflective walls of Warhol's silver Factory. They seemed like related opposites: spaces that were very similar, famous for the material surface of their walls that were both materials which both fascinated modern architecture. Both had qualities that embody modernity - transparency, reflection, flat and smooth, seamless, almost textureless, technological, industrialised, cold-to-the-touch and factory-formed into sheets from molten state. The Glass House and the Factory are like opposing twins.

warhol_factory.jpg

Here's the relevant passage:

"The Exploding Plastic Inevitable involved the Velvet Underground, projections of Andy's films on top of each other and over the band, light shows, and dancers with whips. Sometimes it involved super confrontation. Sometimes the band performed behind the screen. They played art galleries and universities; they played an old gymnasium complete with equipment. It was a pop art happening.

The EPI is legendary. It's credited with inventing the light show - which quickly became a psycadelic staple, eventually evolving into the sound and light theatrics of Mark Fisher designed stadium spectaculars. It was a crashing together of performance art, rock, and film. Just as the Velvets themselves were a crashing together of Rock and Roll and avant guarde music: primitive and challenging and shot through with crystalline beauty.

The EPI features in Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiores 'The Medium is the Massage'. The book is a linguistic and graphical tour de force (echoed perhaps in S,M,L,XL in its scope, ambition and high concept graphic design). Published in 1967, it captures the boundless revolutionary energy of the period. "Everything is changing - you, your family, your neighbourhood, your education, your job, your government, your relation to 'others'. And they're changing dramatically." wrote McLuhan. He argued that 'Media was reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life'.

Reed put it like this in the Velvets song 'Temptation inside your Heart': 'Electricity comes from another planet!' It's a yelp expressing the totally transforming and alien power of the electric revolution.

One of McLuhan's key points is how electronic media has changed the nature of space:

'"Time" has ceased, 'Space' has vanished. We now live in a global village ... a simultaneous happening. We are back in acoustic space. We have begun again to structure the primordial feeling, the tribal emotions from which a few centuries of literacy divorced us."

Again, a Reed lyric, this time from 'Rock and Roll', expresses a similar sentiment:

"Then one fine mornin' she puts on a New York station
You know, she don't believe what she heard at all
She started singin' to that fine fine music
You know her life was saved by rock 'n' roll
Despite all the amputations you know you could just go out
And dance to the rock 'n' roll station".

EPI_mcluhan.jpg

You can understand why McLuhan used an image of the EPI. With the primitive-electric sound of the Velvets, the overlaying of performance and film, it is an extreme example of 'media working us over completely'.

Describing the change in perception of space, he writes: "The Renaissance legacy:
The Vanishing Point = Self - Effacement,
The Detached Observer.
No Involvement!
The viewer of Renaissance art is systematically placed outside the frame of experience. A piazza for everything and everything in its piazza. The instantaneous world of electric informational media involves all of us, all at once. No detachment or frame is possible."

In comparison, he describes how "primitive - or pre-alphabet people integrate time and space as one and live in acoustic horizon less, boundless, olfactory space, rather than in visual space. " He argues that electronic communication dissolves perspectival space and revives this primitive conception.

The EPI serves him as an example of this electric space. The open, fluid, interconnected qualities make it sound like Modernisms open plan, but its actually very different.

velvets1.jpg

In July 1967, these two kinds of space collided when the Velvet Underground played a benefit for the Merce Cunningham Dance Troupe at the Philip Johnson Glass House. According to Martha Morrison (Stirling Morrison's wife) " the band had a great time. They were treated royally which was rare." Here, the two kinds of free plan collide: the immersive sound of the Velvets and the Mies derived open plan of the Glass House. You could imagine the Velvets drones and shrieks vibrating the glazing until it warped into the curved glass of the Casa da Musica.

velvets3.jpg

The Velvets/EPI scene had their own seminal open plan space - Warhol's Factory. The Modernist open plan of the Glass House was derived by abstracting industrial spaces. The Factory appropriated an existing industrial building (an old hat manufacturing company) and re-tasked it. Warhol described it like this: "The Factory was about 50 feet by 100, and it had windows all along 47th street looking south. It was basically crumbling - the walls especially were in bad shape. I kept most of the light blocked out - that's the way I like it". While the Glass House looks outwards, the Factory was introverted. Billy Name moved into the Factory and created the "silver look" as an "installation for Andy to have a fabulous place to work in". He covered the walls and pipes with silver foil, and sprayed everything silver "right down to the toilet bowl". In different ways both buildings aspire to some kind of immateriality - the Glass House through transparency, the Factory through reflection. The meaning of the Factories silver-ness might be, as Nico sung, to 'Reflect what you are, in case you don't know'. Billy furnished the Factory with stuff he found on the street including 'the huge curved couch that would be photographed so much in the next few years - the hairy red one that we used in so many of our movies"

While the Glass House edits the programme of house to a stylized minimalism, the Factory was accumulative. A space made as a kind of collage of objects and juxtapositions of events: A couch, a camera, Billy Name living as a recluse in the darkroom, movies being shot, Andy and Gerald Malanga silk screening, the Velvets rehearsing, magazines being assembled, people drifting in off the street and hanging out. The Factory was a kind of extension of street life, which I guess reached an extreme climax when Valerie Solanas walked in and shot Andy Warhol."

If you buy any of this you'll agree that a recreation of the Merce Cunningham event is an interesting way of celebrating the Glass House. It's an attitude that suggests an ambiguous reading of the building when clichés of minimalism, elegance and so on must have been sorely tempting.


And some Warhol-Glass House moments are archived at Warhol Stars.

Warhol was a regular visitor, and there are shots by David McCabe of Warhol partially obscured by reflections in the eponymous glass of the house - his face obscured by layers a little like his Camouflage series.


"Johnson was the architect who commissioned Warhol's Most Wanted Men series for the New York State pavilion that Johnson designed for the 1964 World's Fair in Flushing Meadow. The work consisted of 25 panels, each measuring 48" by 48", of images from mugshots taken from a 1962 poster of NYPD's "Most Wanted" criminals. When Robert Moses objected to the work, Warhol had the panels painted over with silver paint. British artist Mark Lancaster, who helped Warhol stretch the later canvas versions of the Most Wanted Men, remembers going to the World's Fair with Warhol to see the silver panels and that the "ghostlike images" of the mug shots were still "showing through" the silver."

Another:

"And so, on a chilly Sunday afternoon in the winter of 1964-65, we - David McCabe, my sister Sarah, and I - go to Connecticut to see Philip the Brazen in his famous glass slipper... Early in the morning, we get to the Glass House. It is a cold, gray day... Plus we don't see Andy in the Glass House, and you can see everybody inside quite clearly, like figurines under a bell jar... We creep around the estate looking for Andy. 'I bet he'll be in there,' says David, pointing to a low-lying white guest house. The windows are in the shape of portholes. We peek in. There is Andy in bed. In shades! I knew it. He never takes them off these days, even in bed. The room has a shrine-like quality to it... The bedspread is black leather, and above the head of the bed is a filigree wire sculpture by Richard Lippold.. When Andy saw us looking through the window, he motioned for us to go around to the door. Oh, that was a door?... A claw-like hand reaches up from the corner of the porthole. Then an impish, close-cropped head. 'Oh' says Sarah, 'isn't that David Whitney?' It is... As we walk back toward the Glass House, Andy says, 'People always ask me, 'How does he go to the bathroom in that place?'"



Posted by anothersam at May 29, 2007 12:41 PM.

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Contents:

More Scenes In Cartoon Deserta

Eiffel X-Rays

Beyond: Values and Symptoms

Sub Plan

Shenzhen: Window of the World

White Power

Generic Powerpoint Template: Delivering Bad News

Duplicate Array

The Best New Building In London

Book Review: The Infrastructural City

A Balloon in the Pantheon

Letters From The Pantheon

Henry Moore in Motion

On My Steel Horse I Ride

The Michael Jackson Monument Design Competition

Now Showing: John Baldessari Sings Sol LeWitt

Obscure Design Typologies: Life Guard Chairs

Osama bin Laden Cigarette Lighter: Novelty Products as Congealed Culture

Absurd Car Crashes: A Eulogy for J.G. Ballard

Candy Pistol

Now Showing: Dan Grahams 'Rock My Religion'

This Concrete 'O': On Serotonin, the M25, and the Motorik Picturesque

Church of the Literal Narrative

Philadelphias Floating Architecture

Now Viewing: Married To The Eiffel Tower

Le Corbusiers Image Hoard: Poeme Electronique

Giant American Signs: Original Learning from Las Vegas Footage

Giant Soviet Signs Cut Into Forests

Bricks Melted Into Icicles: Napalm Decorative

C-Labs 'Unfriendly Skies' & 'Bootleg' Volume

2 The Lighthouse: Self Storage & Architectural Hallucinations

Ceci N'Est Pas Une Pipe: Infrastructure as Architectural Subconcious.

Viva Sectional Cinematography!

Now Showing: The Installation of an Irreversible Axis on a Dynamic Timeline

Plug: Junk Jet

Sim Seasons Greetings! The Rise of Neo-Winter

Geography in Bad, Festive Drag.

The Ruins of the Future

High Tech As Steampunk ...

On The Retro Infrastructural

Simulations of Industry: High Tech Architecture and Thatcherism

David Greene: The Big Nothing

From The Factory to the Allotment: Tony Wilson, Urbanist

Koolhaas HouseLife / Gan Eden: The Revenge of Architectural Media

Ruburb-ric: The Ecologies of the Farnsworth House

The Architecture of Divorce

Flagrant Delit: The Movie

Landscape as Clothing

Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham Redux

Acts of Un-Building: Timelapse Demolitions

Yard Filth: Next Years Hot Look

Stonehenge: A Black Hole At The Heart Of British Architecture

The Popemobile: Mechanised Robes & Motorised Architecture

Tarmac Adam, Tarmac Eden

The Secret Language of Surface

Some Housekeeping

Information Fields: Agriculture as Media

My Bloody Valentine: Sound as Substance

A Cubist Copse: Gehrys Serpentine Pavilion

Olympic Model Protest

Spouting Off: Some Thoughts On The Fountainhead

Form Follows Dysfunction: Bad Construction & The Morality of Detail

Floating Homes

Vintage Tradeshow Surrealism: International Grune Woche

Moving Houses: Buildings In Motion

Desktop Study: The Strange World of Sports Studio Design

Married to the Eiffel Tower: More Objectum Sexuals

60 Years of The Crazy Horse Memorial

Married to the Berlin Wall: "The Best and Sexiest Wall Ever Existed!"

Inflatable Icebergs: Sublimated Guilt Has Never Been So Fun

The Cinderella Effect: Phantom Architectures of Illumination

Two Deaths and a Retirement: The Strange Shape of British Architecture

If London Were Like New York: Antique Schizo-Manhattanism

If London Were Like Venice: Antique Geo-Poetic Speculations and Hydro-Fantasy

41 Hours in an Elevator: The Movie

NASA: Mapping the Moon with Sport

Lemon Squeezy: Design Tendencies after the Juicy Salif

Stadium Seat Mosaics

The Nihilistic Beauty of Weapons Arranged in Patterns

Light Vessel Automata

Dogs: Britains Greatest Design Obsession

Madison Avenue Modern

Detroit Sucks: The Motor Shows Last Gasp

Mies' Grave: Cut Out Model

All You Can Eat

Valentine Machine

The Tools of Re-Geography

Floating in a New Town Sky

Authentic Replicas: Football and the Franchising of Place

Folk Football: Landscape, Space and Abstraction

Haystack House

A Wishing Well with a Fat Up Pipe

The Camoufluers and the Day-Glo Battleship

Pseudoccino: Instant Coffee Foam

Yesterdays Technology, Today

Blown Up: More Inflatable Military Stuff

On Christmas Trees, Folk Forests and Staples Office Supplies

Hampton Courts Shrouded Sculptures

Named Fabric: 20 Sponsored Pieces of Architecture at the New Museum

Form Follows Felony: The Secret Home of the Un-Dead Canoeist.

Architectural Magazines: Paranoid Beliefs, Public Autotheraphy - More on Clip/Stamp/Fold

Little Magazines Seen Today

James Bond Lives Next Door: Suburban Imagery as Industry

The Ghost of Christmas Futurism

Petrified War Machine

Military Deceptions

Chapters for an Imaginary Book About Architecture

Shrouded Plinth - Urban Striptease

In the Night Garden - Surreal Landscape of Nostalgia

Kim Jong II, The Great Architect

Pill Box Picturesque

Un Clear Monument

Place Faking: Instant Heritage for the Thames Gateway

The Marc Bolan Memorial Crash Barrier.

Warped Domesticity

The Nuclear Heritage Coast

Enjoy The Silence: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones

The Story of O (2)

Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham

X100: A Design Exercise

How to Plan A New Town

Carpet Bomber

In Search of Britains Vehicular History

Scenes in Cartoon Deserta

Scary Suburbanism: Why Horror is at Home in the Suburbs

Re-Make Re-Model

I Like Your Manifesto, Lets Put it to the Test-o

How to Become a Famous Architect

Northampton - Sci-fi Pop Planning Promotion

Advertising Central Milton Keynes

Baltic Exchanged

Festival of Nostalgia

The Clapham Trainwash

Airports as Music

Test Card Dummies

The Velvet Underground at the Glass House

Duplikate: Kate Moss on the Production Line of Individuality

The Museum that Ate Itself

Hollow Inside: Starbucks Foam and the Rise of Ambiguous Materials

Revisions to the Architecture of Hell

Crufts: Dogs, Design and Aesthetic Genetics

Eos Airlines: Executive Bubbles over the Atlantic

London's Ugliest Buildings

1.51 Miles Of String

Google Earths Vertiginous Mapping

Church of the Ascension and Descension

Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles

Replica Bombs

The Invisible Bungalow

House / Boat

Reading Lines: Skateboarding and Public Space

Mountain Sculpting

Sint Lucas in BD

Bat House Competition

Old Walton Bridge

Kiruna: The Town That Moved

Spray On Magnetic Defense

Chris Cornish: Prototyping History

The Jubilee Gestalt Vase

The Most Visited Location in the UK

Anything to Feel Weightless Again: The Cargo Lifter and the Tropical Island Resort

'Its beauty will know no season'

2000 Years of Non Stop Nostalgia. Or How Half Timbering Made Me Whole Again.

Inside-out Aldwych

Backpeddling into the Future: The Historical-Futurism of British Architecture

Miss Selfridges' Feeling for Fake Snow. The Oxford St. Lights and Why We Need Artificial Winter

Nelsons Cavern

Foam Gargoyle

New Tory Logo: A Hazy Shade of Politics

Jeff Koons, Rem Koolhaas, Hans Ulrich Obrist at the Serpentine

Souvenir Empire

Celebrity Scents: The Bittersweet Smell of Success

Imperfect Pitch - Football, Space and Landscape

Product Placement: Making the Impossible Possible

Suburban Growth: Matthew Moores Field of Dreams

Perfect Sound Forever: The Secret Function of High End Stereos

Picture of the Week 1

A Little Light Product Placement

Some Advice To A Young Designer

London and on and on

In the Gallery of Ice Creams

Useless Proclamations for a Beautiful City

Mini Mies Chair

Topsy Turvy VSBA: Inverted Heros of an Upside Down Avant Guard

Harvest III: Buried Things

The Harvest II

The Harvest I

Estuary Urbanism

The Royal Families Trees

Everything Flows: ideological cartography

How Geostationary Was My Valley?

The Psychotic Utopia of the Suburbs and the Suburbanisation of War.

LegoLand London Cluster

In a Lonely Place - Under Construction

Design Will Eat Itself

Mach 3 Nitro Gel - Design that's foaming at the mouth.

Marchitecture. Architectural things to do in London this March

Metallic Jet Powered Cloud

"When we got married I had no idea he would do something like this, he just said he was going to do some decorating."

The Electric Cenotaph

Russian Rok

Commitment ...

Dinner in the Iguanadon

Trace

What happens when you cross a pen with a car?

Leg Table Leg

Florentine Building Sites

Good Morning Britain

Football Pitch: Best of British

The Sad Photographer

The First Cut is the Cheapest - Blenheim Palace: pop architecture that goes for the jugular

Book Now For Christmas

Requiem for a Toilet Seat

Architecture that Destroys

TomTom Mobile 5 / GO 700

Winning Design

Another Croydon

Holiday Snap II : Giant Glowing French Balls

Holiday Snap: Canadian War Memorial, Vimy, France

Pecha Kucha London

Anatomy of an Architectural News Story

Big Bens

First Cut - Case Closed

The Texas Tower

Its All About the Big Benjamins

G8 Security Tower

White Cubed Blues

Poundbury, unexpectedly, in the rain

The Exploding Concrete Inevitable. Lou Reed and the Casa da Musica

Swingball

Untitled (Plastic Sack and Timber)

Berlin 1945 - The Obscene Picturesque

Pizza Planet

Goal Sculptures

Interview: Jeremy Deller & Alan Kane

Previewing Cedric Price

The Mardas Touch

Building a Lionel Richie Head

Ornament is Grime 2

An Incredible Smell of Roasting Coffee

Flatpack Frenzy at New IKEA

Langlands & Bell - The House of Osama Bin Laden

Labour is kind of working

Happy Death Men

Build to Let

Architectural Criticism gets Sharp

Niagara Falls

Ornament is Grime

FA(ke) Cup

Q&A: Wouter Vanstiphout

X-treme urinals

Unigate Cowscape

Spray-on Snow

From the Baffler ...

One in a Taxi

The Queen Machine

The Knork

Venturi, Scott Brown and my love that dare not speak its name.

Polictical Placards

The Ketchup Conumdrum

Douglas Coupland: Design and Fiction

It's a Small World

Images de Parfums

Soft Carcass

Christopher Dresser at the V&A

Blow up Pub

Municipal Mummification

The Matt and Ron Show

Semi - detached

Half Timbered Van

Feltham Future

Favorite Things

Fugitives and Refugees' - Chuck Palahniuk

The Pop Vernacular

Design by Chefs

Just What is it That Makes Yesterdays Homes So Different, So Appealing?

Archigrams Pastoral Futurism

Sorry Mies

The Flaming Lips - Live.

Everything Counts - The Sound of Geography Collapsing.

Carlton Terrace Extension

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