off to berlin for a microvacation. new post next friday.



i don't know
if it's the news
about foreclosures
and airplanes exploding
on runways in madrid,
or if it's just
all this stravinsky i've been
listening to
doing shitty text corrections,
but i'm feeling terribly shaky.


loos note

"a work of art is brought into the world without there being a need for it, a house meets a need. a work of art has no responsibility to anyone, a house to everyone. the aim of a work of art is to make us feel uncomfortable, a house is there for comfort. a work of art is revolutionary, a house conservative. a work of art is concerned with the future and directs us along new paths, a house is concerned with the present. we love anything that adds to our comfort, we hate anything that tries to pester us into abandoning our established and secure positions. we love houses and hate art. so a house has nothing to do with art and architecture is not one of the arts? that is so..."

adolf loos, architecture


introduction to dodospace

the word dodo comes either from the portuguese doudo or doido (stupid) or from the dutch doodaarsen(fat-arse). the dodo was a large non-flying bird native to the isle of mauritiana, famously exterminated by human senselessness. It was also known as walghvogel (disgusting bird) , for its unpleasantly tasting meat. a queer, unattractive and relatively unaggressive specimen that had adjusted to a detached environment, the dodo was only dominant because it remained secluded and free from menace. the arrival of foreign colonial exploiters, pigs and other prowlers sealed the fate of this lowlife yet innocuous creature. before the dodo disappeared, a few live specimens were taken to fairs and colonial shows, but the bird never generated much interest, and its ugliness prevented it from being collected and bred like other more attractive exotic creatures— the peacock, for example—. very few people had actually seen or known about the bird, to the point that it came to be considered a mythological creature. around the nineteenth century, two events brought the dodo back to human conscience: the discovery of a fossilized dodo skeleton and lewis carroll’s self-portrayal as a dodo in his alice tales.

as the name implies, dodospace is extinct: a space that has disappeared and left little evidence of its former existence. even in the likely case of remaining fragments—a familiar detail feature, a hint of the former structure, a trace of paint—dodospace only survives in recollection. thus, it is deformed; renditions of it are usually (helplessly) inaccurate, clouded by nostalgic—or even mythical— delusion. dodospace is what is left of the useless architectures isolated from chronic, accelerated change in a city. dodospace is like the lingering after the clearing of crash sites, those sudden, violent standstills.

what is the use of dodospace? before it actually disappeared, dodospace did have a function, albeit a marginal one. nonetheless, this minor role was deemed unimportant—occasionally dangerous, or at least uncomfortable—and the space was therefore ruthlessly and carelessly erased. dodospace was once a place for outcasts and odd types: unproductive twelve o’clock drunkards and hookers switching shifts, petty thieves and pushers, queers out to mingle, class clashes and infrasocial frottage.


loosing my ballardian virginity (part two)

i felt like an atheist touring a church, like a skeptic lured by an outlandish cult, on verge of giving in. ballard’s work, his style, his writing, his contributions themselves became irrelevant. it was his obsessions, his morbid lucidity, his flair for shocking and rocking that were on display. the autopsy show is a lesson in fetishism –the author as a substitute pop totem.

the show turned to showmanship in the “pornography and technology” room, which very much looked like a crossbred between bride of frankenstein and a cheap xxx film with a visit to the dentist theme. you had these creepy operation tables with pictures of car-wrecks. you had cronenberg’s crash playing. you had a letter report about wanting to fuck ronald reagan. you had joy-of-(twisted)-sex-style documentaries from the seventies, and a huge video pastiche of clinical, endoscopic porn.

i moved on from the awkward and fleshy to the cold, pasteurized “asepsis and neobarbarism” section. here the layout was more basic: a couple of digital signs hanging from the roof, again, with fragments of text that, unless you’d actually read whatever book they were from, one couldn’t really make sense out of. then four or five screens showing the shoddy 3D promos for hypothetic luxury developments that have become the staple of post-dubai urban marketing. “only injections of violence can disrupt the lethargy and make a new utopia possible,” read the little tag for the room. but isn’t that what all these new developments are about, spoonfuls of sugared violence? isn’t dystopia the new utopia?

the last part of the exhibition is a series of rooms that basically amount to the church of jgb. first off, a “reading room,” or all you can eat buffet, with a neat encased row of first editions—like the plastic foodclones on display in low-grade japanese restaurants—dominating the tables stashed with library copies that visitors can flip through. even though this was the perfect chance for me to at least read a paragraph of ballard, i avoided the books and just kept moving. i really like the idea of reading rooms in exhibitions, but not once have i seen anyone actually taking the time to sit down and read anything. let alone a novel.

the ballardly altar room was my favorite of them all. it was presided over by a fragment of the unlimited dream company, a 1983 film by sam scoggings, were ballard is asaulted with 90 two-second questions from eyckman’s personality quotient. do you enjoy meeting new people? are your feelings easily hurt? do you often feel fed up? do you enjoy hurting the people you love? would you call yourself a nervous person? Are you a warrior? do you worry about awful things that might happen? do people who drive carefully annoy you? as the postmodern inquisitional trial unfolds, the camera zooms into ballard, till you can see the sweat on his forehead and his eye looks like a fly trapped in a jar. in the context of the exhibition, the film feels like a contemporary relic of sorts, digital cartilage stripped from the ominous saint.

the show closes with visual epistles of ballardian apostles. a full iconography can be drawn from the black and white pictures of ana barrado, or from the barrage of michel lord’s future ruins series. the preaching of the word is present in the bits of ballardian techno-following (the ballardian blog, jgb groupie homevideos playing on cellphones).

the autopsy reveals the voice of this man that lives in a world that can’t believe anymore, but doesn’t know how to stop believing.


loosing my ballardian virginity (part one)

having never opened a j.g. ballard book in my life, it seems terribly inadequate that i cover and review the very first exhibition dedicated exclusively to his life and work. still, adequacy has never been my forte, and after being seduced by the show’s promotional poster planted right in front of the door to my building—“crec en res,” it read, I believe in nothing—i decided to go to the cccb and see what all the fuss was about.

upon entering the exhibition, i found myself sucked into this darkened, blue neon nothing. it was a little disorienting. there was probably an opening statement and bio pasted on the wall, but i skipped it and decided to make my first time as visceral and uninformed as possible. after a boring strand of interviews with writers on the subject of ballard, and a terribly anticlimatic “conceptual” “videoart” piece (very barcelona. if there is one thing i hate about the culture scene here is that it's overstuffed and heavily subsidized, meaning that practically anyone with decent connections and a catalan pedigree can show his or her crap in even the more established museums and galleries.) the show actually began setting its pace.

a striking ballardian background room featured a caged “inside” collection of mementos and minute watercolors of the lunghua internment camp where ballard and his family were detained during ww2. at the end of the room ran a projection of the bbc documentary home, where ballard return to the camp in the early 2000s. on the “outside” half of the room, behind a wooden pallet divisory wall, are eerie black and white snapshots of wartime shanghai. the overall effect of the room is subtle and shattering, a very effective way of exposing the roots of ballardian spirit.

soon enough, it struck me i really wasn’t as ballardly vestal as i thought. even though i’ve never had a go at j.g. himself—i’m still not sure why—i realized that a certain ballardian sensibility had penetrated my development early on, that it was very much a part of my pop upbringing. from the re-run of the empire of the sun movie—which impressed me as a kid, and might have led to some preemptive crush on christian bale—to the melted cheese aesthetics of stop-motion sci-fi and illustrated pulp, i began to fathom the idea of a non-ballard-reading ballardian…

to be continued


liveability: pretty but bland

i won’t judge monocle on a design basis or as an editorial project; this has been brought up elsewhere. i'm only concerned with monocle’s pretenses at having a say in what cities should be, do and aspire to. who does mr. brulé think he is, playing urban consigliere?

most likely, it comes natural to him, considering he sees urban problems and opportunities being a question of image, cities as subjects of prospective makeovers. a teacher of mine once said that to know the work, the first thing you need is at least some faint notion of the person behind it. according to the wikipedia entry that he himself must have written or commissioned, brulé is the product of a superstar football playing father and an artist mother, your typical class of 1960-something yearbook dream couple: pretty, ambitious and a perfect fit for stereotypical molds. mr. brulé came to being in canada, which explains his fixation on worldliness (canadiannes has to be one of the blandest identities out their, together with austrailiannes). his hardy middle-class background would also account for his intensely aspirational, straight-to-the-neck competitiveness. add the fact that he’s gay and relatively goodlooking, and you have monocle. brulé and his products–like big-sister wallpaper*–have that nineties whiff of bland, numbing conspicuity and unrestraint. monocle reads like a douglas coupland case study, without the absurdity of it being intended.

likewise, the monocle strand of urban understanding is stuck in the past, stale and out of tone with reality. at this point, we should be over the idea of urbanism as product placement. in this sense, monocle is hyperconservative; brulé is a believer, a faithful of the status quo. just when you thought you had it bad with richard florida, there comes monocle with its top 25 list and its recipes for livability. (by the way, they actually interview richard florida).

the issue’s opening statement reads:

governments around the world are realizing that it’s no longer enough to be just a financial center, you also need to be a design capital, an ecological champion, a hub for knowledge and a magnet for creatives.

translating this from monclespeak, this means thriving on high-end retail, greenwashing, and an uncritically informed media-saavy culture industry out of adorno’s worst nightmare.

cities were put to the test in areas like criminality rates (murders and domestic break-ins), education, medical care, sunshine, tolerance (for some reason limited to acceptance of gay people), environment (bike routes and parks), with an added recommendation, or “moncle quick-fix” on specific issues: more shopping hours (zürich), more reasonably-priced lattés (helsinki), avoiding vespa-sized potholes on the roads (montréal), and countering bans on sunday alcohol-sales (minneapolis). with this type of detail how can one blame monocle for being superficial? it's obvious they’ve done their homework; the problem is the superficiality is embedded in their worldview.

it pervades the retro illustrations reminiscent of victor gruen urbanism that dot the issue. it runs through the soft porn-quality portraits and the foodporn and productporn and all sorts of porn and fetish that make up the graphic contents. it oozes from the crisp types and the subdued diagrams that dress this everlasting lovesong to global consumerism. monocle guards, flaunts, and counts on people feeling bad because they’re missing out as a way to praise–and hopefully sustain–a model with all its flaws and distortions.

monocle thrives on the clouding of success. according to the magazine, europe is this wonderful place where life is basically high-quality. nothing is mentioned about soaring unemployement, crippling salaries, inflation, the lethargic labor market, xenophobia, growing inequality, a much-battered aging population, etc. after a couple of years here I can confidently affirm that living in europe is no candy. true, you can be miserable in lovely parks, in the clean and functional metro, on your rental bike, watching government invest in publicity, reassuring you of how happy you should be to be here, because you won’t be mugged or have to deal with ugliness. not on the surface, at least.

the issue also saves a spot for “winning losers” (the city equivalent of sarah jessica parker’s louis vuitton rental bag carrying, diversity quota-filling assistant in the sex and the city movie): beirut, buenos aires, istanbul, etc. but again, more than presenting an alternative to the dominant, money-driven urban success stories of the top 25, these cities are portrayed as swanky but not-quite-there-or-quite-like-us-yet.

you do have to give the monocle team some credit for their efforts, specially comparing this cities issue to last year’s. possibly the most interesting section is the “global expert” brief interviews part. you can skip richard florida and ricky burdett (saying the same old thing they would anywhere else) and read some decent bits of thought from alain de botton on bad british planning, or jonathan raban on the gradual evanescence of diversity in cities. some of these people actually contradict the overall thread of reasoning behind monocle’s urban viewpoint. one of my favorites is–again–pedro reyes, replying bluntly to a question on livability: quality of life equals boredom.

it is difficult to imagine monocle ever proposing something that will challenge our understanding of cities and our daily lives. they’ll never change because their origin is fundamentally rotten. (profit-driven). cities are sustained on purpose and struggles for meaning and/or survival. comfort and prettiness aren’t enough of a purpose to endure the violent onslaught of everydayness.


coming soon

friday, august 8
tyler brlûlé, urban consigliere?
candyland embarks on its (belated) yearly monocle-urbanism-bashing spree.

monday, august 11
loosing my ballardian virginity
a visit to the autòpsia del nou mil·lenni (autopsy of the new millenium) show at the cccb.

wednesday, august 13
introduction to dodospace
ugly architecture, neglect, and urban extinction.



the heat and the recession have me down. posting will resume shortly.