Monday, October 4

"'Love → Building on Fire' is sometimes represented on the internet using the title 'Love Goes To Building on Fire.'"

I'm not one of those perpetually slender design / architecture people with inexplicably overpriced eyeglasses who knows about buildings. A cornice might be a small chicken.  I nod when people refer to soffits while I am frantically building a vague formless concept that they are some ... thing ... that might be up in a corner. That's about all I've got. I may know the names of three architects. No wait - four, since a new friend is the grand-daughter of one. I made note of his name in case I get to pretend I know about him in future conversations.

But I was compelled to watch Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman because I secretly wanted it to help me figure out why I like those modern houses. You know the ones. The concrete slabs, floor-to-vaulted-ceiling windows, gaping spaces, the vague formless owners, always off camera, who seem to survive on a great view and little more - people who somehow have so much money that they don't seem to need anything.  I want to mock them but also I am sucked in, maybe by the myth of a neat simple life or mind or as someone in the movie said, by the idea of a "private utopia."  I could fall for that for a long time. 

"Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"  Well yes, a few times a day, but I'm sort of used to it. I just don't trust vague formless desires that I coincidentally share with so many other people I don't know. Heck, I don't even like some of them. I don't believe there is magic behind it. I don't think we share collective unconscious desires as much as we all grew up looking at the same pictures in the same magazines at the dentist's office and as it turns out Julius Shulman probably took those pictures. So maybe what we really liked was the photography of Julius Shulman. And I do. But those houses ...

There were a few other simple clues that helped me piece this together. The movie talked about how these architects worked. They used existing landscapes and incorporated the houses into the hills, the rocks, the desert, so that they were a part of their surroundings. They used readily available affordable materials and worked with them in inventive ways. Hey, I do that too! Okay, so that connection makes sense. Also, I am easily overwhelmed. I like things that are neat and simple because they help calm my brain. I like details to have a purpose. Ornament wears me out.  So add that to the list.

It's not that I feel like I have to pick desire apart until it bends to my logic and begs for mercy. But I do think that as someone raised in an unprecedented land of consumer whoredom I can be served by tracing my desires back to basics. Or at least I can try. There is value in peeling through the layers of memories and magazines to the simple act of naming what it is I like and why I like it.

Right now this liking is part of a bigger thing I'm working on. I can only sum it up as:  I like spaces and I think about them a lot. I could draw you a map of the street fair I went to yesterday, or the machine shop my father owned when I was a kid, with its paneling and secretaries' desks, drafting tables and Royal Palm soda machine in back of the loud floor full of machinists and their machines. Are you like that too? I don't think everyone is. (And at this moment I'm trying not to mention that my spouse can't find his way out of the mall.) Thinking about spaces helps me locate myself in the world and hold my self together at the same time it connects me to the larger scheme of things. It helps me move forward to create new things, even when those things are dresses and sweaters instead of houses. It's one of the ways I make order out of chaos.  Well okay then! Mystery solved. On with my day.