Thursday, 27 January 2011

randomness (the third eye)

The TV set is talking to me - after a wicca-themed episode of the Simpsons last week, this week it was a CSI about vampires and werewolves. In the real world, Redditch council wants to take the unusual step of saving money by heating swimming pools by hooking them up to crematorium's incinerators. A local funeral director firm said they thought it "strange and eerie". Surely not. Compound Eye caught my eye and wishful thinking with the cover of Yesterday's Bright Future: Contemporary Concrete - A Failed Utopia. Likewise, Between Channels' bleakly atmospheric brutalist tour of Cumbernauld in photos from 1968. I want Peter Mendelsund's retro modernist redesign of Kafka books, with their mesmerising eye theme. Stephen T Asma thinks that the "four horsemen" of atheism need to look beyond western culture and even embrace the "wacky, superstitious, cloud-cuckoo land" of religion, focusing lots on the invisible spirit worlds of animism, the "Rodney Dangerfield of religion". The Los Angeles Times review a new biography of John Cage, and like them, I wish for a look back at his life that would use Cage's quote "The reality of our life is mystery"as a starting point. Current viewing: following up Evans-Pritchard and the Azande witchcraft and sorcery with a look back at an episode of Jonathan Miller's The Body In Question.


  1. Alas, my “Yesterday’s Bright Future” book cover is not from a real publication. Indeed, Globus Publications doesn’t exist, and came about because I really liked the ‘Globe’ custom shape in Photoshop.

    I have long been an admirer of ‘retro-municipal chic’ and contemporary concrete architecture, having several books on such subjects myself, and do indeed spend a lot of my time photographing [in]famous sites like Goswell Road, The Westway, The Barbican, The South Bank, The Brunswick Centre.

    It seemed to me that “Yesterday’s Bright Future”, in the 1950s, was very much one of futuristic concrete usage, new town precincts and domiciles that owed as much to engineering as design – machines for living in, and to post-war social experiments & the reshaping of a nation well used – after 6 years of war – to maximum economy for the greatest return.

    It also seemed to me that the idea was shortlived and never fully realized, that those buildings that went up quickly became oddments and eyesores rather than leading lights in a grand national vision, only to fall into disrepair, disuse and ultimate demolition.

    I love the architecture, I love the designs for living, but sadly I never got to experience them for myself. All I can do is gaze at such relics as do survive and wonder what it would have been like, living in a city in the sky, shopping in a pedestrianized retail ‘paradise’, strolling through the Festival of Britain’s glorious South Bank site in 1951…

    So, I decided to imagine what a book on such a subject might look like – if someone like PHAIDON had published it. I only wish someone like them would embrace such a book concept – it would certainly be amusing to me for an imagined book cover, talked about in inquisitive & longing tones on various design & hauntology blogs, to drive the creation of a tangeable, readable volume. I’d buy it!

  2. Thank you so much for going into so much depth about the idea of the book, and you've summed up plenty of what I think about the unfulfilled promise of the postwar utopian vision, something that I also think has specific meaning in different countries around the world. I'm constantly intrigued by the ideas of that dream, it's relative failure and unexpected effects (it's certainly one of the threads that drives this blogs) and it feels like there's so much more to discover about it worldwide. My "wishful thinking" was that Yesterday's Bright Future ideally would be a real book (actually ideally a global series), and hopefully at some stage some canny publisher will make that happen. The title and cover alone should be a winner, surely (it really does look and sound so fantastic). The interest in Frédéric Chaubin's Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed is a pretty hopeful start, but so too is the idea of an imaginary book that's so in demand people want it to be real!