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The Fluid If

Ian Martin
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Ian Martin has a falling-out with academia

MONDAY I’m giving the Institute for European History one of its periodic makeovers. Every generation brings another remodelling, and somehow each time the designer feels compelled to repeat the same mistakes, eg pompous entrance or not enough ladies’ toilets.

I’m determined not to fall into the trap of overdesigning what, after all, should be a practical expression of our shared heritage. Although it must be ‘of its time’. It represents history, after all, doy-yoy-yoing! I’m not an idiot.

Inside, I’ve done a central circular corridor that will echo ominously with what’s around the corner. And the exterior’s tremendous. I’ve knocked up something that looks like a partially-assembled shelving system, stuck some Flags Of The Nations in front and, as is traditional, I have some seriously impressive stormclouds gathering above it.

TUESDAY Lunch with my old friend, the conservactionist Dusty Penhaligon. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so energised.

He has been asked by Olde Englande, formerly Historic England, formerly English Heritage, formerly The Fine Buildings Commission of England, formerly The Ministry of Relics, formerly the Royal Concordance of Built Antiquities, formerly Olde Englande, to lead an important new project.

Olde Englande is fashionably poor these days and therefore, like every other public body, needs to crowdsource its own job. Dusty will be spearheading OE’s Finders and Minders scheme, offering exciting opportunities for unpaid volunteers to locate, pevsnerise and maintain obscure built oddities.

Once all the information has been collected and collated by Dusty, OE will give it their seal of approval and someone will do a documentary about it. Dan Cruickshank probably, he always looks good in wellington boots. Dusty’s just happy he’s got a list of weird things to restore and itemise. They include:

  • England’s first atheist ‘scepthedral’, carved into a Liverpool midden hillock in 1763.
  • The memorial laminated boneheap of Wiltshire farmer Tucker Haverstall, who died in 1695 after falling overboard from a merchant ship and being swallowed by a whale. He was rescued in the nick of time by trawlermen, returned home, suffered a stroke and was eaten by his own dogs.
  • An ant farm replica of medieval Utrecht, in jute and shingle, Shrewsbury 1858.
  • Manchester’s first purpose-built sanctuary for single Christian donkeys in timber and linoleum (now vanished) c1910.
  • A seriously dilapidated theatre workshop still in partial use constructed from sheets of corrugated iron and breeze blocks on the former site of Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp. Once a week, political activist Julie Lavery turns up hoping for some group improv, as she has ever since August 1993 when she was led to believe she’d be in a Mike Leigh film.

As Dusty says, built oddities are like life. In the end it’s not your obscurity that’s unique, it’s your pointlessness.

WEDNESDAY In the morning, design a super-green eco retro-village using only traditional organic materials. The homes will use a ‘unique analogue platform’, allowing homeowners to control energy physically via a password-protected logbin.

THURSDAY I have initiated legal proceedings against the internet-based Tamworth University of the Mind, who have had the shitting TEMERITY to accuse me of plagiarism in relation to an online ‘lecture’ I ‘gave’ last year. Their disdainful quote mark tongs, not mine.

Obviously I can’t go into details. Let’s just say certain disgruntled stuffy academics refused to engage with my maverick approach. I can picture them now, all separately bathed in the light of their laptops, each wearing a mortar board and gown, all inhabiting the same virtual reality masters’ refectory, pretending they’re really at that dining table made of Jacobean pixels, surrounded by linenfold panelling and magic owls.

Silly tossers.

My lecture – entitled The Fluid If – was an attempt to jolt architecture and the arts out of its complacency by overthrowing narrativised argument with a series of links to Wikipedia pages about buildings, philosophy, the movement through space of objects etc. In this way I hoped to encourage students of the plasmic arts to cast away certainties and explore the world of knowledge and polemic on their own non-linear terms while I did the same but in a pub.

I will of course be seeking unspecified ‘punitive damages’. My reputation as an alchemist of umbrage is at stake.

FRIDAY Seize the cultural moment by fetishising defensible space.

SATURDAY Five-a-zeit geistbal. Now 2, Then 3.

SUNDAY Go non-linear in the recliner.


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