Something bizarre. The more time I spend in Buenos Aires the more I learn about English pop culture….while my familiarity with Argentine history and politics remains motley. I only found out the name of the President last week and I know the name of one local musician (…..from the thirties). While this is not something to boast about, the reason is nonetheless intriguing - that Mauricio of m7red
is an encyclopaedic expert on all things British. The content of an average conversation ranges from Princess Diana to Brick Lane to James Stirling’s sexual orientation to chavs to the Sex Pistols, the Smiths and Bloc Party. He knows that The Queen drinks Glenfiddich Whiskey and that Richard Branson went across the Channel on some kind of hydro-automobile. And his email address is an homage to ‘Biffabacon’ - the victimised teenager from Newcastle of Viz
magazine. It lends a new dimension certainly to the on-going debate of whether Buenos Aires is a ‘European’ city.
When we are not discussing the intricacies of my homeland I am developing ad-hoc techniques in information overload management. A ‘flashflooding’
blog that we set up as a way to share information has morphed into a kind of open-ended ‘cyber-collaging’ experiment. Anything that is loosely connected to the phenomena of floods, complex organisations, games, co-operatives, protocols or logistics, is theoretically candidate for inclusion. What the blog is for is not very well-articulated - it has connections to the development of m7’s next iteration of the Flood! game, as well as material for a future book – but this ambiguity is turning out to be quite productive. The content and format is emerging without a described ‘plan’ and the exercise is guided by intuition as much as anything. Given a potentially endless stream of information, what material to process and how much of it? How to edit, transpose, copy/paste? What two or three themes, personalities or phenomena to wind together? How many links to follow, which fat reports to bother reading, which parts of dense books to dip into? When it goes too far in one direction (too many American academics profiled) it changes tack in another direction (translation of Spanish material about Argentine factory co-operatives currently). At risk of sounding completely abstract I feel like I am working out the river we might be on by developing a sense of where the banks are first!
An integral member of the experiment is Skype, the friendly internet software that sends links, observations and jokes between our neighbouring workspaces so that we don’t need to move - very 21st Century. I even introduced Robie to Mauricio on-line at a ‘Skype party’, complete with ‘emoticon’ pizza and cocktails! They talked about where they are from and what the weather is like, just like it might have been in ‘real life’!
I oscillate between peculiar on-line worlds like secondlife.com
and the incredible m7 library, which is bursting with philosophy, art, urban theory, political history, gay architecture zines and primary school textbooks on the military. Some of the most entertaining encounters have been with the seventies architecture magazines which are also a useful ‘eyeopener’ for me in terms of my research project. 'Invisible London’, for example, an issue of AD from 1972, is full of material from the original ‘participation’ debate.
There are a multitude of gems including a particularly acerbic writer by the name of Jeff Nuttall who picks apart the community theatre groups that ‘keep interrupting children’s games’
and the ‘let’s-for-gods-sake-give-decent-people-a-decent-environment’
brigade for their ‘lack of eroticism’
. There are also wonderful book reviews by Martin Pawley (still hovering around the UK architectural journalism scene today). Favouring a book by Robert Goodman entitled ‘After the Planners’ he quotes at length his attack on the ‘incestuous private language’
of architects which “encourages debate over the aesthetic appropriateness of a particular architectural project rather than questions about the political consequences”.
Read this book, he advises, because "most tragically it makes crystal clear the dimensions of the hideous Punch and Judy show that architectural practice has become in the hands of the technological state”.
Meanwhile a lengthy article on ‘Invisible London’ attempts to ‘make visible the invisible structure of the city’
in light of the fact that ‘the definitive attempt to treat the city as a physical thing is now quite discredited’.
It includes beautiful thumbnail maps of airport noise levels, possible bikeways, directions of waste disposal, the subterranean city, green space distribution and graphic interpretations by Archigram.
Notes from papers delivered at a Design Participation Conference in Manchester include one on “Value theory and User Participation”
which examines means of determining value in biological evolution, philosophy, economic theory, marketing research and psychology in order to help in the "direct specification of value which is the most coherent means of user participation in design”.
And last but certainly not least a writer by the name of Victor Papanek poses this rather ambitious question at the end of his article on the industrial design profession: “What is an ideal human social system?”
The answer apparently requires “an in-depth study of such diverse social organisations as American Plains Indians, the Mundugumor of the Lower Sepik River Basin, the Priest-cultures of the Inca, child-care in Periclean Greece, modern-day Sweden, the Catholic Church, the Loyalist Regime of Spain.
.(and many more)”!!
Most importantly, back in San Telmo I am re-housed! In a beautiful apartment, with beautiful artist housemates, Laura and Ignacio. A little blue bedroom in the rafters with a balcony overlooking the red kitchen…coloured glass, tall windows in the studio with shutters and a balcony overlooking the city, a cosy red sitting room, books and plants everywhere and a subtle smell of oil paint. And two crazy cats, Margot and Felipe. Ah, the joy of having a kitchen and somewhere ‘to come home to’!