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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.


 

(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) 

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 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) 

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) 


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) 

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) 

A satisfyingly visually-balanced and seemingly complete yet rhythmical 'picture' - though no aesthetic intentions composed it, if it provoked aesthetic enjoyment in its maker it was as if in a spectator, its compositional subtleties are artifacts of our brain's automatic visual discriminative ordering, applied (gratuitously in this case) to a simply practical selection and employment of the 2:1 plywood boards and off-cuts that were most easily 'to hand'. 

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LONDON BRIDGE TUBE STATION RENOVATION - PASSAGE BETWEEN PLATFORMS
(pic 04-12-1998)

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. 

NOTE:

*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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A SUNNY DAY GATHERING OF SMALL HUMAN GROUPS - TATE MODERN NORTH LAWN - BANKSIDE, LONDON, SE1 
(pic 10-06-2017)  

Unlike the positioning of objects in the previous pictures, the motivation of these 'human-objects' is intentional and shared. 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 in a limited space of stranger-shared desire - here bathing in warm sunlight, on a grass 'carpet' for cleanness and softness. 

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

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3 PEOPLES HANDS - CHELSEA COLLEGE OF ARTS CAFE - 16 JOHN ISLIP ST., LONDON, SW1
(pic 23-08-2013)  

A chance stopped visual instant - one of 'infinite' others. 

'Chance' because the number, type, source of impulses that caused this shutter-squeeze are imponderable - the act of photographing was experienced (in arrears) as an 'instantaneous' act. The strangeness of the image issues from our non-familiarity with the look of our hands in mid-action, not only their structure but their behavioral autonomy is revealed!

This is an image that can provoke the queasy feelings associated with "The Uncanny Valley" concept - but in this case we (shorn of subjectivity by the externalising camera) are shown to be the very objects that stimulate/sustain this feeling ... there is no need for a graduated selection of (as yet) hypothetical automata! The autonomous skill of these handed-arms as they reach-for or pass a bottle, or wait for use, is witness to physical/neural dexterity evolved in this planetary robotics lab over the last few million years.
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MODES OF DESIGN-CHAOS :    ... in process

Instances of unresolved conflicts of unrelated informations in the public environment are common.  

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


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:  

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


Another, but more localised version. A
potentially even life-threatening muddle of signs, sign-locations and sign-styles. No encompassing functionality has been identified by an in-charge designer, consequently each sign is separate and (inevitably) competes for space.

LONDON BRIDGE TUBE STATION RENOVATION - VARIOUS STORES, TEMPORARY NOTICES & ETC.
(pic 04-12-1998
 ... in process

The objects (and their labels) are signs talking to two different 'audiences': those who are working here and 'customers' who use this transport system - at this stage of the renovation the latter usage (eg: the platform indicators) is somewhat provisional   

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

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LEWISHAM HOSPITAL  PHYSIOTHERAPY ENTRY & STAIR LANDING - NOTICES, PICTURE & ETC.
(pic 2-01-2018)  ... in process

On one level, that of their separate conceptual identities, these objects are a chance agglomeration; however on a more inclusive level, they may constitute a group of (possibly separate) initiatives related within a concept of administering a sense of health and its practical needs. For instance, perhaps the picture that faces one as one mounts to the entry-doors of the Physiotherapy domain - which depicts an arch into an exquisite 'garden of promise', with expectantly waiting chairs and table, rendered in a visual style that has become a kitsch mnemonic for arcadian delight - is considered an anxiety-placebo, a reward for the patient's therapeutic work, a place of earned rest!  The fact that this 'idyllic' picture surmounts an "exitMASTER EVACUATION CHAIR" (a bagged couple of overpriced steel invalid-chair extension-handles to assist an emergency evacuation via stairs) is almost certainly non-significant expediency.

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"APPARITION" - STRAND, (ALDWYCH), LONDON, WC2
(pic 16-01-2018)  
... in process

On our streets: a monument to chance intervention. 

A sudden and temporary event: the apparition of an announcement. Because it is an intrusion into an established place/order, a potential scatterer and disrupter of normal habits, it needs limitation ... fencing-in to protect and signal that it is a sudden and unexpected disruption into our otherwise ubiquitous and submersive space.
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"APPARITION" - STRAND, (ALDWYCH), LONDON, WC2
(pic 16-01-2018) 
... in process

Facing the traffic flow its primary purpose is revealed: this unforeseen ensemble warns of an unforeseen event.

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


Design conflict resulting from interventions by 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 design ... 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 (heritage-listed 1950s) skirting, socketed to an extension-lead that lies loose along the floor, until suddenly hitched up and stapled to the (heritage-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'.)

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

 

FAKE 'HALF-TIMBERED' HOUSES - DULWICH VILLAGE, LONDON
(pic 03-05-2007)  
... in process

A narrow example of 'design-indeterminacy'. A structurally incomprehensible muddle of lines are applied to the facade in positions that seem to attempt a solution to the following absurd problem: 'Cover this non-symmetrical polygon with a drawing of straight lines which exhibit a minimum of visually-rational connections with each other and their supporting shape'!  [Ref: real half-timbered houses]  
  

   

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

A 'design' which displays a similar 'mind-set' to the two following examples: indeterminacy.

Because our culture offers no basic rational/sensational training in how to experience, invoke and satisfy levels of human need beyond physical necessities and commercially endorsed products and 'styles', 'the aesthetic function' is associated with 'exclusive' products and almost completely isolated as a aspect of 'luxury'. For the majority this leaves tradition and 'tried and tested' craft habits - for the designer/builder a distillate of easiest, and in this regressive design-culture, most available methods and solutions. Thus guided, the 'design process' is often reduced to simple indecisiveness, and 'decisions' based on "its a toss-up" are as near to intention as can be achieved. At every level of its materialisation such an object accumulates provisionality and becomes more 'expensive' to change.
Finally, defining such a work as 'finished' consists of choosing among a list of manufactured (and thus mass-taste endorsed) adornment details which, because they are applied to its external surfaces and thus suggest 'finishing touches' (the 'light in the eye' of the portrait) they serve to signal the building's completion. 

Instead of a design-summation there is a sideways substitute that this type of 'designer' often resorts to. To disguise and distract-from the incompleteness and visual indeterminacy 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' that allude to 'better times' and wealthy taste) are applied to the relatively unresolved carcass: eg the ingratiating 'projecting-itself-towards-us' of the cutely tile-roofed entry*; the 'quaint' scallop-edged leading of the as if 'stuck-on' bay-window; the fanlights' stained-glass motifs; a classically styled house-number; 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 these tickling the vaguely vacillating background stylings of the whole re-modelled building.

Due to this 'designer's' unconsciously expressed and monotonously ordinary ignorance, the working norm is one of 'muddling along' and (beyond basic practical needs) chance is not resolved but held in approximate check by craft-methods and habits that "usually work well enough". The shabby results of this are so prevalent in this culture as to almost constitute a 'style', which may even seem 'comforting', typically 'British', cozily undemanding, 'non-snobby'. 

* NOTE: 

A feature that seems so pointless (and expensive) as to give an impression of fudging some mis-measured interior necessity (staircase?).
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LITTER IN YARD BESIDE COUNCIL FLATS - SHOREDITCH, LONDON
(paste-up 2-pics 30-01-2011) 

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 [refer to next pic]. There is no coherence imposed by practical use or need for storage, except to place them near the wall to maintain access (this is seemingly an unclaimed piece of yard). They are consigned to the margin of noticability, 'dumped' but not thrown-away (ie: victims of 'too-lazy-to-dispose-of' and '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' - a vacillating compromise between intentions: present, potential, evoked [1].

NOTE :
1: Tools and materials in use for practical tasks are automatically placed in a visible pattern that is as nearly as possible determined by the brain-body's performed and envisaged movements, the disposition of its in-process work, the accommodation of its location's other uses - the whole situation's necessary ergonomics. Such an ordered pattern of tools and materials will be as nearly 'natural' as human-originated tools, materials, needs can allow [eg: Silo - Bart's music studio]

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"PARK REGIS" HOTEL HALLWAY - 160 BROAD ST., BIRMINGHAM
(pic 19-08-2017)
 

The degree of inconsequence/the latitude of 'chance' in the assembling of this line-up of objects is somewhat less than the last example because their presence is at least driven by a desire to illustrate a meaning - however, the similar underlying sense of positional vacillation results from insufficient definition of this desired meaning.


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 invented this object-
charade and the person who placed them there had no real guiding sense of a particular and substantial need for them - of objects and positions that would invite and evoke actual usage. Because the mix of 'leisure' and 'waiting' was never substantially defined, the person whose job was to position these physical (and thus inherently positionally-absolute objects), had to place and group them with a spurious definiteness - affording the display a scenery-like irreality of practical significations. Because they arranged them 'from the outside' like an 'illustration' of a meaning, not 'from the inside' from a visualisation of personally using them, they convey the apparently strict order, yet in fact vacillating indecision, of a 'list without a unity of subject'.
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.Ref: Half-timbered-houses

"MAXX MARKETING EUROPE LTD" (MARKETING AGENCY), 185 PARK ST., LONDON, SE1
(pic 25-07-2017) 
....in process

A human-originated chaos which was presumably intended to appear 'carefully designed' - however incompetence rules and the actual result is clueless, petty and coy - indeed It has an ironic air as if its initiator secretly suspected this was its effect, and resorted to "well, its better than nothing!".

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IMPROVISATION & COULDN'T-CARE-LESS DESIGN EVOKES UNFORESEEN BEAUTY & UN-THEMED DRAMA :   ... in process

#  

 

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, was completely unpredicted.

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STORE - STRAND, (ALDWYCH), LONDON, WC2
(pic 20-01-2018)

On our streets: at once a monument to chance and the beauty of pragmatic order. 

Their beauty issues from the conjunctions of types of objects whose combined forms are sufficiently unusual to leave the field of imagination open.
Our visionary mental forming is not contradicted or 'improved' by the (usually trite) subject-ideas of intentional designers/sculptors. The considerations of their makers are merely immediate practical requirements: economy of temporary-space-use, access, stacking, etc. There is no attempt here to achieve a 'presence'; an eye-catching spectacle, subject significance, aesthetic satisfaction, admirable craft - they are made without awareness of these effusions of 'Art' - practicality initiates their being and their formations, and in regard to such artistic qualities they display nothing but perfection. 

Consequently for us - the street wanderers - the innate excitement of the unfamiliar; the attention and decisions manifested via the arranging of these unexpected and for us meaningless assemblages, are available freely - without any expense of our interpretation and admiration ... profound (limitless in depth) free-gifts among the ads and destinations that incite social/cultural desires and obligations.
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"BUSKERS" - STRAND, (ALDWYCH), LONDON, WC2
(pic 16-01-2018) 


A complex little pavement chance drama:

By its membership of this dramatic medley of meaning-mangled objects, the kitsch lamp-post (intended to impressively posture) discards its pompous presence and becomes simply another street-actor as it joins the bent and warning-spangled telephone-box in a 'dance of decor'. The carefully placed dumped-chairs (coincidentally flashing the red of a passing bus) exude 'intention', perhaps advertising that the two 'silly' principal performers (their compatibility confirmed by tidily-dumped rubbish shared between them) are inviting humans to participate in their charade.  
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LITTER DUMP & WIND - ENTRY TO "WINTERSLOW HOUSE", FLAXMAN RD (CNR OF LILFORD RD), LONDON, SE5
(pic 13-04-2014)  ... in process

A dump with one component moving - the dump changes shape as wind unpredictably kicks and  rotates its kite-like open box
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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, conjunctions and relatings that may espouse chance significations, there is potential for a brain wired to deduce meanings and identities and 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
accommodation 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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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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LETTERS & VISITOR - GRAAN-SILO SQUAT, ENTRY HALL - AMSTERDAM

(pic 09-1994)

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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BUILDING-SITE-ENTRY HOARDING WITH MIRROR - HANWAY ST., LONDON, W1
(pic 24-03-2014) 
... in process

A game with users of the alley: a random-person trap - be caught and judged as to how unreal you are!

Which one is more real ?  Because he is 'on the outside' - on my side, the man in builder-uniform seems more in my world, more 'real' than the woman inside the mirror 

(her realness is eclipsed by the painted figure, its pointing finger and the mirror)
(not as it were ' behind glass') 

 

LEWISHAM HOSPITAL RADIOLOGY WAITING ROOM - PAINTING REPRODUCTIONS, INDICATORS, ETC
(pic 2-01-2018)  ... in process

This is part of the end-wall of a chair filled Radiology waiting room. The categories of objects clustered on and against this wall have almost no orderly (visual/practical) relationship with each other, they thus  inevitably and vicariously embody//constitute alternative//unintended 'chance-selected' significations, which are latent in the muddle of types, functions, positions. The ensemble constitutes about a dozen separate things with about a half-dozen separate functions, of these functions two seemed to me - sitting there waiting, my fantasy machine idly playing the game of relational-meanings - especially meaningfully related. The objects in the room most alien to its primary purpose (waiting for a diagnostic x-ray) seemed to me to be the repro-paintings (offered as palliatives to fear and boredom, as assurances of a culturally rich life beyond the paucity of the present, and as a type of 'relic'/'fetish': a promise of expressive freedom garnered from the outside social world ... all set against the experience of bodily confinement and fear of technological subjection)Their layout suggested a competition (perhaps for popularity) between the two paintings: a 15thC Jan Van Eyck portrait and a 20thC Rothko, hung each side (a matter of simple convenience not meaning) of a vertical-separator: a cable-run that powers and informs the two appointment-indicators above. In my fantasy these indicators referred to the pictures, seeming to show an 'audience-approval-score' indicating that the Van Eyck is at least x10 more popular than the Rothko (I'm guessing this chance ratio is feasible and if so, at this time, these indicators could indeed denote two completely unrelated meanings! This is the entrance to a dream).

[Ref: the paintings: Van Eyck + Rothko]

.hosp-wall

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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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.

omelet

'PHANTOM' - PACKAGING-DUMP - STAFFORD STREET, LONDON, W1
(pic 27-07-2015)

An early evening (4:16pm) office clear-out awaiting a recycling collection.

A monumental pile that, for me, acts as a 'low-intensity' phantasmagoric-inducer (probably triggered by an image of some huge enthroned man/statue/alien/etal in a movie) thus presumably its phantasm is  both weak in precision and a minority experience.
The intensity of this mind><thing junction is not so experientially overwhelming as the next example - it left lots of room for 'common-sense'.

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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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'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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THE REVERSED GRAVE - CAMBERWELL NEW CEMETERY, HONOR OAK PARK, LONDON, SE23
(pic 26-12-2017)

Along the cemetery's west boundary the graves sometimes have 'memorial' benches in the only left-over space available: behind their head-stones. The placing of the benches: facing the blank-backs of the graves' memorial stones, seem to be - according to conventional expectations - in a position of 'minimal-involvement-with-the-dead-loved-ones'.

In the above picture I am sitting on one such bench looking beyond the edges of its black marble slab at the rest of the cemetery. However the slab hinders my view, and suddenly it affords a surprising experience: I find myself facing my own reflection, dimly glimpsed - the exposed flesh-parts, hands and face, more reflective and thus visible in a dark cave-like space inside the black stone, as if an unreachable 'passed-over' image of myself, a premonition that at least part of oneself has already joined the dead. On this monument's unacknowledged, out-of-common-sight, 'subjective' rear face, is a far and away more evocative and living image of the factuality yet unreachability of the dead than the clichéd presentations on its front 'external' 'public' face. What chance of discovering a meaning so apposite that it seems as though designed!

How ironic that the cemetery is unable to present any experience pertaining to death/personal-disappearance more objective than clichés, except via a chance insertion (of a bench) that facilitated a behaviour that, in this kitsch environmental context, spontaneously mediated a real un-preconceived conceptual ('poetic') experience pertaining to death (and that the means of this discovered experience has been threatened with removal by the Council via an irrational bureaucratic fiat!).
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STRUGGLE AGAINST CHAOS - ADDING ORDER AGAINST ADVANCING CHAOS - MEANING & AMBIGUITY - PINNING DOWN CHANCE/DOUBT :   ... in process

1: Categories of signs: Abstract instructions (eg arrows) / Abstracted 'signals' (eg: letters) / Pictured instructions - the problem of attribute-selection/simplification.  2: random meanings disorganise or deflect signed intention (Cafe WC) /  3: Unintended/unnoticed ambiguity (Hoverspeed ad) /  4: attempts to signify the most complex object with the most simple medium//means /  5: attempts to maintain order//intended-function against inevitable degenerating chaos - 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). 

 

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 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.

 

  ...

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

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' !

 

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)
  

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

The still living has one chance to learn the craft of drawing with a bottom-pouring pot of ash - to depict a whole person who has gone - before the small supply of drawing-medium (a grey coarsely-ground dust) runs out. 

Emptying the ash-pot is an awkward act, interfered with by three main emotions: grief, confusion, memorialization (how to literally mark a missing person's significance). Suddenly confronted with the necessity to empty this pot (having outfaced the huge space of the featureless grass field and decided  - with little help from any seemingly significant differentiation of its surface[1] - on which spot[2] one should conjure their memorial), one triggers the pot and immediately it begins to pour out and make a mark and one panics: it is imperative to choose what shape this beginning-mark should be persuaded to become, what 'drawing' is suitable for this unique person that is now nothing but immemorial dust. One must find at least a sign, a mnemonic for their reality in ones mind. That is one's only resource and, if one fails in this unique act, as one almost must; loses the opportunity 'to time', just as 'in time' one has lost the person - then one has just also lived a little of ones own death. 

The medium is used and gone, mixed with the grass, its too late to retrieve this stuff that is now the person who was loved and known - a chaotic smudge or simple mark is all one made with them (bacterial mat or worm) - this exterior place in which we shared living rejects any simulacrum of an object so complex and complete as a friend. 


The picture above seems to illustrate an emptying of an 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. Chance is the ruler here: the life was a chance-choice in time; the making of the sign that sums the lost is usually (unless discovered in the constituents of the moment by an artist) simply a memorial to chaotic chance.

NOTES:

1: maybe the above case was vaguely primrose-queued? and the one in the next pic helped by daffodils?
2: inevitably approximate - but memorialisation requires decisive visual precision and thus it is already compromised !
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BODY-ASH 'DRAWING' - HITHER GREEN CREMATORIUM LAWN, VERDANT LANE, LONDON, SE6
(pic 09-03-2014)

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 !?)

YARD FENCE & HOUSE NUMBERS - LONDON, SE23
(pic 24-07-2014) 

Accumulating order against naturally increasing chaos.


The decay of the fence timbers by natural shrinkage and rot has been countered by adding wood-pieces in vaguely structural positions to conserve functionality and delay collapse. The adjacent door exhibits an analogous problem, countered by an enlarging struggle against persistent number-blindness. 
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YARD FENCE WRECKED - LONDON, SE23
(pic 26-10-2017)
 ... in process

Trying to preserve order and conserve functionality against the inexorable progress of dissolution by adding props and repairs is only provisionally successful and in this case (discovered three years later) the process has been suddenly terminated by what may be an unrelated 'chance' occurrence: a final destruction perhaps unconnected to the incremental efforts to preserve - an accident or deliberate act possibly originating from a totally arbitrary 'direction' - the neighbor's wall is semi-destroyed and the fence seems to have been burnt.
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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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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 and separately aesthetic and practical. 

As completely as its practical role allows, each unit-part retains its characteristic 'being-type'. The whole object - its ensemble of parts - thus conveys a 'throw-away' casualness. It's as if its parts have met by chance - a joking presentation of a result of hybridising kitsch (useless//sloppy pretentiousness) and rationality. As to 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 a cheap industrial product.
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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

The junction-dissonances of the laminate's pattern are, in terms of 'efficient tailoring' (a relating of two otherwise separate continuities: the cloth's pattern and the garment's form) completely ignored - this results in a perceptual conflict of the 6(?) flat sides of the simple cubic box. The laminate's pattern is also acutely dissonanced by perspective x its diagonal orientation, ones knowledge that the surfaces share the same pattern sets ones brain searching for sensory confirmation, this however focuses attention via vision and thus simultaneously enhances their anomalous visual differences! - the result is a condition of perceptual conflict (atavistically explained as 'magic'!).
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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