The thoughts of Chairman Momus.
During “An Evening With Harvard Momoto” at London’s Cafe Oto on September 12th 2014 Momus will sing covers of Howard Devoto songs. Tickets here.
Here’s some transitional artwork relating to the MomusMcClymont Two album, released on May 27th.
The first thing that happened was that David McClymont suggested using a painting by the Scottish artist Jack Davidson. I really liked Davidson’s work (and feel I must have known him; he graduated from Gray’s School of Art in 1981, at the time I was in Aberdeen and visiting Gray’s regularly), but chose a pattern-like image which seemed to need a figure on it. So I experimented with dropping a silhouetted camel against it. Jack was fine with this, but I thought the result was only so-so. I wanted to commission someone to do a smudgy-inky camel rather than the clip-arty (and apparently three-legged!) one I had.
I went off on tour and temporarily forgot about the artwork. Then Belfast student Antonia Campbell, out of the blue and off her own bat, sent me this image, based on my Facebook avatar. I really liked its bold simplicity, and asked her to make an image of David as well.
This she did, based again on David’s Facebook avatar.
I then scrambled and remixed the images of Momus and McClymont, to make an image which said something like “we two are one”. Jack Davidson’s painting returned, now unsullied by clip art and adorning the CD disk.
Nice resonances emerge: my wiggy hair turns into a ginger moustache on the cover, and the motley mask Antonia has given David (based on a mask I wear sometimes on stage) rhymes visually with the angular patterns in Jack’s painting, which itself becomes a removable mask for the faces beneath.
I saw this book in a bookshop the other day. My interest was captured by the person shown in the cover illustration: someone earnest and glazed, androgynous and clownish.
In fact, the book is a selection of essays written by Matsuura Yataro, editor-in-chief of wholesome consumerist magazine Kurashi no techo ("Notebooks of Beautiful Life"). He’s made a sort of self-help book along the lines of “If only I’d known at 25 what I know now I’m in my 40s…”
Here are some of editor Matsuura’s tips, which seem mostly aimed at young women:
* Curiosity is something successful people all have in common. Ask yourself “why?” five times a day.
* List top tens: top ten people you want to see, favourite movies, places you want to go.
* Meet at least one new person every day. Go to coffee meetings, show up at parties, talk to the person next to you on the train.
* Try to make good on the promise you made yourself to read a certain book or see a certain film.
* Be enthusiastic in meetings; passion is effective.
* Imitate the best that has been thought and said. Copy, copy, copy!
* Study English for 30 minutes a day.
* Don’t say “Sorry!”, say “Thank you!”
To be perfectly honest I’m a bit disappointed by the wholesomeness of this advice. In the parallel world in which I don’t understand Japanese (in other words, the world in which I have no access to Google Translate, or perhaps only to Alta Vista Babelfish circa 2003), this is a Kafkaesque novel in which an earnest young woman called Akiko buys a self-help book and tries to put its advice into action, only to find herself drawn into the clutches of an evil industrial group founded by apocalyptic zealots.
These people—who use self-help questionnaires and anodyne tomes to recruit naive 25 year-olds in shopping centres—are plucking living hedgehogs in order to make a cheap and popular stiff-bristle scrubbing brush, sale of which will allow them to realise the large profits they need to buy enough carbolic soap to wedge under Japan and slide the nation out into the Pacific, away from China.
That’s just Chapter One, which is entitled “Tears of a Hedgehog”. I’m not sure what happens in Chapter Two, but it’s headed “A Quillion Reasons to Leave” and explains how Akiko’s nose first begins to glow red, and how she uses a model circus to train the hedgehogs for a daring mass breakout.
As Mr Matsuura says, asking “what if” is as important as asking “why”.
This is Enzo Mari, the brilliantly inflammable Italian designer, communist and puritan.
Perhaps you know his self-assembly furniture, his children’s books and wooden toy sets, his simple and honest drawings.
This is a “communist dining table” by Enzo Mari. It’s not really called that, but I like to think of it as the honest kind of table trade unionists or peasant farmers could sit around.
As Enzo Mari explains in this film, to serve capitalism as a designer is a fool’s errand. For instance, once Enzo Mari made a good sturdy sofa bed, easy to knock up and strong enough to withstand the most fervent copulation.
But, because Enzo Mari’s communist sofa bed was so much cheaper than all the others, capitalist furniture dealers refused to stock it. Negligible mark-up for them. Damage to the furniture market.
What’s more, this happened in 1968, just when students were revolting and it seemed, momentarily, as if we might soon all be sitting around communist dining tables, drinking good peasant wine and discussing Leonardo, volcanos, and apiculture.
Enzo Mari often seems to be related to Leonardo, as well as a long line of hardy peasant farmers living in simple alpine barns. When he talks, he implicitly connects himself both to the Renaissance masters and nature.
Tipping charismatic cigar ash into a simple yet vibrant orange ashtray probably made in 1970, Enzo Mari explains the different between “just” design and frippish formalism.
Form, says Enzo Mari, corresponds to the meaning of an object. The form of a volcano is always accurate: a volcano spits fire, there is lava, the lava moves in a certain way. And this is true for the form of a rock, a mountain or a tree. They cannot be any different.
This is delightful, but I profoundly disagree, as one might do sitting around a simple communist table, smoking and drinking good peasant wine. For me, form can always be different. I am not with Plato but with Darwin; if things are changing all the time, they can never have their “true” or “just” form. The only place where things have their true form is in language, which incarnates a platonic ideal. A tree only makes a good tree because we think of it as a tree; a tree makes a very poor volcano. And yet, from one volcano to the next, there’s enormous variety.
But now, sitting at our communist table (which he has hammered together himself, taking care not to injure his fingers, which he needs for cigar purposes) Enzo Mari is getting angry, something he does almost as well as Klaus Kinski. Formalism, he tells me, encrusts a form and overlays it with a different form, changing it and creating something different; it’s the overlaying of icons for the sake of variety, without any reference to history or any attempt to understand what you’re dealing with. In most cases, the essence becomes a confusing mess, created without logic.
Formalism, shouts Enzo Mari (who is kept alive, it seems, precisely by this incandescent rage), is embellishment which is absolutely ignorant and feeble. I do not mention Ettore Sottsass or Postmodernism to him, for fear that he will explode like a volcano. This wooden table is strong, but perhaps not strong enough to survive the rush of Enzo Mari’s scalding scorn.
Instead I compliment Enzo Mari (who is wearing a delightful green turtle-neck which makes him look like an alpine shepherd) on his phrase for the sort of formalism taught in today’s art schools: un pasticcio confuso. A pasticcio is a mess, a pie, a pasty, a patty, a jam, or a botch.
This talk is making me hungry. Soon Enzo Mari will serve dinner: rough bread, pea soup, and pears prepared with his bare hands.
The April Shinkenchiku is out, and as an Osakan I’m proud to say that our newly-opened Harukas building (Japan’s tallest occupied structure) features on its cover.
Inside, it’s also nice to see Shinkenchiku photographers doing what I did last year and heading to the zoo to depict Harukas apparently surrounded by exotic animals. But the 300m César Pelli tower just up the hill from my house isn’t my favourite part of the April Shinkenchiku. I prefer the cheaper, more modest structures inside the issue. Here are some of them.
This is a Shinagawa factory interior by iroirotoridori, who also designed the insides of the CCA in Kitakyushu.
This part of the factory looks exactly like the ground floor of my house: same door, same floor. So it’s exciting for me to imagine that I could build a similar shelving system out of wavy ply.
This is a slightly blurry picture of Veranda Office by Ito Akatsuki, Suma Kazukiyo and Bando Kousuke, three architects who relocated to a “depopulating mountain area”.
The trio tried to get back to simpler ways of constructing farm buildings, techniques prevalent before current standardised construction habits set in.
Another project reviving old construction techniques is this building made for the Setouchi Triennale. The Shiwaku Islands of the Inland Sea brought shipwrights in to make housing partly inspired by the need for reconstruction after the Tohoku earthquake.
I like how this structure can look like either a Tibetan hut or a Le Corbusier monastery, depending on how it’s photographed. You can see a short video about its construction here.
Finally, here’s the Mozilla Factory Space designed by Nosigner.
The floor is raised on pallets, allowing cables and other infrastructure to be rerouted and changed easily. This apparently meshes with Mozilla’s sense of itself as a company trying to undermine browser monopolists.
Mozilla is an open-source project, and they embrace open-source furniture like Espace Loggia’s downloadable office furniture. It’s only the plans you can download, of course, but send them to your 3D printer and Bob (or should we say Enzo Mari?) is your uncle!