Chapter One – Chapter 6 Offal in the Arthouse and William Morris’s wallpaper intentions

I had a delightful gig at mac in Birmingham (even though I discovered I had wasted possibly minutes capitalizing it with every tweet and facebook mention. It is lower case. I have looked like a case insensitive fool for all those days). I was very grumpy pre-gig. It seems the copies of my book had not turned up, or at least not been found. I was tired from eating too much dough with the Dodgem Logic 3, and my giving up of coffee, booze and cigarettes has not as yet brought a more even temperament. I thought I was furious more than necessary because I was hungover on occasion, turns out it’s just my demeanour (nature or nurture, who knows?). Anyone, it was an enjoyably loose performance followed by the selling of some DVDs. I always used to be ashamed of this sort of behaviour , but free fringe and selling books on tour have helped cure me of that crippling disease. Birmingham New Street was in disarray and this brings us up to date. Typing on a train with the near certain knowledge that I might be spending an hour on a platform at Watford Junction at 1am.

To Chapter one…

I thought today’s book would definitely make it onto a train seat or tree branch for a future user, but from the outset of chapter one, my grip tightened on it. A mere 25p from a PDSA shop (my total recall of charity shop purchases fails today, I have no idea which branch) , I bought Nikolaus Pevsner’s Pioneers of Modern Design because I thought, “now there is yet another area of existence and art I know nothing about. A book I think”. Now I have come to the pretty obvious conclusion that some subjects may remain unlearnt in my short life, modern design seemed an obvious candidate for exclusion. Pevsner is most famous for writing a large number of volumes on the buildings of England. Alan Moore was impressed by his volume on Northampton. Pevsner noticed a small house on Holly Road which had been adorned with carvings by its owner. A less observer of architecture may have concentrated on the large and lavish, but Pevsner went down the lesser roads too. Disastrously this means that I have not only decided to keep Pioneers of Modern Design, I now want to obtsin Buildings of England, and there are at least thirty of them.

Chapter one is Theories of Art from Morris to Gropius, reading it means that I have finished another day thinking “yet more I never knew I didn’t know. The brain seems emptier than 8am. It looks at the rejection and embracing of machinery by artists and architects. As well as being highly educational and giving me the first tentative grasp on modern design, it contains a wonderful selection of quotes. I wonder, whether it’s Stephen Fry or Christopher Hitchens or Nikolaus Pevsner, “do these people have the quotes stored in their brain, ready to pour out whenever they require them (other to educate or merely to crush us mortals with their own wit and easy access to others, or is there a big quotations book finely tattooed on their eyelids.

“poets, according to Shelley, are ‘the unacknowledged legislators of the world’”

I am not sure John Cooper Clarke will be happy to deal with the paperwork.

“Morris’s Socialism is far from correct according to the standards established in the later nineteenth century: there is more in it of More than of Marx. His main question is: how can we recover a state of things in which all work would be ‘worth doing’ and at the same time ‘of itself pleasant to do’”

Darn, now I have to add Thomas More’s Utopia to the book list. I shouldn’t really need to add it as it was part of my English degree and I answered a question in my finals about it, but shamefacedly that Summer was spent with my nose in York Notes and searching for questions where detail was not of the utmost importance. ‘talk about women in Shakespeare’ was more likely to be chosen than ‘how does act 3 scene 1 of The Winter’s Tale reveal Shakespeare’s use of the comma?”

“cheapness as a rule…can only be obtained at the cost of the…cheapening of human life and labour” Walter Crane

And so the guilt of Westfield shopping centre and its grandparents blots our cheeks again.  Which child made the shoes I wear today, who died in the speedy, cost effective loom that constructed my cardigan?

Obviously Oscar Wilde had something to say on the aesthetic of the machine – “all machinery may be beautiful, when it is undecorated even. Do not seek to decorate it”.

The romantic socialist CR Ashbee said of the machine  “we do not reject the machine, we welcome it. But we desire to see it mastered”. As you see the joy on people’s faces as they keep hammering away in their laptops at 10pm on the train home before cursing that “the fucking files deleted itself”, Ashbee’s hope might not have come to fruition, but one day people will read the whole manual before attempting to tackle their contraption, either that or the robots will take over just as the science fiction writers foretold.

Words I didn’t know until reading Pioneers of Modern design –

Panegyric – a complimenting eulogy

sachlich – apparently untranslatable from the German as it means pertinent, matter of fact and objective all at once

and some other quotations from Pioneers of Modern Design

“if you were to scrape down to the face of the main wall of the buildings of these streets, you would find that you had simply removed all the architecture, and that you had left the building as good as ever” Montgomery schuyler

“the lower the standard of a people, the more lavish are its ornaments” Alfred Loos

Pioneers of Modern Design is now back on the shelf until I have time for Chapter 2

“feed the rabbits instead of being an idiot”

A fat man in a vest sweeps hay.

A sheep has a knife thrust through its neck and the blood pours out.

A boy wakes suddenly from a nightmare.

The boy urinates on the door of the corrugated iron outside toilet.

Damp offal is pulled out from the now dead sheep.

The boy is told to feed the rabbits.

It is in black and white.

It is French.

I’ll watch chapter two of Le Souffle.

To make up for this day where nothing is being disposed of I have pulled out the great big Reader’s Digest book The Last Two Million Years. It is heavy. It will help at the weigh in. It will not be left on a bench. This joins the separate pile of “books that I will give away at 19th October gig”

Upcoming gigs 25/9 Rondo, Bath 27/9 Stand, Glasgow 28/9 Stand , Edinburgh 29/9 Waterstones, Aberdeen

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3 Responses to Chapter One – Chapter 6 Offal in the Arthouse and William Morris’s wallpaper intentions

  1. Dom says:

    Thanks Robin, was delightful for us too.

  2. kateweb says:

    That Chapter One wouldn’t have endeared Le Souffle to me, but the Pevsner sounds great and DVDs are much lighter than books. I think you’ll enjoy Utopia – I remember it as being quite funny, with some interesting ideas about what should be valuable (e.g. gold potties).
    I may not be repesentative, but always like having the chance to buy books or DVDs after the show; combines immediate consumer gratification with feeling you’ve given money to the writer rather than Amazon.

  3. Shell says:

    At least you were able to get home from Birmingham. Public transport options completely failed me yesterday. Hope you didn’t have too long a delay.

    I also like to buy DVDs and/or books directly from the artist/writer after a gig. As Kate said it’s nice to cut out the middle commercial agent. Nice too to be able to comment on or ask a question of the author.

    I’m enjoying your blogs on Chapter One and your question on quotes being readily available was interesting as I always see you as someone with an enormous wealth of quotations and knowledge just bursting out. As for me I tend to not reliably remember the full detail of things I read unless I work to commit stuff to memory. I find this pretty frustrating at times.

    I also make a note of ‘words I don’t know’ when reading. I find it strangely satisfying. I can’t see those above getting popped easily into everyday usage though. I find if I can’t use a word shortly after coming accross it I don’t remember it.

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