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Wild collages sum up the century

news in pictures

One day in 1990 David Wild returned to his self-built Camden home (aj 20.3.85) to find that a fire had destroyed much of his slide collection and part of his library: his book Fragments of Utopia: collage reflections of heroic modernism, just published by Hyphen Press (£28), is a product of that domestic disaster.

Sifting through the debris, Wild found some precious images still intact (if singed): 'They let me focus again on early enthusiasms,' he says. A passage from a favourite author, Manfredo Tafuri, also came to mind: '. . . if the most heartfelt condition today is that of wishing to salvage values pertinent to architecture, the only means is to employ . . . what has been discarded on the battlefield after the defeat of the Modern Movement.'

Some 50 collages are reproduced in Fragments of Utopia, each with a page to itself (occasionally a spread) and a commentary by Wild. They are grouped in three sections: the Netherlands of the 1920s and 30s; the ussr in its Constructivist heyday; and 'Le Corbusier's utopianism'. Their materials are cut-out buildings, people, artefacts, aircraft - and stamps.

Wild looks for correspondences and continuities: 'the underlying consistency of development', for instance, that links Vermeer (via Berlage) to De Stijl. Film, literature and music matter to him as well as architecture; above all, he stresses the social/political dimension of his chosen fragments. For Wild, Modernism still has a moral force.

The book is particularly well-designed and produced. Details, 0171 485 9726.

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