Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Mark Fisher on flying pigs and other lovely excesses

  • Comment

Perhaps wisely, but surprisingly, Mark Fisher ommitted any mention in his AA lecture of his recent, and some would say most 'prestigious' work to date at the controversy-ridden Millennium Dome, where his custom-designed 'spectacular' plays several times a day in the central arena. It was hard to guess whether it simply didn't fit into his 25-year story of rock and roll design, or was just too awkward to discuss, even with recourse to the deep-seated irony which Fisher often uses when talking about his work.

Fisher takes delight in pointing out the absurdities inherent in the world of rock and roll design - one he describes as fast coming to an end; but not withstanding the 'completely ridiculous stage-sets', the budgetry excesses, and the ruthless commercial exploitation which created the most ambitious and dramatic rock shows of the 80s and 90s, it is clear that the sheer rate of technological development during that period, and the impact it has had on the shows in terms of design potential, has been a source of endless fascination and interest. From the first time a video was used, when Led Zeppelin played to 250,000 people at Knebworth in 1979, to the development of computer-controlled lighting and the Jumbotron video, the travelling rock show has constituted a laboratory in which to explore the possibilities of advanced media technology and develop repositories of human expertise.

Fisher's own particular contributions have included the technology transfer required to create huge inflatables such as the 15m-high 'Honky Tonk Women', fully inflatable in 40 seconds, for the Rolling Stones' Steel Wheels Tour of 1989, or the flying pigs for Pink Floyd; as well as the development of a revolutionary lightweight, very large-scale LED video screen used in U2's 'Popmart'; and the introduction of elements of sophisticated structural engineering, such as the 150mlong cantilevered bridge from the main stage in the Stones' latest tour, designed with Atelier 1. But, as Fisher points out, bands are reluctant to spend large sums on specially-made equipment, and most effort has been expended on achieving striking effects, such as Pink Floyd's grand arch, and the Stones' Voodoo Lounge, through inventive reworkings of the standard, rented scaffolding components of the trade, that can be rapidly demounted and transported on the minimum number of trucks.

On the one hand Fisher seems keen to stress the empirical, non-intellectual nature of this kind of design work, and reveals a certain cynicism about the need for any kind of deeper 'meaning', but at the same time he seems susceptible to the potential for cultural analysis. Defining the mass-market rock event as the epitome of 'architecture as advertising', consciously designed to tell a story, he draws on Malcom McLaren's distinction between 'authenticity' and 'karaoke' culture to suggest that this kind of experience has acquired a validity which displaces any straightforward identification of authenticity with the 'innocent values' of the past.

Mark Fisher's lecture 'Tribe Style' was hosted by the Architectural Association, London.

vital statistics

Based on the projected seven million attendance figures for the Dome, each visitor is being subsidised with £77 of lottery money.

1.2 million of the expected visitors will be non paying, such as schoolchildren and Greenwich residents.

Over the last five years on construction sites there were 83 fatal accidents, 3164 major injuries and an estimated 123,000 muscularskeletal injuries - costing the taxpayer approximately £180 million a year.

'Expo 2000' in Hanover has a budget of more than £1 billion. Some of that has been spent on the United Arab Emirates pavilion which has flown in six tonnes of desert sand.

Thirty million people live within one and a half hours of London.

The first football match in the UK to be played under a closed roof was at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales to a crammed audience of 72,000.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs