The analogy the designer used for the pavilion was flowers. We were asked to see this beautiful, fine, fragile structure that sways gently in the wind as being like a flower - flowers in a light breeze. It is the 2015 MPavilion in Melbourne, designed by AL A, the studio of Amanda Levete, promoted as being 'the Stirling Prize winning architect' from Britain – see: http://www.mpavilion.org/ The botanical reference imbues the shelter with a radiant feeling that encompasses everything that flowers stand for. Little wonder that the idea is pushed, as it carries all of those rich, symbolic, sentimental understandings that the Victorians knew and loved as the language of flowers.
But as one looks at the structure, it is not flowers that come to mind. There is very little of the frail, flimsy delicacy of flowers, their supreme lightness and perfection in tiny things; their exquisite detailing; their colour; fragrance. Under the translucent sheltering panels held on fine stems, one thinks first of water lilies, not the flowers, but the leaves; how they spread on the surface of the water that, from below, filters light into the depths from which rise swaying stems.
Alas, in the MPavilion shelter, the 'leaves' are the translucent, glowing planes, so the analogy is weakened as one tries to force the match and adopt all of those qualities water lilies promote. The mystical images of Monet come to mind.
Yet there is something familiar here. What is it? One can sense it, feel it, even understand its order, but not comprehend it, or locate it in one's experience. The awareness cannot yet be expressed.
Ah, yes! Rotary flight - the patterns of spinning blades as captured by the camera; of helicopters and, it has to be the reference here, drones. Drones have multiple spinning blades that are articulated, arrayed with a precise geometry for their ordered flight. We have both in the MPavilion: the marks of the spin; and the rigour of the geometry. These are not the qualities of flowers that have a less explicit arrangement. The organisation of the structure, its solidity and firmness, has more to do with the forms of crystals than those of blossoms.
The translucent surfaces are patterned with radial lines that remind one of the blade image in stop-motion photography, as wheels look sometimes, but they are vertical. The blades of drones spin horizontally forming sets of circular planes. This is what we have here in the MPavilion, but many of them that are all precisely analogous with what we see, expressing the same order as used in the geometrical pattern of the structure that strengthens the shelter and articulates the radially patterned surfaces that all have intermeshing curved profiles matching the shape of multiple spin. The whole reading of the MPavilion can be neatly assembled to replicate the experience of an aggregation of puppet drones hovering, photographed with the blur of the blades making phantom surfaces that filter the light through the spinning motion captured by the lens.
Sadly, while the fit is good, perfect in nearly every way, the analogy is not as sweetly coy or exotic as that of flowers, which offers a rich romance in the stories they tell and the nostalgic magic they weave. Drones give a lazy, 'techy' nerd sense to the appearance. It may be an accurate parallel to the 'tech know-how' of the structure and its organisation, but it lacks the complex emotive qualities of blooms. Ms Levete must like her romance; or is it that the 'flower' reference is more uniquely multifarious, more smartly arty?
Sometimes we try just too hard in our attempts to be just too clever with our rationalisations: see – http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/swell-sculpture-festival-2015-art-of.html The sad thing is that these twee explanations are usually indulged in, rarely questioned. We stand there dreaming of the wonder of flowers as the architect would like us to, as we stare at drones silently hovering overhead.
23 November 2015
Does it matter? Reporting on the bad sex awards, The Guardian quotes Jonathan Beckman: “Flanagan swaddles the encounter in so many abstract nouns that the whole experience becomes very obscure and desexualised. The Murakami seems weirdly frictionless, an opportunity for metaphor-making above anything else.” - see: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/dec/03/ben-okri-wins-bad-sex-award-rocket-the-age-of-magic The drawing of analogies and the making of metaphors can completely change the perception of the experience. Yes, it does matter:
Richard Flanagan: “Hands found flesh;flesh, flesh. He felt the improbable weight of her eyelash with his own; he kissed the slight, rose-coloured trench that remained from her knicker elastic, running around her belly like the equator line circling the world.”
Haruki Maurkami: “Shiro's were small, but her nippples were as hard as tiny round pebbles. Their public hair was as wet as a rain forest. Their breath mingled with his, becoming one, like currents from far away, secretly overlapping at the dark bottom of the sea.”
Ben Okri: “When his hand brushed her nipple it tripped a switch and she came alight. He touched her belly and his hand seemed to burn through her. He lavished on her body indirect touches and bitter-sweet sensations flooded her brain. She became aware of places in her that could only have been concealed there by a god with a sense of humour.
Adrift on warm currents, no longer of this world, she became aware of him gliding into her. He loved her with a gentleness and strength, stroking her neck, praising her face with his hands, till she was broken up and began a slow rhythmic wail . . . The universe was in her and with each movement it unfolded to her. Somewhere in the night a stray rocket went off.”