Le Corbusier, Roof Terraces of the Beistegui Apartment, Paris, (1929-1931)
The roof terraces of the Beistegui Apartment are without a doubt it’s most celebrated feature and the most clearly indebted to surrealist sources. Clean, classical but playful concrete volumes frame the Mediterranean style topiary, with walls built to such a height as to leave the nearby monuments of the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel tower poking up like comical objects. The sun deck, carpeted with grass, featured a false rococo fireplace that recalls the jarring juxtapositions in Magritte’s Time Transfixed. At the touch of a button, hedges on lift mechanisms could rise or sink to alter the view. The effect was reminiscent of Giorgio de Chirico’s metaphysical cityscapes and interiors. It is known that Le Corbusier had visited the artist’s exhibition at the Galerie Surrealiste in February, 1928.
Nearly everything about Le Corbusier’s philosophy of a rationalist, functional architecture and design would be far removed from surrealism’s attitudes, but with this project he seems to have been open to it’s strategies of unexpected contrasts and playful paradoxes, even whilst placing these within a rationalism entirely foreign to the movement’s aims.
Prof. Dr, Max Bruckner, Four Plates from the Book “Vielecke und Vielflache”, (1900)
Regular convex polyhedra, frequently referenced as “Platonic” solids, are featured prominently in the philosophy of Plato, who spoke about them, rather intuitively, in association to the four classical elements (earth, wind, fire, water… plus ether). However, it was Euclid who actually provided a mathematical description of each solid and found the ratio of the diameter of the circumscribed sphere to the length of the edge and argued that there are no further convex polyhedra than those 5: tetrahedron, hexahedron (also known as the cube), octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron.
Buckminster Fuller, United States Pavilion, (1967)
Probably the best known geodesic structure is the United States Pavilion in Montreal, Canada, designed for expo 1967. This 250 foot diameter, diaphanous, silvery sphere caught the imagination of all who visited the expo and became the symbolic icon of all subsequent world’s fairs and of visionary urban construction. Every expo after 1967 had it’s spherical exhibition structure; every city of the future had it’s spherical building prominently positioned in it’s urban fabric.
Star Cloud in the Milky Way was a collotype plate included in the August, 1895 issue of The Photographic Times. It was used to illustrate an extensive article written by Professor E.E. Barnard of the Lick Observatory in California titled Astronomical Photography.
Nam June Paik, Performing La Monte Young’s “Composition 1960 No. 10” to Bob Morris (Zen for Head), (1962)
Presented during the Fluxus International Festival of New Music, this performance was Paik’s interpretation of La Monte Young’s Composition 1960 No.10 dedicated to artist Robert Morris who was quoted saying, “Draw a Straight Line and Follow it”. Paik’s performance consisted of him dipping his head, hands and tie in a bowl of ink and tomato juice and drawing a line by dragging his head along a narrow piece of paper laid out on the floor. Fluxus was concerned with carrying out deceptively simple actions in order to concentrate on the subtlety of a gesture, bringing about a fusion of art with life. In Zen for Head, Paik parodies the notion of meditative art-making by physically enacting a painting gesture using the body as a tool rather than the repository of mental or spiritual processes. The head, the source of creative thinking, becomes the mark maker, actively engaged in the process of material and action.
Eugene Richards, Christopher Wool in his East Village studio, (2006)
“I don’t want my work to feel all sweat-soaked and tortured. I’d like to be like a crooner, effortless seeming, smooth. That doesn’t mean it actually is easy. And it doesn’t mean you don’t have backbone, or even aggression. Like Frank Sinatra or Miles Davis maybe. It’s like magic. I want my things to just appear. Not be painted. Just appear. And that is scary too. It’s not magic like Tinker Bell. It’s more like the writing on the wall.”