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Field Trip

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The MayDay Post crew will be attending the Saturday sessions of this symposium at Columbia University, which we heard about through André Tavares, one of the speakers. Come and meet us!


Written by Frederico Duarte

March 23, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Book Arts

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S,M,L,XL 2000


Jose Dávila, S,M,L,XL 2000


A Boing Boing post last week featured book sculptor Brian Dettmer’s work. It got me thinking about another artist, Jose Dávila.  I came across Dávila’s work while researching criticism of Rem Koolhaas’ mega-book S,M,L,XL.  When Koolhaas created S,M,L,XL, he encouraged criticism of the publication as vulgar and confusing; that was the point. Nonetheless, the book was often written off as extravagant and empty. 

Dávila was one of the more offended critics. His reaction to the book involved its destruction for the purpose of his art. As an artist fascinated with the political conceptual art of the 60s and 70s, his work sought emphemerality, was site-specific and irreproducible. Dávila was convinced that theories of dematerialization were best conveyed not in the creation of books, but in their demolition.   For a project, he sliced S,M,L,XL into four pieces, each ranging in size from small, medium, large and extra-large pieces. Taking S,M,L,XL as the quintessence of the state of the art book publishing, Dávila conveyed his discontent by rendering the book useless as anything but a sculptural object. 

To him, even intact, the big books of art and architecture were unable to achieve a non-sculptural importance as the books were “expensive, over-designed publications that are usually entirely devoid of content.” This reception of S,M,L,XL is troubling because Dávila construes the wealth of content in the book (which could even be considered as too much) as nothing. While he has duly noted that the image rich publications like those of Koolhaas and Bruce Mau (graphic designer and co-author of S,M,L,XL) “sacrifice readability for the sake of flashing design, he neglects to engage the compromised readability for a productive result. Complicated doesn’t always equal unusable.

Dávila cannot counterbalance the book’s artistic merit with its role as commodified object.  In referring to the book as an unreadable prop, he is basically refusing to consider anything other than the black text on white paper in non-descript covers as books. S,M,L,XL is a legitimate manifesto, and the hallmark essay “Bigness” is frequently cited in architecture and urban planning texts. Part of the brilliance of S,M,L,XL and certainly integral in its success is the harmonious embodiment of aesthetic object and useful object. And because many critics encountered an entirely new and not readily understandable form in S,M,L,XL, their reactions only scratched the surface of the work’s complexities. 

Jose Dávila, Temporality is a Question of Survival (London: Camden Arts Centre, 2001), 30-32. 

Written by beckyquintal

March 23, 2009 at 1:26 am

I Think This Building is FIT

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Paul Shaw, typographer and calligrapher extraordinaire, can find the positive in anything (or maybe just the lettering). He recently led a group of design critics (me included) by the Fashion Institute of Technology, pointing out the unique lettering that displays FIT’s namesake. The three-dimensional type casts a shadow on the brutalist concrete facade. This might be the only celebrated feature on this building nowadays:  the majority of its inhabitants (I assume), probably hate the behemoth. Quirky, weird buildings seem to be on their way out, or at least those from the 60s are.

It is only a matter of time before this building is added to the hit list, destined to join St. Vincent’s O’Toole Building on death row. I appreciate how it interacts with the street, the building arching over 27th Street like a sky-bridge. Do you like the building, or do you think the only positive is the lettering?

Written by Wegener

March 22, 2009 at 1:11 am

Posted in architecture

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LoMEX Revisited

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Never has a map sent chills down my spine (okay that’s a lie). The Lower Manhattan Expressway probably seems like a bad idea in retrospect–but Robert Moses almost built it. We know what happened to cities throughout the country as freeways sliced them apart: usually the affected neighborhoods were destroyed or at least separated from one another. This is what would have happened to SoHo and the LES, had Jane Jacobs not intervenied in the 1960s.

How would Manhattan have been different if the LoMEX came to pass?

Written by Wegener

March 22, 2009 at 12:35 am

Death of Modernism, Part II

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If you didn’t catch the link at the end of the previous post (“Watching, Hearing The Death Of Modernism”) Then here is that clip again. Remember to fast forward to about 0:35:00 for some “deconstruction.”

Written by Wegener

March 16, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Posted in architecture, Did You Know?

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Watching, Hearing The Death Of Modernism

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While watching The Watchmen (at some point during the OMFG AWESOME slow motion fights) I noticed an inserted Philip Glass composition “Pruit-Igoe” from the 1983 art-house classic Koyaanisqatsi. I’m not sure if there is a deliberate intention of connecting the movie’s (and graphic novel’s) violence and themes of human corruption etc, etc. to Koyaanisqatsi (too many themes to count). Judging by the other musical choices (“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, “The Times They Are A-Changin” by Bob Dylan, etc), I would bet $1 there is. 

 In the film (Koyaanisqatsi that is), humans and nature are juxtaposed with buildings, and shot silently in time-lapse with no narration. The viewer is transported from “Organic” nature to “Resource” lakes and power-lines to “Slow People” moving through New York City. The sequence “Pruit-Igoe” captures bleak housing projects, including the bleakest of the bleak, Pruitt-Igoe itself (correct spelling here) which was built in St. Louis, Missouri in 1955 by Minoru Yamasaki (architect of the World Trade Center). And so we hear the Glass score: circular, churning horns and evil voices that build up to explosions and the dramatic demise of Pruit-Igoe. It was demolished in 1972, and captured in this film. Historians called this demolition the symbolic if not literal  “Death of Modernism.”

I’m always perplexed by this film, but come back to it again and again to find new things. What do you gather about Pruit-Igoe, or about the tone or meaning of the film? Don’t listen to what I think, It’s best to enjoy Koyaanisqatsi and figure it out on your own. And wouldn’t you believe I found the whole thing on the YouTube? So sit back, relax, and enjoy:

Pruit-Igoe:  fast-forward to 0:34:29

Written by Wegener

March 16, 2009 at 6:10 am