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DAVID CARR-SMITH - IMPROVISATION / DESIGN / ART / KITSCH / CHANCE

CHANCE, DESIGN, ORDER

MODES OF RELATION BETWEEN HUMAN CONTROL AND NATURAL RANDOMNESS//DECAY//COMPLEXITY   ... in process


INDEX  
IMPROVISED-ARCH IN AMSTERDAM INDUSTRIAL SQUATS & COLLECTIVES

IMPROVISATION - PUBLIC & LEGAL - ALLOTMENTS  
IMPROVISED VILLAGES - WANDSWORTH / KEW BRIDGE
VERNACULAR & STYLE - BERDUN, HUESCA  
TEMPORARY-ARCHITECTURE - FRANK'S CAFE / SOUTHWARK LIDO 
"HOME" - MY LOCATION VIA MASS-PRODUCTS & TASTE - LIV-RM
"HOME" - MY LOCATION VIA MASS-PRODUCTS & TASTE - HOUSE
"HOME" - MY LOCATION VIA PERSONAL-CHOICES 
ART - GOTHIC INTO RENAISSANCE INTO 20thC
ART - 20thC COLLAGE INTO MASS-MEDIA
   
GRAFFITI INTO STREET-ART  
KITSCH

CHANCE & DESIGN 
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CHANCE & INTENTION / CHAOS & DESIGN   ... in process  

This section offers examples of different sorts of relations between chance and intention / chaos and design.

... where?... in process : The coherence of Chance forms//formations very rarely includes a boundary that is meaningfully compatible with the formation it encloses - the gestalt of most such formations depends on their distinct visual difference from their surrounding visual field: eg a group of dropped papers on a relatively blank area of floor; or (one level up in terms of complexity) on an area of floor that displays a different character of pattern which nevertheless relates, perhaps rhythmically, to the primary group, providing it with a syncopated background.  ... where?...in process  

 

 

 

(NATURAL) CHANCE AND (HUMAN) ORDER :  

 

Forms made via 'nature' and those made by humans share certain aspects of their origination processes and experiential results. However the human forms originate somewhat differently, not so much from a continuous line of 'automatic' development, but as the products of an intelligence that observes as if from 'outside' (from a mental position) the resources of nature, and differentiates those that it judges to be useful as 'tools'. Instead of a continuous 'automatic' process of mutation and environmental-selection, humans (themselves a product of such a process) observe nature from a position that is necessarily separate from it: that is aware - at least to the extent of knowing that we see something that we have not made and seem to be not entirely joined with. This awareness (a state that is probably too narrow to merit the word 'consciousness') enables a degree of control over choices, this enables directed search, thinking, making, and subsequent testing of the product/tool against the conditions it is designed to engage with. 

 

FISH - MACKEREL - NATURALLY EVOLVED VISUAL STRUCTURES
(pic 1990s)  
... in process

Nature is in real-time, the objects it forms are continuous from the 'beginning' - each individual creature is a presentation of the present end-point of an immensely long sequence of connected transformations. Looking at this fish we see the now-form of a 540 million year process (in the future this form will have changed or vanished). The 'immediacy' of certain human-made objects is of a different order to this. Nature's alive forms are in a continuously present selection of adaptations or deselection of maladaptations to environmental pressures (the affective actions of the whole of what constitutes 'environment' for any given form); a process which - given the mechanism of change: random DNA mutations and subsequent statistical selection or destruction of any change, by enhanced survival to breed or enhanced probability of pre-breeding death (in the case of this fish, possibly by being a little less visible and catchable by predators) - usually means that achieving obviously different characteristics, via multiplication of survival affectiveness through generations, takes a long time.

I'm speculating (check this if it matters !) that the silver underneath and stripy top is a disguise or distraction for predators. The silver perhaps flashing in the eyes of predators moving up from below, confusing the fast and twisting shape among the sunlight flashes and refractions in the upper portion of the sea, and the rhythm of its stripes merging with surface ripples. These colours, structural light-reflectors, and patterns must have slowly (or perhaps sometimes relatively suddenly) accumulated - been reinforced and clarified through generations of breeding and statistical environmental selection.  
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ELECTRIC INCANDESCENT LIGHT BULB (TUNGSTEN FILAMENT)
(pic 1983)  
... in process

This human made tool is an example of a very pure distillation/extraction of discrete functions and their associated materials and shapes from the relatively holistic natural 'background', via observation and distillation of its behaviors and properties.  

This object is the result of a process that, unlike natural evolution, is primarily directed by intention. Though such objects develop via a process of refining, analogous to nature's evolved productions, and are (like the fish) end points of 'pragmatically selected' developmental sequences, however their development is jerky and each 'generational object/'tool' has been modified via a selective pressure that is not simply an automatic result of breeding and subsequent 'natural selection' ... here genes are replaced by ideas, random genetic mutations by an intentional search for existing (but hidden - as yet unfocussed) conditions, breeding by manufacture via tools, and blind environmental selection by experiment and practical usage and testing as a commodity.     

 

ACCIDENTAL SPILL - POOL OF BLACK RADIATOR FLUID ON PATTERNED LINO
(pic 05-1998)  
... in process

An undesired clumsy accident (during radiator-draining). It is a very 'pure' act that has a purely physical outcome/affect
(however even an 'accident' may have/has subconscious motivations! [cf. Freud: Psychopathology of Everyday Life]).

The shape of this 'natural' pool is determined by the initial accident, the planet's pull, the physical character of the fluid, the chance topography of the floor. Its shape is essentially 'perfect' - a 'natural phenomenon, that once formed seems completely describable from knowledge of its physical parameters, however everything pertaining to its final form is in fact latent in the act of human clumsiness that initiated it, and how can the result of an 'accident' ever be predicted. The shape is thus untrammeled by expectation (design) and free from intention, and therefore has peculiar phantasmagoric potentials - it's a shape that seems possibly 'alive' and, if this is not consciously acknowledged, its uninterpretableness surely stimulates at least a degree of anxiety.

The lino, in contrast, displays an extremely precise repeatable pattern - one that can only be physically achieved by something much less impulsive, and much more limited and rigid than a human being. Its pattern-printing machine is able to repeat actions which change imperceptibly over time, and though the human system of relatively simple and rigid bone levers moved by muscles is mechanically quite similar, this latter is unstandardised, averaged for multitudinous actions and under control of a 'multi-considering' nervous system for whom each moment suggests a different response !

The difference in 'pattern type' between the pool and the floor-lino is thus extreme. Set against the total predictability of the lino's pattern, the unpredictability of the pool's shape seems even more 'alive'. The natural singular and meaningless shape of the pool - which directly invokes phantasmagoric paranoia, is in acute contrast with the artificiality of the lino's multiple visual 'layers' - simultaneously a repetitive geometric pattern and an illustration of a tiled floor (this 'under-layer' of imitation is mentally manipulative kitsch, in the sense that lino is a cheap alternative to the rather expensive tiled-floor option).  

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THROW-AWAY CRUMPLED-PAPER BALL (ON STUDIO FLOOR)
(pic c1980s)  
... in process

Unconscious actions: crumpling and squeezing a sheet of paper and dropping it (on the floor)

are not so purely 'physical' and 'content-less' as an accident ... eg: it could be emotionally expressive (an 'immediate drawing') - eg: an act of aggression against oneself, directed via the paper and/or its environment.  

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EMPTY AD HOARDING -  RAILTON RD., BRIXTON, LONDON, SE24
(pic early 1987)
   ... in process

A satisfyingly visually-balanced and seemingly complete yet rhythmical picture'. Yet no aesthetic awareness composed it, its compositional subtleties are artifacts of our brain's automatic visual discriminative ordering, applied (gratuitously in this case) to this aesthetically unorganised, simply practical selection of the 2:1 plywood boards that were most easily 'to hand'.

If such a visually/rhythmically satisfying beauty can be achieved by chance arrangement, using (as far as possible) whole standard unit boards within a simple retaining frame, what would the previous house-example need to achieve a comparable level of completeness? [Ref previous pic]
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LONDON BRIDGE TUBE STATION RENOVATION - PASSAGE BETWEEN PLATFORMS
(pic 4-12-1998)

Except by accident, there are limited ways of achieving a human-made object that shares certain characteristics with natural objects - that is genuinely spontaneous, has no design aesthetic, is not constrained by any cultural opinions re beauty, gracefulness, taste, fashion. An object that - because there was no considering what it 'should' look like, thus no hesitation introduced between the need it fulfills and the means at hand and acts of making it - has an immediate 'presentness'. Such forms are made at the 'speed of necessity', the act of making is not restrained and therefore its actions are still present - thus they can be experienced by a subsequent audience (as are the acts of a performer of music) as happening 'now'.

Further, such results display an untrammeled operation of human intelligence and mental/physical resourcefulness; a seamless event without cultural constraints that communicates no meanings extraneous to immediate need, and thus a type of beauty that is a human-made analog of natural happenings (with the proviso that, unlike nature's productions, such human acts are 'discontinuous' : constrained within the limits of prosthetic tools and manufactured means).

The above example is a work of large and small responses: firstly to a sequence of large vertical features in the wall (panels, joins, channels[?]., a door[?]); secondly to small irregularities in the site, task, materials and their human usage:

The large rhythm is 4 main vertical panels: 1: gray (stretched plastic, red-taped) / 2: dirty-whitish (with a splash like a bent figure amid 6 scattered patches) / 3: clean-white / 4: dirty-whitish (with 4 orderly patches). These all framed with coloured tape, sometimes calmly applied, sometimes as if frantically trapping a creature struggling to escape. 

[The whole wall could serve as a music-score played by a small group of raucous and dulcet instruments, or translated into voice noises.] 

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TATE MODERN N-LAWN - A SUNNY DAY GATHERING OF SMALL HUMAN GROUPS 
(pic 10-06-2017)   ... in process

A single simple algorithm enforces an (approximate) order. This 'arrangement' typifies the positioning of people-individuals, couples, small groups who prefer to be separate from one another. Unlike the positioning of objects in the previous pictures the motivation of these 'human-objects' is shared - ie they seek max privacy in a stranger-shared space.    

Their relative indeterminacy may be because they are unable (and/or lack the crucial need) to determine their relative positions more exactly from their flat perspective viewpoint ad/or the random losses that enlarge gaps in the 'arrangement'.
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DESIGN-CHAOS :  

 

Instances of unresolved conflicts of unrelated informations in the public environment are common (in fact increasingly common as the complexity of safety regulations and technical means increases).  

 

A ZEBRA CROSSING AND OTHER SIGNIFICATIONS - LONDON RD., ISLEWORTH, MDDLX.
(pic c1987) 
... in process

A confusion of signs: a muddle that results not only from the independent acts of unrelated agencies but also from the different 'levels of abstraction' of the various signs:  
(This is a medium-scale example - the next example is more limited in scope, and the last displays only two dis-related initiatives).

Zebra Crossing
stripes are almost-pure abstraction: their meaning needs to be learnt, but not to the degree that completely arbitrary signs such as alphabet letters require; the stripes illustrate the acts of stepping ... and the yellow belisha-beacons the 'signal fire on the hill', but what about their striped stems?: more stepping like the zebra?: climbing the poles?! ... suddenly - because one assumes there is an 'information-scheme' here - signification breaks down, loses constancy and instead of clear action, provokes doubt and muddle (causing an excess of brain processing: that perhaps should be done by a designer not by the user!). Seemingly included in, and thus compounding the muddle of this apparent scheme, are striped gate posts - an outdated architectural convention and a pure coincidence that here seems to intentionally signal the crossing's goal (and its continuation skywards !).

The College gate's 'wrought-iron-twiddle' style fakes that of Baroque palaces - a style adopted by the founder of Pears Soap who built his late-19C mansion here in leafy Isleworth (now morphed into a technical college and supplemented with late 1970s 'box-modern' blocks (a confusion of snobbery with practicality - perhaps not unwelcome to the 'authorities'). Unlike the zebra-stripes that provoke an action by proffering its abstraction, these gates simply copy (albiet with some editing of the difficult and expensive bits !) the familiar appearance of prestigious originals, evoking a memory and its concomitant emotions of snobbery and envy (kitsch).  

A chance association of red objects bracket the gateway - apparently meaningfully grouped at the instant of the photo (and not noticed by the photographer !) - are actually a 'real-objective' event with no 'subjective' significance. A group of three unconnected(?) people who all look to the left (at an emerging (red) fire-engine(?)), are all clad in the same red, and - as if this coincidence is insufficient - are symmetrically balanced on the right of the central gates by a large same-red phone-box. Any thinking-being could be excused for mistaking this 'expression of chaos' for intention: street-theatre, ritual, or suchlike.  


These and other significations confuse each other and us: a plot of chaos richly planted with intentions !
    ... in process

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LANDING NOTICES - CHELSEA-WESTMINSTER HOSPITAL - FULHAM RD., LONDON 
(pic 29-09-1996)
  ... in process


A
(potentially even life-threatening) muddle of signs, sign-locations and sign-styles. No encompassing functionality has been identified, consequently each sign is separate and (inevitably) competitive for space.

LONDON BRIDGE TUBE STATION RENOVATION - TEMPORARY NOTICES, ETC

(pic 4-12-1998)  ... in process

 

Signs talking to several different 'audiences':  

Finally, not only are the placings of the objects hardly considered, but an analogous and somewhat ludicrous lack of a coherence is apparent in the attention of the person who (carefully) painted the platform direction signs

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EXHIBIT OF RICHARD ROGERS' ARTS-CENTRE PROJECT (PLUS POWER CABLE) - FESTIVAL HALL - SOUTH BANK, LONDON
(pic 09-1997).
  ... in process 


Design conflict resulting from accumulating interventions by only two non-relating agencies. Here the work of a suave architectural practice is trumped by someone in a totally different mind-set - for whom a bit of crude improvisation is an apposite solution !

A small exhibition 'advertising' the proposed (and alas subsequently dumped) Richard Rogers' South-Bank Arts Centre scheme. An exquisitely economical presentation with a subtlety angled stand displaying the (illuminated) site model ... at this point it becomes obvious that something was missing in the exhibition's plans ... the display stand is less-than-subtlety tethered to the wall with a gaffa-taped power-cable with its over-long 'spare loop' stapled to the (listed 1950s) skirting, socketed to an extension-lead that lies loose along the floor until suddenly hitched up and stapled to the (listed 1950s) ply-wood wall fascia as it nears a socket.

(The astonishing aesthetic and practical insouciance of many major British institutions still persists, only somewhat modified by an awareness that 'smartness' connotes 'worth'.)

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LITTER IN YARD BESIDE COUNCIL FLATS - SHOREDITCH, LONDON
(paste-up 2-pics 30-01-2011)   ... in process

Human-originated chaos: The uniquely discomfortable chaos of human litter and intentionless 'arrangement'. Each object is placed on a separate occasion and any intention to use it is either in the past or not envisaged at the moment of placing, they therefore display an 'arrangement' of meaningless-separation [Ref to next pic]. These objects are no longer used, there is no coherence imposed by practical use[1], or need for storage (this is a 'marginal'/unclaimed piece of yard) - they are 'dumped' but not thrown-away (ie: victims of 'too-lazy-to-dispose-of' or 'may-use-sometime'). Is it possible that in this case it is simple vacillation - there is no 'position' (in time or space) indicated by their location or by the class of intentions that positions them; because the items have nothing in common except a present-disuse they are placed at a non-meaningful distance from each other - a 'vacillation-distance'.


NOTE:  
... in process

1.  Tools and materials in use for practical tasks will be automatically placed in an as-near-as-possible naturally-perfect visible order determined via the body's performed movements; the brain's predictions of the tools' patterns of use; the disposition of the in-process work - ie the situation's necessary ergonomics. Such an ordered pattern of tools and materials will be as nearly 'natural' (ie as nearly a result of natural processes of 'evolutionary' compromise between competing material forces) as human-originated tools and materials can allow. 

Pic:  Silo tool use-patterns// workshop use-patterns // Richmond Park landscape // pics of complex (competing) natural locations  [Ref: PIC+NOTE]
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"PARK REGIS" HOTEL HALLWAY - 160 BROAD ST., BIRMINGHAM
(pic 19-08-2017)
  ... in process

The degree of inconsequence/the latitude of 'chance' in the assembling of this line-up of objects is somewhat less than the last example however, because their disposition is at least driven by a desire to illustrate a particular meaning - the similar positional-vacillation results from insufficient definition of this desired meaning /// they convey a degree of disbelief in the reality of the task of arranging them because their meaning is insufficiently defined or believed-in - for instance are they an evocation of the hotel's imminent offering of leisure or do they illustrate 'patient waiting', comfortably endured stasis?


The objects are chosen to signify care, generous provision, luxury, however they just as readily convey indecisiveness, uselessness, sterility, waste ... this is because the person who placed them here (and indeed the person who invented this object-charade) had no guiding sense of a real substantial need for them - of objects and positions that would invite and evoke actual usage
[1] .

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'DEVELOPER' APARTMENT-BLOCK - ST. GERMANS RD., LONDON, SE23
(pic 21-08-2017)
   ... in process

A 'design' which is achieved via a similar 'mind-set' to the previous examples: indeterminacy.  

Apart from the 'list of contents' habitually prescribed or necessarily required' for this object called 'a house', for this type of designer and at this stage of the 'design-realising' process, there is no overriding reason or value that governs a more precise defining and placing of elements. From this point in the design process simple indecisiveness and consequent vacillation (chance!) is the nearest to intention that this designer can achieve, apart from their finalising act of choosing the most suitable among a list of manufactured (and thus mass-taste-endorsed) adornment details to define their work as 'finished' .  

Thus instead of espousing completeness and beauty, there is a sideways substitute that this type of 'developer' almost always resorts to. To disguise and distract-from the incompleteness and visual chaos of their work, childish ('dolls-house') value-signals substitute for beauty//aesthetic satisfaction. kitsch pretend 'quality-motifs' (necessarily reminiscent of mass-valued historical originals) are applied to the relatively chaotic carcass as details: eg the 'quaint' frilly edged 'leading' of the (incompetently stuck-on) bay-window; the fanlights' stained-glass motifs; a classically styled number-plate; the inevitable 'coach-lamps' - one beside the entry door the other (absurdly sub-practical) used to illuminate the 'techno-muddle' on the porch-side; all tickling the vaguely vacillating background stylings of the whole re-modelled building.

Because this culture offers no basic training in how to satisfy levels of human need beyond physical necessities 'the aesthetic function' is associated with and almost completely isolated as a 'luxury' aspect of 'exclusive' commercial products. 

Thus due to this unconsciously expressed and monotonously 'normal' ignorance - there is an onset of 'muddling along' at any stage of design-realising that is beyond the commonplace-practical. The results of this are so prevalent as to be 'comforting', typically 'British', cozily 'undemanding' and 'non-snobby'). 
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From this point in the design process simple indecisiveness and consequent vacillation (chance) is the nearest to intention that such a 'designer' can achieve, apart from their finalising act of choosing the most suitable among a list of manufactured (and thus mass-taste-endorsed) adornment details to define their work as 'finished'. Thus instead of espousing completeness and beauty, there is a sideways substitute that this type of 'developer' almost always resorts to. To disguise and distract-from the incompleteness and visual chaos of their work, to project its 'style' onto the (mass-mnemonic) market, and to signal its detailed 'finish', childish ('dolls-house') value-signals. kitsch pretend 'quality-motifs' (necessarily reminiscent of mass-valued historical originals) are applied to the relatively chaotic carcass as details: eg the 'quaint' frilly edged

 




IMPROVISATION EVOKES CHANCE ORDER :

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ENVELOPE BULB-SHADE - APARTMENT - AMSTERDAM
(pic Summer-1988)

An 'instant' improvisation provoked by irritation at the glare of a naked bulb hung in the room's corner - to hand was an A4 envelope which was taped to the bulb-holder. That the envelope's translucence would reveal its structure and that this would gratuitously and so aptly relate to the concealed bulb-holder's graceful complex of shadows, and all of this to the shape of the corner itself, were completely unpredicted.

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CHANCE DEGENERATION & KITSCH OBJECTIFICATION :   ... in process


The examples below address first the redemption of kitsch via chance, second the ####. 

In example 1 the kitsch objects are the (plastic injection-moulded) 'Regency coach-lamps' and the erstwhile 'Victorian sign-boards' - whose now degenerated context strips their intended prestige of credibility and leaves them (both substance and meaning) stranded on the shore of present-objectiveness. Kitsch - the evocation of valued originals via quotation of their mass-selected mnemonic attributes - here finds itself in a context of chance-immediacy which re-relegates the kitsch objects plus their references. No longer in a context that is (manifestly and absurdly) intended to support belief in the 'reality' of the value they in fact merely referred to (that of their valued originals they were intended to denote), they are now located in a context of 'rubbish' - in the 'now' world of practical actions and chaotic real-time processes - suffering a loss of any value except visual entertainment. Relocated in this 'natural' context they are displayed simply as 'objects in a world of objects', as stripped of their original make-believe intentions as any archeological artifact, displayed in their 'now' setting like the object-fragments that exist as distinct 'signs of external accountability' in a 1915 objét-collage of Picasso.  

In example 2 ####

 

EX-PUB (WAS THE "RUTLAND ARMS") (WITH RE-CONNED FLATS ABOVE) - PERRY HILL, LONDON, SE6. 
(pic 1-10-2014)  
 ... in process

This ex-pub displays a brilliant mix of motives / styles / decisions / events. The (almost) regular spacing of the idiotic white-plastic 'Regency coach-lamps' seems to be attempting to regulate the chaotic syncopation of the bouncing rhythms of the severely practical yellow barricades (plus fluttering notices of intent) with the medallions of original dark-blue wall (unfaded under removed sign-boards of various 'Victorian' shapes) and embrace them all in a scheme of symmetry focussed on the pub's unique central feature: a sinister boarded entry set between a concrete ziggurat-stepped plinth and a surmounting moon-like white-plastic vent. This whole ensemble raised like a church on a forecourt pavement platform.
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MICHELE DE LUCCHI - "KRISTALL" (1981) - laminate, lacquered wood, enameled steel - w 61cm x d 54.6cm x h 63.5cm
(pic 1982)
 ... in process

As if in imitation of the above, as if attempting to ##use/apply## its 'natural chaos/order' as a 'mode of design' De Lucchi (of Memphis) designs correlations of separate events/things so they serve a purpose simultaneously aesthetic, practical, culturally futurating//relativising

Each part is allowed its characteristic 'being'. The apparent insouciance of the laminate pattern positioning - there is no way it can relate to the cubic box it covers except via dissonance. The poised indifference of the positioning of the 'signature' is reminiscent of a stamp on an industrial product. The whole object, its ensemble of parts, conveys a ridiculous casualness. It's as if its parts have met by chance - a joking presentation of a result of hybridising kitsch and rationality.
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CHANCE PROVOKES INTERPRETATIVE WIT OR INVOKES PHANTASMAGORIC MEANINGS :  .... in process

 

Chance conjunctions invoke new meanings or extend/endorse existing ones.  

Intentional Design seeks to minimise unintended affects, even so, in this external world of continual changes of conjunctions and relatings that may espouse chance significations, there is (always) potential for a brain wired to deduce meanings//identities, to discriminate and identify familiar objects (processing via language mediated perceptions), to be so challenged as to collapse into phantasmagoric paranoid hysteria or flip sideways into its store of social/moral judgments.   

Pragmatic Improvisation, intent only on solving a presently experienced need at smallest possible 'expense'' and thus exploiting the immediacy and economy of reusing discards, enables its results to participate in the world's connectedness, thus tending to espouse an emergence of subsequently noticed meanings and unforeseen but seemingly relevant events.    

 

"FLORAL PLACE" LOGO PLUS GRAFFITI - LONGACRE, LONDON, WC2

(pic 1984)

 

An image completed by (skillfully manipulated) 'natural-chance'.


This boringly 'restrained-by-modern-good-taste' logo has been exquisitely complexified and completed by a talented graffitist (at this time St Martins School of Art Graphic-Design was just up this road (?)). The delicately flung dribbles add the natural action of gravity and a balancing act of flower stems, which vitally connect the 'designer paint-gesture' (dead shapes and arrangement) flowers to the real pavement - the uneven-ended marks even suggesting the receding space of a meadow. They complete the hoarding-space and give a pictorial role to the fourth colour: the black of the title.

 

NELSON MANDELA COMMEMORATION - FESTIVAL HALL, SOUTH BANK, LONDON 

(pic early 1987)

 

'Natural-chance' (donated by vandals) adds meanings.


It was rumoured at the time that Young Tories had vandalised the Festival Hall's Mandela monument. Aside from politics, the effect was magnificent. Like the previous example - but via an act opposite in intention: done to damage not to complete - it released essential meanings.


The rather powerful and expressive bust is mounted on a plinth that is meanly proportioned and boorishly 'Traditional': in 'expensive' glossy black plus gilded letters in a clumsy 'Roman' font. However, too these disjunctive objects a third (and 'reconciling') element has been added (ironically) via vandalism, whose hurled paint evokes a 'blue waterfall of bloody tears' that falls from the centre of the chest (the 'heart'), partly obscures the banal text and spreads out beyond the limitations of the statue's designated space of ground - a complete and perfect form that displays the beauty of a natural flow obeying the universal field of gravity, and which physically and aesthetically opposes the kitsch ugliness and pompous intentions of the designer(s) of plinth and text, the absurd limitations of a truncated bust, and even the petty spatial isolation of the monument itself.


It seems exquisitely ironic that the monument's absurdity - that the arrogance of a colonial power (this 'Roman' scripted plinth) supports the memory of a person honored for his opposition to such - should be so precisely emphasised by politically motivated vandalism which, in a seemingly intentionally-meaningful act, 'attacks' it with an image that in itself is without manipulative significance, whose undesigned beauty and natural freedom clearly signify the opposition (springing from the heart) of Mandela to the strictures of those who 'represent the people' yet have no vital symbols to represent their power - who reveal the poverty of their sense of reality in their use of such defunct (Roman !) signs to bestow 'honor' !

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ESTATE AGENT'S AD - ANARCHIST CENTER, 122 RAILTON RD, BRIXTON, LONDON 
(pic 1985)

A chance convergence

What an absurd conjunction: an estate agency advertised its ignorance of the area by buying ad space on the side of the area's most prolific (Anarchist) squatting agency, who immediately hi-jacked its eye-catching design-professionalism to advertise its own opening hours.
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ST PANCRAS STATION HOTEL - PRE-RENOVATION OPEN-DAY 

(pic 09-1997) 

Chance or design-ambiguity evokes mass-mnemonics: 

On the analogy of a zoo or diorama, the notice - which in fact faced the public stair-landing - appears to designate and label the taped-off space it (apparently) fronts, as if advising that, for instance, the guard was a captive offender on show to the stream of visitors, like an inmate of an 19th century prison or madhouse. 

(Is it possible that the posture of the rather frustrated looking guard showed he sensed his participation in a tableau ?)
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LETTERS & VISITOR - GRAAN-SILO SQUAT, ENTRY HALL - AMSTERDAM

(pic 09-1994) ... in process

A chance accumulation of 'letters': 'C': the front-restraining bar of the push-chair; W: a real letter (perhaps intentionally displayed as a chance-trophy); 'O': a life-belt (the quay is outside); a sort of 'K': a visitor, just entered from the dark quay, sees me photoing and poses. 

An arch of 'letters', its form and spacing most likely formed by chance, or at least subconsciously.
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BUTCHER SHOP WINDOW & TATTOOED ARM - SURBITON, LONDON
(pic 11-1981)

A pure accident : 

A disconcerting conjunction of cuts of meat (that include a severed bone) and a repulsively similar bony wrist and hand ... its vulnerability shockingly emphasised as the butcher reached forward to grasp the meat and his sleeve unsheathed an elaborately tattooed blade pointing at his naked wrist (as if to instruct "cut here"!).

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TORN ADS - HOARDING - RAILTON RD., BRIXTON, LONDON, SE24
(pic 1988)

This hoarding was injudiciously erected opposite the Anarchist office in Railton Road - it provided a canvas for their pictorial experiments.

This example is very close to simple chaos, however it's probable that the 'destructive' tearing off of layers of overpasted ads was intentionally stopped when wit revealed a funny and shocking new image. The shock of this unexpected apparition is not only due to the contrast of its parts but also the immediacy of the acts that revealed it.
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'PHANTOM' - STACK OF LITTER (MOSTLY FOOD CONTAINERS) - WHITEHALL (S-END), LONDON, SW1
(pic 07-08-2015)

Walking at night, distracted among the tourists near Parliament Square, we saw this 'figure', sitting and possibly begging. The location and an approximate shape induced the shock of an 'out-of-a-corner-of-the-eye' phantom. Such a shock correlates with an instant of contradiction: simultaneously a rubbish pile and a person, and as a person it's a very unusual and therefore a scarily indefinable and thus unpredictable one, it's also sensed as personally connected to oneself and (like a phantom in a dream) it seems familiar with us (and as a fantasy in one's own brain, indeed it is!). An atavistic terror surfaces at that moment and only very slowly dissipates.

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LETTER-TRAY - GRAAN-SILO SQUAT, ENTRY HALL - AMSTERDAM

(pic 06-1994)

An improvised object that is a marvelously complex amalgam of pragmatism, chance, and (possibly intentional) wit. 

Was this head-like letter-rack intended to play a phantasmagoric visual game ... is it a somewhat sinister and intentional joke; was its maker guided by subliminally observed coincidences; or is it simply a lucky conjunction of chances. Was its location chosen to include the nail-hole ‘skull-eyes’ peering through it from the wall behind - forming a phantom hollow head, cued and 'confirmed' by the head-like rack itself (with its fluffy cat-rug hat), which - with its protruding peg-like 'eyes' and its tray-label 'mouth' - pushes forward its 3-dimensional embodiment.

'PHANTOM' - SHADOW PLUS CHEWING-GUM - BOURNEMOUTH RD., LONDON, SE15
(pic 07-06-2014) 


The simplest/silliest chance conjunctions - here a wing-mirror shadow and two spots of (probably) squashed chewing-gum - can (especially if they resemble eyes in a head) momentarily induce the shiver of 'a-confrontation-especially-meant-for-me'. Though the source-image provoked here is most likely a 'childrens book/film dino' the 'spook-shock' effect is separate from the image source - it acts via a different brain-path and seems to hit a more instinctive physically-reactive 'ganglion'!
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OMELETTE

(pic 08-08-2015)

An obvious example of the intro statement above is making oneself a quick practical meal. In this particular case the phantasmagoric consequences were rather shocking !


Angela cut a big tomato in halves and put them in the frying-pan, she then poured in the whipped eggs (neither were placed or poured with positional intention) - she was shocked when the egg flowed around the tomatoes and the slightly convex pan centre, and a big face was laughing up at her!


Of course, for our inherited brain, wherever there is visual chaos there is potential for seeing a face. Also, in this case there was a reinforcement - this sudden apparition of an 'idiot-prankster' seemed an appropriate finale(?) for a previous sequence of unusual/notable events [ref these here].

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SIGNS - MEANING & AMBIGUITY :   ... in process

 

Categories of signs: 1 Abstract instructions (eg arrows) / 2 Abstracted 'signals' (eg: letters) / 3 Pictured instructions - the problem of attribute-selection/simplification (1: random meanings disorganise or deflect signed intention (Cafe WC) / 2; Unintended/unnoticed ambiguity (Hoverspeed ad).

 

LETRASET CATALOGUE PAGE : HELVETICA / ARROWS / WC FEMALE + MALE
(pic ## )  
... in process

This Letraset Catalogue of type-faces and graphic signs displayed those available as adhesive signs on Letraset transparent vinyl backing sheets. The catalogue's page designs combined a dramatic visual dynamism and rational arrangement with pragmatic information clarity

The signs themselves range from clean (almost 'absolute') abstraction (eg: the arrows); through pictorial semi-abstractions (eg: the telephone); to images that display a current social bias - a forced trade-off between maximum current recognisibility and endurance of their motivational//meaning-focus (eg: the female and male toilet figures). Designing this latter type of sign requires selecting the currently most commonly averaged mnemonic; which will inevitably (viewed via the norms of a changed society) become 'visible' (thereby diminishing the sign's functional efficiency) and often 'absurd', or even 'reprehensible'.


The whole span, and problem, of abstraction is presented on the above pages. Signs like the woman/man toilet figures are intrinsically linked to (changing) social norms; indeed any attempt to nail-down a 'cross-section' relevance within a changing system requires acceptance of redundancy, whereas an act that is as humanly basic as (choosing a) directional motion can be almost completely abstracted and, in spite of its sign's metaphorical name "arrow", its visual form does not, like the other 'pictorial' signs, depend on the existence and familiarity of this tool ... if physical arrows did not exist it seems to me that mere directional motion would still select it as its sign.

 

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CAFE WC FEMALE + MALE - CAFE BASEMENT, BRIGHTON 
(pic 04-1998) 

The male sign is a standardised icon, the female equivalent was lost and replaced with a grotesque hand-painted image that reveals not only incompetent paint-brush control but (perhaps) an infantile vision of 'mother' !  ... in process

 

GRAPHIC-DESIGN STUDENT'S SKETCH FOR A "HOVERSPEED" AD
(pic c1988)

The ambiguity of this image seems invisible to the designer. There seems nothing to prevent this ad-sketch being read in two opposite ways - because the main text is positionally more strongly associated with the ship: directly in line with the arrow-like direction of its pointed bow, from which it appears to have been spat out, one may easily assume it's the ship talking about a lumbering hovercraft, which it is about to overtake. The intention of course is the opposite.
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BODY-ASH 'SPRINKLING' - HITHER GREEN CREMATORIUM LAWN, VERDANT LANE, LONDON, SE6
(pic 09-03-2014)
 
... in process

When i saw these examples I remembered my own experience of 'scattering the ashes' - the following observations are informed by that event: 

Emptying the ash-pot is a difficult act - interfered with by three main emotions: grief, confusion, memorialisation (how to, literally, mark a missing person's significance). Suddenly faced with the necessity to empty the bottom-opening pot of ashes (and having outfaced the huge space of the featureless grass field and decided, with little help from any especially significant differentiation of the surface, which (precise) spot one should deposit it on (maybe in this case vaguely primrose-queued, the next by daffodils). One opens the pot and out it begins to pour, immediately it makes a mark and it becomes imperative to choose 'what shape this beginning-mark should be persuaded to become', what 'drawing' is suitable for this person that is now nothing but dust.  

The example above seems to illustrate an emptying of the ash-pot somewhere between dumping and scattering - it seems that any serious attempt to 'intend' was abandoned, or discovered late in the egress from the pot: there are marks towards the primroses that may be gestural rather than simple scatter.
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BODY-ASH 'DRAWING' - HITHER GREEN CREMATORIUM LAWN, VERDANT LANE, LONDON, SE6
(pic 09-03-2014)  ... in process

How strange is a definite act when no feasible meaning can be deduced: a question mark (in the circumstances this would be appropriate - but where is its 'dot', did the flow of ash decease !?)
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ADDING ORDER AGAINST ADVANCING CHAOS :   ... in process

 

Mending by adding. The fight against the natural advancement of chaos can employ: 1, (as in this case) accumulating support (entails an increase of mass - therefore supports tend to increase in size); 2, mending - a process of judicious patching (minimal physical change); 3, complete-object replacement ('off-the-shelf' option of the rich).   

 

YARD FENCE & HOUSE NUMBERS - LONDON, SE23
(pics 24-07-2014 and 07-10-2014)
 ... in process

Accumulating order against naturally increasing chaos:

The decay of the fence timbers by natural shrinkage and rot is countered by adding wood-pieces in vaguely structural positions to delay collapse. The adjacent door exhibits an analogous problem, countered by an enlarging struggle against persistent number-blindness. 
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CHANCE - INCOMPETENCE - ART - SKILL :     ... in process

Ultimate skill (eg in making ceramic objects) is demonstrated in an act of 'Craft' that transcends practiced control and achieves an unexpected original object that is 'Art'. The only result that resembles this is a formation that results from 'Chance'. The mode of craft that is closest to chance is uncompetence, the least amount of skill commensurate with making an object that minimally denotes a recognisable function.  

Chance 'objects', uncompetent objects, and art objects have a similar immediacy of being and sensational affect. However only art objects (ie experientially resolved originals) solve the problem of a 'boundary' - worked on until discovered as a complete and present (thus unprecedented) experience
- such an object has an existence that is independent of its surroundings.

 

PORCELAIN BOWL WITH INCISED LOTUS DECORATION IN IVORY WHITE GLAZE - DING WARE, MID NORTH SONG, 11th C.  FLAGSTAFF HOUSE TEA MUSEUM, HONG KONG PARK
(pics 10-11-2012)   ... in process

This tea-bowl exemplifies the value of real-ising an adjunct to a human function as if it were a natural object evolved to fit with our body's/psyche's needs; of allowing skill and style to disappear in an identification with the natural physical necessities of the medium (including its and its maker's particular propensities that prevent it ever achieving the total abstraction of geometrical perfection - those exigencies of our common existence called 'chance').
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VESSEL - INCRIBED: "YVONNE  6-05-94" - BOUGHT IN CHARITY SHOP, LONDON
(pic 24-03-2014)
 
  ... in process

It seems quite possible that the maker of this (charity-shop bought) pot//bowl was intentionally allowing (conveying as a subject-matter model) their crude incompetent sloppy clay and glaze handling, to assert a value of 'ethnic'/'primitive'; or to skillfully emphasise the experiential richness of 'chance' (of 'works of nature')!  It is also possible that this object was made by a really uncompetent person, perhaps a child - someone who had as yet acquired only rudimentary skills of intentionally handling these materials - clay and glaze. 

The contrast with the Ding ware bowl is ###
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INDEX  
IMPROVISED-ARCH IN AMSTERDAM INDUSTRIAL SQUATS & COLLECTIVES

IMPROVISATION - PUBLIC & LEGAL - ALLOTMENTS  
IMPROVISED VILLAGES - WANDSWORTH / KEW BRIDGE
VERNACULAR & STYLE - BERDUN, HUESCA   

TEMPORARY-ARCHITECTURE - FRANK'S CAFE / SOUTHWARK LIDO 
"HOME" - MY LOCATION VIA MASS-PRODUCTS & TASTE - LIV-RM
"HOME" - MY LOCATION VIA MASS-PRODUCTS & TASTE - HOUSE
"HOME" - MY LOCATION VIA PERSONAL-CHOICES 
ART - GOTHIC INTO RENAISSANCE INTO 20thC
ART - 20thC COLLAGE INTO MASS-MEDIA  
GRAFFITI INTO STREET-ART  
KITSCH

CHANCE & DESIGN