Archive for November, 2011

22nd April 2008



Gothic condition


I saw mankind with vice incrusted;

I saw that Honour’s sword was rusted;

That few for aught but folly lusted;

That he was still deceiv’d, who trusted in love or friend;

And hither came, with men disgusted, my life to end.

Matthew Lewis The Monk



Life is like the Titanic and the only thing the [psycho]analyst can do is arrange the deck chairs to get a better view of the iceberg.

Elio Frattarolli

Ariadne’s Violin String


(Photography by Allen Shaw, courtesy of the Tramway)


We, Theseus – the audience – entrusted ourselves to the string that would lead us deep into the labyrinthine passages of the performance. The murmurs of the percussive Minotaur gradually growing ever stronger, we were assured by that sustaining string which would lead us out again. The deeper we ventured into the darkness of this maze and toward the chaotic rumble, the surer we had to be of finding our way out. The distant clattering cajoled, even as the reassuringly persistent purring of that bowed string entwined itself around the topography of our minds. Dreamlike and mesmerising, it was only when we reached the inky-black cavern that we realised that there was no monster there, to be slain: the drumming belonged, instead, to Dionysus – his violent coaxing persuading Ariadne, herself, to draw near.


The radically-experimental violinist, Tony Conrad, performed with Fritz Welch in Glasgow on 25th October 2011. The event was organised by the Tramway, and hosted in the intimate setting of former classrooms in Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Scotland Street School. In their programme notes, the Tramway describe Tony Conrad thus:

Tony Conrad (b.1940) is one of the most compelling figures in 20th century music, a profoundly influential composer whose radical styles defy textbook definitions and challenge accepted notions of the minimalist canon.

At the core of Conrad’s legend is his work as a violinist, in which primal, enveloping drones create an oscillating ritual theatre.

questioning the pursuit of new forms


Kazimir Malevich, Suprematist Painting (White on White), 1918

The question here is what exactly is the creation of new forms… We have to be precise about the question of new forms in themselves. What is the creation of new forms? I hint that, in fact, there is never exactly pure creation of new forms. I think it’s a dream, like totalization, pure creation of absolute new forms. In fact, there is always something like a passage of something which is not exactly a form to something that is a form, and I argue that we have something like impurity of forms, or impure forms, and purification. So, in art there is not exactly pure creation of forms, God created the world, if you want, but there is something like progressive purification, and complexification of forms in sequence. Two examples if you wish. When Malevich paints the famous white on white, the white square on white square. Is that the creation of something? In one sense yes, but in fact, it’s the complete purification of the problem of the relation between shape and colour. In fact, the problem of the relation between shape and colour is an old one with a long story and in Malevich’s white square on white square, we have an ultimate purification of the story of the problem and also it’s a creation, but it’s also an end, because after the white square on white square there is, in one sense, nothing, we cannot continue. So we have a complete purification and after Malevich all correlation between shape and colour looks old, or impure, but it’s also the end of the question, and we have to begin with something else. We may say that with artistic creation, it’s not exactly the pure creation of new forms, something like the process of purification with beginnings and with ends too. So, we have sequences of purification, much more than pure rupture of pure creation.

Alain Badiou, Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art

a comparative study of La Tourette & St Benedictusberg


Abdij St Benedictusberg, Vaals, by Dom Hans van der Laan

The following excerpts are from a paper written in 1987 by Professor Ivor Prinsloo on the occasion of the Centenary of Le Corbusier’s birth. He wished to show ‘the rich and complex inter-relationships between his concern with, and design of … the Dominican Monastery Sainte-Marie de la Tourette at Eveux-sur-Arbrestle, and that of another designer of genius and ineffable wisdom, the Benedictine monk and architect, Father Hans van der Laan and his project, the Abbey of St Benedictusberg near Vaals, Holland.’

Prinsloo makes clear the comparisons between the architects – both interested (divergently) in the monastic ideal; both holding Le Thoronet in high esteem; both fascinated by proportion systems (albeit Van der Laan dismissive of Corbusier’s Modulor). Thereafter, Prinsloo makes a more detailed analysis of both architects’ theories, methodology and buildings separately, before bringing the pair back to comparison in his concluding paragraphs:

… the actions of two architects both perfectly in control of their work, both masters of their craft. Le Corbusier who, in his tragic definition of himself and his architecture, saw monastic life as a model for both, and Dom van der Laan, who simply is a monk. The one, the personification of the artist in the modern world; the other insisting that his is simply part of a shared experience accessible to all. Their buildings … La Tourette and St Benedictusberg, are both founded on precedent and explicit paradigms, and both seek to imbue meaning through measure and proportion.

La Tourette reaches a level of charged poetry, replete with puns and allusions, that grows out of a conflictual – almost dialectical – strategy of design. La Tourette stands awkwardly and heroically apart from nature … In this sense, it is a ‘modern’ building. It speaks of alienation and anomie, but it also speaks of resolution and accommodation.

St Benedictusberg is supremely reconciled with life; there is the sense that it is an extension of a natural and established order. It is movingly confident and secure, and communicates this to any visitor without any recourse to historic or esoteric allusion…

St Benedictusberg secures its timelessness by its very clarity; if La Tourette speaks of charged poetry, St Benedictusberg speaks of superb prose…

Ivor Prinsloo Homage to Genius and Wisdom: Le Corbusier and Dom Hans van der Laan