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Cold War Modernism and Skiffle Muralism

Ian Martin
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Ian Martin selects a suitable stance to take

MONDAY Despite being one of the key influencers of my generation I’m feeling a bit marginalised and down in the dumps at the moment.

It occurs to me that, in the fictionalised world of epic space, sarcasm may not be enough these days. Actions always speak louder than words, however freighted with irony they ‘seem to be’.

While I’m mentally composing a fugue of tittering snark about some hideous glass narcissus blossoming and then slowly dying on London’s skyline, proper people are standing in the cold trying to block bailiffs and bulldozers from a grim housing estate that’s been snatched away from them by sinister gallionaire Americans bored with acquiring soccer clubs.

So, I need a ‘reset’. No more whingeing on the sidelines about, say, the bankable antics of this or that Middle Aged British Artist, as they turn into a slightly more bohemian version of a hedge fund portfolio. No more whingeing about the slow suffocation of Northern England, as all British air is sucked into the deodorised vortex of London Plus. No more whingeing about pumpkin-faced Lord Rogers of Barcelona mumbling his decaffeinated support for the preposterous Enchanted Forest Bridge.

Sufficient unto the day is the carping thereof, but my Twitter numbers are static and it has been bloody months now since I got a mention in the Creative on Sunday. I need to shape up. Become more active. Join some protests. March. Shout. Demonstrate, for God’s sake. Everything I hold dear is being scrapped for salvage by gurgling Etonians and I need to be out on the street.

Will sleep on this, but massively energised by my moral momentum.

TUESDAY Make some sensible adjustments in the cold light of day. Decide to transition from sarcasm to activism incrementally.

I’ll start by moving up a stage and ‘taking a stance’. Practise for a while in the mirror, eventually deciding on The Single Teapot with the other hand pressed to my forehead in theatrical exasperation.

It’s a winner. I discover I can take this stance with anything – the government’s housing policy, the Serpentine pavilion, architecture students – and feel as though I’m making a real difference.

WEDNESDAY Taking my stance on a whole range of things today – the rebuilding of Palmyra, the ludicrous notion of ‘Brexitecture’, the vulgar undoing of Birmingham – although to be honest by lunchtime I feel quite exhausted.

THURSDAY To the Gherkin and Firkin for a fluid thinking session with my old mate Dusty Penhaligon the conservactionist. He’s furious, as usual.

A certificate of immunity from listing has been granted for Tamworth Rotary Club building (1956) a seminal work designed in the Cold War Modernist style by celebrated beat architectonicist Horace Batchelob. Dusty looks contemptuous. ‘Those pricks at what used to be called English Heritage have decided the building has been “fatally compromised”. By what? Time? Big deal. Look at the state of this!’ He lifts his shirt, indicating the gravitational heft of his torso.

I must say it is a little odd, refusing protection for the Batchelob. And puzzling that those exquisite mosaics in the lobby by skiffle muralist Roger Snudge have not, at least, been separately recommended for listing. ‘Wait a minute…’ says Dusty, squinting in the direction of the specials board. ‘Have you noticed that, recently? Anything with fine mosaic work is just being thrown under the bus by those pinhead wankers. It’s almost as if…’

He leaps up and rushes out of the pub. Oh well, back to my crossword. Five across. ‘The intelligent outflank the negative, and really stick out (10).’

FRIDAY We reconvene in the G&F. ‘Just as I thought’ says Dusty, sipping some preposterous ale with a name like a Jethro Tull song.

‘Tossers were told to cut costs, so what did they do? Sacked all their post-war Modernist consultants. But retained the only person prepared to advise them for nothing.’ Oh God, not Lavrentiy Kafelnikov? ‘The very same. The 102-year-old genuine Stalinist who regards all mosaic work as formalist heresy.’

That’s ridiculous, I say. His views actually haven’t changed at all since, well, about the time the Batchelob building was designed.

Dusty squints his conservactionist squint. ‘Yeah, maybe he’s right then.’

SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Imposterism 4, Preprosterism 5 after knock-off shirt swapping and some big shorts.

SUNDAY Assume horizontal stance in the recliner.

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