I'm Hannah Gregory,
an independent writer and researcher.
I write on: art, spaces, places, objects.

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Apr 8

Architexts

Lately I’ve been power-editing; less publicly writing. Here is a catch-up of some recent pieces on design and art. Each approaches the idea of architectural construction, or the relationships between text and space. 

A profile on French designer Nathalie Du Pasquier for Disegno No. 6, launched as part of Milan’s Salone 2014. 

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 Nathalie Du Pasquier, Construction, 2012.

"Set colour palettes recur in ways that seem to reference the industrial qualities of Milan, a city whose greyscale is intercepted by flashes of 1960s Metro interiors and early 20th-century painted facades. It is hard not to read Milan as a constant reference point in Du Pasquier’s work. She loves its juxtaposition of building styles, and there is an obvious architectural influence in her constructions’ occupation of space." 

On Visual Editions’ wayfinding compilation, a box-book of maps, Where You Are, in Icon 128:

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"Each ‘map’ plots a select number of co-ordinates, rather than a comprehensive plan; most deal with the microscopic scale of daily life more than a macroscopic overview. Yet many of these personal plans reach out to communal concerns: the places where childhood experiences were unlocked, the topography of the work space, or the lines traced by writing itself, as Joe Dunthorne tells of New York poet Bill Kushner: ‘He writes a line of poetry for each block of Manhattan he walks.’”

On the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Memory Palace exhibition, an experiment in visual storytelling, in Icon 124:

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Illustration by Robert Frank Hunter for Memory Palace. 

“‘Here is how to remember. First you must pick a place.’ So begins Hari Kunzru’s Memory Palace, a fiction that is the foundation for an exhibition exploring the relationships between text and space, site and story. A memory palace is a mnemonic device, attributed to the ancient Greek lyric poet Simonides, that involves placing images of memories in physical locations. […] The exhibition itself embodies a Memory Palace, with minimal turrets and cream walls.”

On Elmgreen & Dragset’s installation at the V & A, "Tomorrow", which transformed several of the museum’s galleries into the apartment of a fictional architect. 

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"As I enter over faded rugs into the living room, it is clear that this is not the abode of a Corbusian, nor a purveyor of minimalist design. A gallery assistant dressed as a butler glides by, and I perceive the faint tones of a classical refrain. […] The installation recontextualises the experience of the museum to supply it with a lingering sub-plot – the behind-the-scenes fictions which, we are reminded, all objects and places possess." 

In Domus - read more.


Nov 1

Cutting through the grey

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Still from Content (2010), Chris Petit.

Chris Petit likes driving. Most of his films, from his first Radio On (1979), to London Orbital (with Ian Sinclair, 2002) and his last Content (2010), show the perspective of the driver on the road: a ‘form of forward projection’, an unfolding horizon, the field divided by cat’s eyes and motorway signs. 

Petit has directed over a dozen films, including those developed for television at a time when experimentation within this medium was still possible. He is the author of six novels, all of which position the people and the places of the margins in the foreground. His work documents unchartered landscapes and non-conforming characters. Technology is employed as a framing device, offering the possibility of many formats, cuts and edits – yet it advances also as a predator. His latest project the Museum of Loneliness operates as a nebulous cultural body, documented in pamphlets and a spoken word vinyl recording released by independent publishers Test Centre.

I interview Petit in London, in an apartment in the City overlooking the Thames, in a building that feels like it has only temporary inhabitants. We are both struggling to cut through the grey; instant coffee and semi-stale biscuits. The window of the living room, at which our small coffee table, now frames the upper portion of the Shard, which is shrouded in a mist characteristic of the winter of this year. Dirty water washes onto a small portion of riverbank. Sleet begins to fall before turning into drizzle. It is the kind of monochrome British weather that smears Petit’s films and fictions.

Read the interview on The White Review

This weekend Chris Petit and Test Centre present a Museum of Loneliness exhibition, pop-up shop and screenings in Stoke Newington, London.  


Oct 29

You Get Around A Bit Then

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A dialogue between two nameless voices, coming from the streets. Each writer took turns to compose voices - inner speech or exterior overhearing - on alternate days for a designated period, recording the time and place of the hearing.

"On Bethnal Green Road I spot John Wayne in a dress

Dylan’s in my pocket, as always, talking about boys.

It’s hot, and the street makes its case for

swimming costumes or leatherwear,

for the aviator, sportsman and motorist.

The hijab mafia (again)

careening round the corner.

Scarves, dresses tied in place with weights,           

sailing, hiding the road. Cups of tea and

turbans, gold and henna.

Comparing wrists from billowing sleeves.

Just coming up to Arnold Circus.

There now.”

Read the whole poem in StepAway magazine’s Voicewalks issue (pp. 28 -31).

This project was written with Edwina Atlee.  


Oct 21

Peripheral Frieze

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Cinema, graphite drawing by Marc Bauer. An empty kind of voyeurism.

Q: Why do you go to Frieze?

A: For work, but secretly for the platform-wearing plastic-surgeoned people watching. A grotesque kind of awe. 

1. The gallery assistants’ heels competition: inches and inches of status-grinding talon.

2. Stapled-over pages of National Geographic next to falling-down crevasses of colour. Cyprien Gaillard vs. Morris Louis at Sprüth Magers.

3. Sou Fujimoto’s concept studies for the Serpentine Pavilion - cubes on cubes, delicate stacks, wisps of plants (Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou).

4. Ryan McGinley’s You and My Friends: being a teenager again and again (Alison Jacques).

5. Raphael Hefti's pseudo-alchemical disintegrations of material with lycopodium - burning moss spores like “witches' powder” (Ancient & Modern).

6. Gulf Futurism, reflected geometries and mirrored TVs at The Third Line

7. Linder's curling hair and coquillage collages (dépendance) - also the first lady to wear a bodice of meat

8. Roman Ondak's cream staircase rail Leap (Martin Janda). You want to jump?

9. The SLG’s Oscar Murillo Prize Draw. Ron y salsa in a Columbian bar behind Elephant & Castle. The artist’s gallerist David Zwirner comes runner-up.

10. Jesse Darling's #fuckfrieze. A hashtag made out of bunting. A living room metal band. Neuliberalism. Spiked punch.  

Read this post on Artsy.


Aug 28

Domus Dispatches

Recent dispatches from NYC for Domus:

On James Turrell at the Guggenheim:

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James Turrell, Ronin, 1968

"Moon white, dusk pink, magenta; sunset orange, soft lilac, violet then canary yellow; eventually, grey twilight. This is one colour phase of Aten Reign (2013), the installation by James Turrell that fills the Guggenheim in New York, diffusing rich layers of light through concentric ellipses of the museum’s rotunda.  Mostly, the transitions between tones appear steady, so that white tentatively becomes pink; sometimes, they are surprising, so that green is suddenly no longer green but blue. The names of the colours do not do justice to the actual hues.”

More.

On Donald Judd’s recently restored Spring St residence:

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101 Spring St, image by Joshua White

"When I visit, the faded colours of a David Novros fresco are being retouched. In Judd’s studio, the empty volume within a steel cuboid frames a pair of Alvar Aalto armchairs against the lines of the windows behind, a slender glass sculpture by Larry Bell standing to the left. The balance of works is as finely attuned as you would expect from an artist who exercised an almost megalomaniacal level of control; Judd’s hand still seems to direct the space, although the artist has passed on." 

More.

On MoMa’s Le Corbusier exhibition 'Atlas of Modern Landscapes'

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Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, 1928-31. Photo by Richard Pare, 2013. 

"The word “atlas” is drawn from the myth of the eponymous ancient god, who is frequently depicted carrying the celestial spheres or the terrestrial globe. Atlas was known to be enduring, as hard as the Berber peak to which he also gave his name. As though standing on the summit of Mount Atlas, Le Corbusier is shown to be a steadfast surveyor of the land. What resounds is his interest in creating not only structures, but views – whether looking out, from the intermediary space of the balcony or the rooftop, looking down, from the high-rise, or looking over, as in his urban macro-plans."

More.


Aug 9

On Google Glass

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Barisini, Tomaso da Moderna, Cardinal Hugh of St. Clair, 1352. Painting in the Dominican Monastery of San Nicolò, Treviso (thanks to Dan Hill for the tip-off). Image from Vincent Ilardi’s Renaissance Vision.

I wrote on Google Glass for Domus Magazine’s SuperNormal column, aiming to situate the technology within the history of augmented vision. SuperNormal is curated by Dan Hill of City of Sound, to “sketch a different kind of technology journalism” - that is, one that recognises that technology is, and always has been, deeply embedded in culture. 

"In a chapel in Treviso, Italy, there is a fourteenth century painting of a cardinal wearing spectacles. The first kind of spectacles - a rivet model, which perch on the end of his nose. These early spectacles were initially worn by scholars and members of the clergy, gradually becoming accessible to craftsmen and small business owners. Their invention was celebrated for enabling more efficient work, but their clumsy appearance was often the subject of caricature and satire.

The twenty-first century invents other kinds of vision. Just as in the Renaissance the diffusion of eyeglasses began with an elite set of Italian monks and cardinals, so Google closely gate-keeps the spread of Glass through Valley technologists and their circles.”

[…]

"When feminist theorist Donna Haraway wrote in ‘The Cyborg Manifesto’ in 1985: ‘The main trouble with cyborgs is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism,’ she believed that the human-machine amalgam could transcend its starting point: ‘Illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins. Their fathers, after all, are inessential.’ But Google must remain essential to Glass; it is Google, not God, that becomes the all-seeing Eye.”

You can find the piece in Issue 971 July/August 2013. Online version on Domus Web


Aug 2

Breakfast in Naples

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A special dispatch for the London Review of Breakfasts

Gran Caffè Gambrinus
Via Chiaia 1
Piazza Trieste e Trento
Naples, Italy

by Maggie Arto

It has been written in the LRB before that the Italians do not know how to have breakfast. Or don’t have breakfast at all. Many a disappointing hotel table – featuring, for example, those small packets of dry toast biscuits, sugary yoghurt and an individual pod of jam – testifies to the fact that in Italy you might be better off waiting for the primi pasta and seconde of carne at lunch.* Which is sad, for where lunch feels functional, a punctual interruption to the tasks of the day, breakfast is hopeful: you begin half-there and end half-high. The transition from bleary-eyed to awake is a space not only where dreams linger, but where fresh ideas are made.

Alas, breakfast in Italy rarely summons reveries.

This noted, I’m here to write about the most essential Neapolitan morning ritual:  coffee. It is said, in some roundabout histories, that in 1901 a gentleman in Naples complained about the time that his coffee took to brew, that in response an engineer in Milan invented a faster method of coffee extraction – what we would come to know as the modern espresso machine.

Today in Naples, the expression of espresso occurs via hefty manual machines – still several models removed from this early prototype – whereby a large lever is pulled down to build up pressure, and as it is lifted, the shot starts to drip. At first caramel in colour – this is the coffee’s surf, the oil-ish amalgam that will form the espresso’s head – a chain of steady, small pearls soon become thin mice tails, which curve slightly inwards, then stop; for the Neapolitan espresso is nearly always more of a ristretto, and must be cut off before in any way dilute. Next there is the option of a macchiato dash of foam, or for the sweeter inclined, a spoonful of nocciola cream, which is dished out of an obscene-looking vat. If, and only if, you’re drinking mid-morning or earlier, you may enjoy the svelte foam of a cappuccino.

Such is the espresso spectacle at the Gran Caffè Gambrinus, one of the prestigious nineteenth-century establishments in Naples’ Vomero district. As is proper, it has a metres-wide machine and a solid zinc bar. There’s also a marble-floored tearoom, should you wish to linger, a gelato bar and a pastry counter. If you must wedge your hunger, a slice of anything orange or lemon-scented is desirable given the proximity of Sorrentine citrus groves. Those who can stomach sweetened ricotta in the first part of the day could opt for sfogliatelle, a local confection of fine pastry leaves forming a clam-shaped shell, piped with candied fruit filling. Biscotti come sharded with almonds, sometimes in the shape of thorny crowns.

This same ritual may be observed in countless other corner cafés. Your espresso is served with a thin glass of effervescent water while you watch other shots delivered in plastic cups, on yellow trays with covers, to nearby households and businesses; a zip-fast, to-the-door service that seems, from the perspective of a waitress, overly generous, but also crucial to the functioning of an informal but highly caffeinated city. Waiting staff develop keen right angles between their upper arm and elbows, my favourite delivery sighting being macchiato-by-moped, one arm on the bars, one beneath the tray.

As I write this, over a slow home breakfast and a fast coffee take-out, I am grateful for the Milanese engineer’s invention.


*I had once believed that the breakfast situation in Portugal could be similarly under-thought, but one of the best hotel breakfasts I have ever experienced was on a twenty-five degree morning in the Lisbon hills - the kind of early spread that requires much rearrangement of crockery: freshly baked madeira cake, wild strawberries and home-strained yoghurt, seedy bread drizzled with olive oil alongside sliced, glistening tomatoes and soft white cheese, delicate jasmine tea and a silver pot of coffee…

Jun 26

Encounters: Lyotard & Monory

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Ciels no. 4, Jacques Monory (1980), oil on canvas. 

The recent exhibition at SPACE in Hackney evolved from the encounter of philosopher Jean-François Lyotard and painter-filmmaker Jacques Monory. Initiated by a letter from Lyotard, this eventually grew into decades of dynamic exchange.

Theirs was a relationship that shook Lyotard’s writing beyond purely philosophical prose, as he saw Monory move freely between the media of painting, serigraph and film. In Death Valley, Monory would paint both the desert and the stars, while Lyotard, witnessing satellite receivers decoding signals from above, would realize that space, through technology, had become a digital medium, drawing an arc from the romantic to the technological sublime.

Full text on the Frieze Blog


Apr 27

The sentence that idles

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Pae White, Too Much Night, Again, 2013, South London Gallery. Photo, Andy Matthews.

 

“To see what’s here, finally to look and to know you’re looking, to feel time passing, to be alive, to what is happening in the smallest registers of motion.”*

 

A camera advances into a dark field, a time-lapse sunrise morphing from auburn to aqua on the horizon. Cicadas, chimes.

 

In a forest quiet but for leaves in the breeze a tree is toppled from base of trunk; it teeters at sixty, fifty, forty-five degrees as gravity works an inevitable pull. Onto a bed of bracken, a dead crunch.

 

On a paper tablecloth in an emptied restaurant lies a cream page with grey rules, no text. A slight body studies horizontal lines, without a word to write.  

 

Through white mist two figures in felt coats ride the back of a truck – keen jaws and the clunk of wheels. The track’s surrounding detritus is sealed in frost; an unthawed landscape cast monochrome.

 

With broad stroke and bobbing head, you follow the black lanes, length after length. Above, the large clock hand seems stuck, stopped; lapping, time does not progress.

 

Emitting vapours of red wine, bay and blood, the pot rests on the stove for hours. Occasionally, a vermilion bubble erupts.

 

A lady’s coiffed head turns to look over her shoulder; her movement slowed into several separate gestures. Her eventual about-turn becomes a stunted pirouette. Someone, invisible, is there.

 

A gradual letting go - neck thrown back at the end of a wave from hips to crown, a creeping flush across neck and chest: release.

 

The favoured perspective of sodium shifts in the bathtub; froth islands connecting, dispersing, eclipsing pink toes.

 

At the wooden bar since early evening, midday, or earlier – the clouds, whatever the time, a low grey - she traces the concentric grain with a long finger, then lifts bitter liquor to lips.

 

In a softly lit room, thirty ankles circle in the air, legs elevated, backs reclined. These unbuckled feet do not walk anywhere.

 

A camera advances into a wide field as the sky, which fills more than two-thirds of the frame, moves from indigo to midnight. A single star is multiplied, as more appear with adjusted eyes.

 

*Don DeLillo, Point Omega. NY: Scribner, 2010. 

This text was commissioned by South London Gallery for Slow Art Day, Saturday 27 April 2013. Together with more than 250 international art venues, the South London Gallery celebrated the experience of looking at art slowly. On entering Pae White’s installation, each visitor was presented with a series of sentences evoking slow scenes.


Mar 18

Optical Ontologies and Machine Vision

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Illustration from Jonathan Crary’s Techniques of the Observer. 

I’m putting together a panel at the forthcoming London Conference of Critical Thought on ‘Technological Ways of Seeing: Optical Ontologies and Machine Vision.’ Here is the Call for Papers - do get in touch if you’d like to submit an abstract. 

The events, forces and inventions of the nineteenth century brought a rupture in ways of seeing, “an abstraction of vision”, as Jonathan Crary outlines in Techniques of the Observer, which radically altered the ways in which subjects perceived the world. An altering set of relations around the body and social power evolved new kinds of observers, while new technologies reframed and destabilised categories of visual study and image-making, whether in close-up detail (microscopes, binoculars) or macroscopic overview (hot air balloons, the Eiffel Tower).

With the digital revolution, a further break in vision has occurred, a shift in optical understanding that has arisen from the sociological and industrial upheaval of networked societies, and whose symptoms manifest themselves in the inventions of these societies: machine eyes, embedded cameras, surveillance states, military mapping technologies, satellite views. Computers are trained to see via algorithms, and subsequently signs appear in the world decipherable only to machines. Rendering technologies in gaming, architecture and design meanwhile use geometric optics to generate images out of simulated light reflections, digital fabrications of objects that may never make it to the ‘real’.

The stream seeks to critically evaluate:

i) The ways in which digital technologies affect subjects’ perception of the world.

ii) What non-human-centred machine visions exist; what visual representations these create.

iii) How such machinic perspectives displace the seeing subject to install vision instead into programmed objects.

Papers are invited from the following (sometimes opposing) critical approaches, among others: phenomenologies of media, histories and sociology of technology, object-oriented ontology, Speculative Realism, the New Aesthetic, posthumanism. Papers may discuss the philosophies embedded in such technologies as much as their effects, in order to fundamentally reconsider the question of what it means to see, to spectate, to observe or to read.

Ideas for discussion include:

The significance of the insertion of machine-readable technologies into the world.

The status of the spectator or the (dis-)embodied observer.

Digital dualism and augmented reality - how far are the digital and the ‘real’ worlds entwined?

How are digital, moving image and visual artists responding to machinic ways of seeing?

The New Aesthetic: critiques of, discussions on, evidence of “eruptions of the digital in the physical” (Bruce Sterling).

Prosthetic objects and augmented reality.

Google maps and satellite views.

Image rendering and surface rendering in architecture, design, media and gaming.

Face recognition, image and text recognition technologies.

The portable image and video capture of the smart phone.

Drone visions and military technologies - what and how do the military’s surveillance objects see?

The surveillant gaze (Lacan: “I see from only one point, but in my existence, I am looked at from all sides.”)

Object-oriented software, philosophies of coding languages and algorithms.

Call for Papers for the whole conference here.

 


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