My son Piers has always shown a mistrust of the new. As a consequence, the computer is regarded more as a potential enemy than a friend. For 17 years, he has managed to skirt around technology without apparent loss.
To my surprise, he arrived in my studio and started to manipulate photos of himself using Photoshop. With no experience, he produced some extraordinary images as part of a school project on self-identity. The results will be changed further by his preferred hand-held technique of paintbrush and pen. I enquired if he had enjoyed his experience, to which he replied that it was interesting. As yet, Piers does not see himself as having an identity which is associated with machines. Our behaviour is moulded in subtle ways and, as yet, mouse-moving is not an item which 'fits' with his own sense of himself.
To an extent we are what surrounds us.
There is an art movement called Fluxus that over the years has acquired a variety of rules, which may or may not be important to its originator, George Maciunas. In part, the work consists of creating a topography of what surrounds you and exploring the associations they evoke, which in turn might give rise to further anecdotes and memories. The process, when done in association with others, creates an almost endless list of possible and unpredictable results, which tends to suggest an infinite world created from a few simple objects that surround you.
This process can be compared to some examples in writing - Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire and Italo Calvino's If On A Winter's Night A Traveller. In these examples, the common features are humour, precision (to the point of nausea) and the banal. It is about the everyday. Everyday in some senses is what we all deal with continually.
In Britain, the Independent Group, kitchen sink drama and Team 10 dealt with a stark reality that raised the ordinary to the level of the extraordinary. To those not in the know, it often appeared relevant but ugly. In some ways, this is the point; reality has been allowed to become ugly, and 'beauty' is seen as an embarrassment to the art and architecture protagonist. It is as though we are embarrassed to make decisions beyond the pragmatic.As though the God of squander and frivolity will descend, resulting in severe criticism among the chattering classes.
Inevitably, minimalism becomes a useful ploy.
Minimalism is banal - banality is not.
The issue of the ordinary is never far under the surface for artists and architects. There is a fascination with an idea that all that is possible exists within that which is known. If this idea is correct, then the everyday represents what is known and can be exploited. Architects developed a functionalist approach to their work, which was more able to be connected to the everyday. An accusation that a work might be frivolous was damnation indeed.
Expressionism is still a crime punishable by the architectural mafia. There is no virtue in being boring, as even its most wellintentioned subtleties remain invisible to the person in the street. This mythical person is keen to experience the new and different.
Piers enjoyed the pictures because the machine allowed him to do a few things he had not done before. As architects we can allow people a similar experience in helping to create something new, surprising and joyous, if we accept that we are the catalyst of change and accept what we collectively discover, without subjecting the results to the test of 'architectural'critics.
WA from a Sheringham garden hut