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


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



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It's hard not to feel an overwhelming sense of nostalgia surrounded by the covers of the so called 'Little Magazines' on display at at the Clip/Stamp/Fold exhibition in the AA gallery. But, I realise it's a nostalgia for a time I never knew. It's what you might call a pseudo-Proustian rush at the sight of these fabled folded magazines.

There are airbrushed robots having sex, collages of Santa Maria del Fiore relocated to a forest with reel-to-reel data tape machines, comics, slogans and jokes.

It's not my scene, because I wasn't even born when a lot of this stuff came out, but for many reasons these things are so embedded in current architectural culture that they feel like part of my experience.

Those youthful faces staring out from these publications are - at least some of them - still around and (older, balder, fatter) staring out of much glossier publications these days. The ideas that seem to graphically detonate on these dog-eared copies are still around too.

Why? Because though these things look ridiculously over-excited and adolescent, they were the work of deadly serious obsessives, hell bent on changing architectural culture.

Perhaps there is another reason why the magazine is such an important medium - especially in UK architectural culture. In some ways the magazine is the origin of the post-war boom in architectural discourse. I'm thinking specifically of John McHale's tin trunk full of American magazines that galvanised the Independent Group. The things that Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton cut up to make images such as 'Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So ...." . The kind of thing the Smithson's were talking about in 'Today We Collect Adverts'. The sort of thing full of products and lifestyles that enthused Reyner Banham.

(And of course - these are same techniques that we later see used in Archigrams collage-drawings. We also see Archigram inherit a set of interests from the Independent Group - at least Banham's idea of Independent Group architecture and Richard Hamiltons man-machine-love. Magazine lovers become magazine makers).

[An aside: An earlier Strangeharvest post drew a comment from John McHale's son with claims for a different progeny for that iconic British pop image:

"You may be interested to know that R. Hamilton did not design the Pop collage 'Just What Is It That Makes Todays Homes So Different, So Appealing?' According to my father the collage was designed by John McHale while at Yale and the measured design specifying all the images was provided in advance to Hamilton. The visual items for the collage were in McHale's black metal tin trunk that was shipped over ahead of time to McHale's studio in London and which Magda Cordell helped Hamilton and his wife access. Hamilton did not design the work, he merely cut out and pasted down the Pop Poster collage, with the assistance of his wife Tery, and Magda Cordell. The collage is based on the layout - with a few transpositions - of the living/sitting room of the McHale Cordell atellier at 52 Cleveland Square in London."]

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If you keep following this thread it will lead you to today's architectural mainstream. Archigram were whizzier and hipper than the Independent Group architects, they also became the paper-architect template for a later generation - shaping a generation of AA alumni: Danny, Rem, Zaha and so on, whose patience at the drawing board was eventually rewarded in ways Archigram can only dream of.

Maybe McHales tin trunk is the reason the magazine assumed such a significant position at that particular moment. The magazine became the site for architectural reverie and conjecture. It was both the place that you could glimpse the exotic world of consumerist America and where you could manufacture new exotic worlds.

Magazines were a way of getting hold of culture and remaking it, of forming a critical position in relation to mass culture by manipulating its very essence.

Staking out positions, and transforming culture are exactly what these magazines are doing. Though tiny in circulation, their ambition (and ego) is gigantic. Though read by a few, their desire to communicate, provoke, debate is immense.

My all time favourite is almost included in the show - visible in the mag-cover wallpaper in the AA hallway- the New Society Non-Plan issue which proposed a radical version of city-making with humour, satire, common sense and awareness of the pressures and problems facing planning at that time in the UK. It brought together Cedric Price, Reyner Banham and Peter Hall (amongst others) - a kind of urban thinking supergroup. It's amazing to think that this happened in magazine that wasn't about architecture (and depressing to think that there's been nothing like it since).

In many ways, they are not really magazines, but secret messages between groups: gang signs between brotherhoods. They are ridiculously utopian - visions of the world changed, kits and instruction manuals describing how to remake culture. They are independent, small circulation labours of love, and almost certainly bottomless pits which money disappeared into.

There are some strange anomalies in the show: A number of properly funded and distributed magazines sneak in - Casabella, AD and so on, which undermine the knocked together in student digs quality of true fanzines.

Perhaps the strangest thing of all is that you can't read any of the content. It's as though you're in a particularly officious newsagents ('its not a library, you know!) where you can only stare at the covers. Or perhaps it's as tantalising and frustrating as a display of menus describing the most delicious and appetising dishes you'll never taste.

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There is a manifest thrill that is absent from contemporary architectural publications - which come in a number of sober flavours: journalistically corporate (regurgitating press releases), sensationalist (shock as roof leaks!), flip (where irony passes for knowledge), deathly serious visionless prose which reads as though written as a parody of 1950s criticism, academicese that strangles itself with linguistic garrottes, moralistic practicalism (most likely written by an architecture tutor who is exchanging romantic text messages with a student behind his heavily pregnant girlfriends back).

There is an argument that this kind of thing now happens on the internet. But I'm not so sure. Blogging allows people express themselves, to create audiences and so on. But it's different: more isolated, and lacks the drama. It's also - strangely - an inhibited form which has posts of a certain length, images of a certain size and type, stories of a certain kind. It is amazing how quickly the internet congealed into formal typologies.

But it does allow people to pursue their own interests in a way that commissioning editors would never tolerate. See this review of Strangeharvest by way of example:

Strangeharvest is ..."like most blogs, something that exists in the mind of one person who lives in an aliased world where the voices in their schizophrenic head can actually BE heard by everybody else and their paranoid beliefs can be exorcised. In this public autotherapy everybody else can find true entertainment at the expense of the possessed."



Posted by anothersam at December 4, 2007 12:42 AM.

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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

Other:

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