A ridiculously long essay on architecture

A/N: Yeeeeah, this is long. Read at your peril. Also, I haven’t provided any citations because in my portfolio this essay goes with a set of photos I took in different countries and draws from them, rather than from publications or anything like that.

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I have to admit, although I love to travel and am quite a seasoned traveller, I pretty much fit all the tourist stereotypes. I’m constantly snapping unprofessional photos (with a Nokia phone, no less), always manage to visit the most tourist-infested areas at the most tourist-infested times of the year, and am a sucker for cheap souvenirs. But although my travels followed the Lonely Planet guide trail rather than the trail of indigenous tribes’ footprints, the photos I took while travelling in various regions still give us a considerable amount to be analysed: they provide a sample of historical and modern architecture, they show us the parts of a certain country which are considered significant or notable, and they show us the impressions of a country which leaders and tourism agencies want foreigners to have.

So, what conclusions can be drawn from this little pictorial comparison? The first thing I noticed was that I had taken quite a few photos of nature. Originally I only intended to include basic information (region classification as per the UN system, population) and socioeconomic metrics (gross domestic product per head, human development index) on each page and relate the pictures to those. But a fair few of my photos turned out to feature trees or foliage or the sky, and as well as being pretty to look at and quite difficult to photograph well (the angle of the camera has to be perfect, the sun has to hit the right place and there must be enough chromatic contrast to keep the picture interesting), the ubiquity of attractive natural phenomena to photograph has some implications. Although there is obviously a lot of natural variation across the world, which is why I added each country’s climate classification to show the huge amounts of variation in terms of conditions, the similitude at base was striking. Natural phenomena are the common denominator of the world. If one can’t find mountains in a country, perhaps one can find beaches, or failing that, dense woodlands or vast expanses of desert. There is something intensely comforting about the fact that, even as I do a project which is examining the differences between cultures and the ways in which they relate to one another, I can always find this “base” provided by the natural world, which exists everywhere despite how much humans have eroded – or think that they have eroded – it.

Ironically, there is one other area in which the fundamental similarity between all of the world’s cultures can be seen: modern, urban architecture. The skyscrapers in Shanghai and Hong Kong could easily have been in Alexanderplatz (or Kurfürstendamm) or the City of London or Gulberg in Lahore, save for some signature East Asian neon, less interspersion of modern and traditional architecture than in Europe, and fewer broken windows than in Pakistan. In shamelessly Hegelian terms, this demonstrates a sort of architectural negation of the negation. When human society first came about, the entire world was carpeted with the fabric of nature: a fabric which could take the form of rainforests or savannah or ocean or any other biome, but was still uniformly nature. As humans spread around the world, snatching new territory from Nature’s grasp and making their mark on it, this homogeneity began to disappear: the structures built in Yayoi Japan were dramatically different from those built in Mesopotamia, which were dramatically different from those built in Pazyryk Siberia.

This difference persisted through rapidly proliferating trade and globalisation, right up until the advent of modernism, which emerged in France as a development of romanticism and was the first European artistic style to spread out of Europe and the Anglosphere. Nowadays, however, neo-futurist or neo-futurist-inspired architecture is overwhelmingly prevalent across the world, with new steel and glass, high-rise and eccentrically-shaped buildings springing up everywhere, most notably in Asia. Globalisation, cosmopolitanism and our increased and still-increasing ability to share information with people across the world in a flash have meant that ideas can be shared and cultures can merge more than ever. But on the other hand, they have also given rise to a new era of global homogeneity; innovative homogeneity, but nonetheless homogeneity. Dialectically, this is a “higher form” of the uniformity which existed across the world in early human societies, marking a return to the uniform state of nature which has been achieved through the partial sublation of borders and geocultural boundaries. Another way to look at this would be to link it to the ostensible ideological homogeneity of the post-Cold War period, after the triumph of liberalism; one set of ideas is governing global discourse to a greater and greater extent, and this is reflected in architecture.

What’s more, the developing countries (represented here by China and Pakistan) are scrambling to design buildings and urban spaces which fit this new, global neo-futurist model, often with disregard for their traditional cultures and architectural styles. In the societies of the Old World, architecture evolved organically to its current stage, and as a result the historical monuments of London, Berlin and other European cities are interspersed to a great extent with the rest of the city and are seen not as tourist magnets or old, forgotten relics, but as integral parts of the urban landscape. The story in other parts of the world is rather different. As America – culturally an outpost of the UK, and by extension of Europe – became the global power (outside of the Second World, which has since mostly adapted to American cultural hegemony) and globalisation accelerated during the 20th century, countries increasingly began to conform to a collection of artistic standards set by America and the West. Even in China, ever-patriotic and resistant to “Westernisation”, the idea of building tall towers to showcase power and innovation quickly took hold.

The result of this is that, contrary to pro-patria rhetoric, traditional buildings are being sidelined. Nowhere was this more evident than in Pakistan. This country is pretty undiscovered, so while I was there I got to see some breathtaking examples of classic Mughal architecture with only a smattering of tourists; but unfortunately, this meant that no one took care of the sites. They were sectioned off from the rest of the city, for the most part, extremely empty compared with the heaving streets, and it was assumed (probably accurately) that we would be more interested in shopping and other “modern” pursuits than seeing the architecture. If some of the sites had not been on UNESCO lists and the like, they may never have been preserved. For Lahore’s rising urban elite, it’s all about glossy shopping malls and Western-inspired glass structures. Pakistan is one of the “Next 11” countries marked out by the World Bank as the future of economic development, and if their attitude towards traditional architecture is indeed the attitude of the future, there is reason to worry.

China, also a developing economy which opened up only recently to the West, had a similar problem. It is a far more advanced country than Pakistan, and since it is the third most visited country in the world, it has a financial incentive to preserve its historical buildings and sites. However, they still did not feel integrated into their surrounding cities, and there was still an assumption that tourists would be more interested in the flashy new buildings. Yet although I think emerging countries need to preserve their historical architecture more and take more pride in it – because it is undeniably beautiful and fascinating – I am not taking a puritanical stance here. “Flashy new buildings” arguably epitomise what it is to be living almost anywhere in today’s globalised world: a cosmopolitan outlook, technological progress, aspiration. And these features are part of the modern cultural characters of Britain, Germany, China and Pakistan just as much as the countries’ older, more divergent architecture.

Now, what of such architecture? Happily, there was a considerable amount of variation in each country’s traditional architecture. As would be expected, Germany and the UK are quite similar. Both are wealthy, European, Germanic nations (though the UK is incredibly diverse, with Latin, Norman and Celtic influences), both were considerably affected by the Renaissance and Enlightenment, and both share a Protestant work ethic and cool, systematic, linear-active culture. They also have similar climates and social histories, which they share with France and Benelux. Correspondingly, many signature features of the two countries’ buildings are held in common: wooden houses and Tudor arches, cathedrals, palaces and buildings with Gothic, Romanesque and most notably Baroque influences (such as St Paul’s Cathedral and the buildings in Gendarmenmarkt), and a seamless fusion of old and modern. In fact, visiting Germany and comparing it with Britain, one wonders whether the sociocultural and aesthetic differences between Britain and the continent – at least, the North-Western portion of the continent – are being overstated a little. The main difference between the two relates to urban planning and use of space: the layout of Berlin is noticeably based more around squares than that of London, which (apart from Trafalgar Square) only has the leafy private squares of the Kensington area. Squares seem to be an exclusively continental feature, lending themselves well to the café culture of the continent but not quite as well to traditional British pub culture. But of course, a slight difference in culinary habits and habits en rencontrant between British people and some of their continental neighbours does not mean that the Channel represents the cultural gulf postulated by some people. Particularly when it comes to Britain’s Germanic relatives.

The traditional architecture of Pakistan and China, naturally, differed notably; but there were still some similarities with traditional European architecture. Courtyards – which I tend to consider a Grecian/Mediterranean feature which then spread into Northern Europe – were a central part of both Chinese and Pakistani architecture, and in both countries the symbolism of the courtyard was of an entrance into an inner space. The influence of Grecian motifs was a recurring theme, particularly in Pakistan, the vast majority of whose grand structures are religion-related (as one would expect of a theocracy) and therefore heavily influenced by Arabian, Persian and Mughal artistic style. The ancient Mediterranean societies (Athens, Rome, Constantinople) were viewed almost universally by those in and around Europe in the Middle Ages as the pinnacle of civilisation, and the Muslim societies of West Asia were no exception, even if they had religious differences. Hence the ubiquity of domes and minarets in Pakistan, which were noticeably borrowed from Byzantium and adapted by Muslims (which is why there is such similarity between the more extravagant Russian Orthodox churches, influenced by the Byzantine breed of Christianity, and mosques).

The famed Muslim arches share this origin too. These arches mark out sacred spaces as separate from everywhere else, dividing space in a similar way to the purposeful spatial planning of Chinese courtyard houses. They were originally descendants of Roman and Byzantine rounded arches, before evolving into the more distinct horseshoe-shaped and transverse arches, and the latter then became a staple of Gothic architecture (at Canterbury Cathedral, for example). Colonial architecture has also left its mark on Pakistan; the Punjab region, near the Indian border, was once home to the Indian residences of some of the British Raj’s elite, and the suburbs are dotted with peaceful whitewashed manors which would not have looked out of place in the Somerset countryside, but for the palm trees. The Lahore Museum, designed by celebrated architect Sir Ganga Ram, is perhaps the best example of stylistic fusion which I saw in Pakistan, merging the Sikh, Mughal and colonial styles which have all exerted considerable influence on the country in its history.

Interestingly, as well as sharing some Grecian influence, Islamic and Chinese architecture share a fundamental principle. At base, both types of architecture are simple and unassuming. The exteriors of mosques are traditionally plain apart from around the entrance, and built using basic materials. Only inside can any sort of extravagance be seen, and this generally takes the form of colourful murals and floral patterns, to celebrate God’s creations without distracting worshippers. Chinese architecture is similarly simple on the outside, with a wooden frame, sloping roofs and a basic structure formed by connecting rectangular units of space, but characteristic pagoda-style curves and eaves and sundry colour paintings add vibrancy to the basic architecture. This contrast doesn’t symbolise the divide between a spiritual space and the outside world, as in Islamic architecture, but the ideal of moderation which is prized in Buddhist and other eastern cultures.

Moderation is not the only Chinese ideal to which homage is paid through traditional architecture. It’s safe to say that China has a culture driven by ideals; even in modern China, the government is churning out new additions to its official ideology at an alarming rate, giving them philosophically-toned names like “The Three Represents” and “Four Comprehensives.” This is evidenced by the country’s buildings, whose every feature represents an ideal, from the ample use of wood representing life to high platforms representing power and prosperity to coloured lacquers in accordance with feng shui, which appear extravagant but actually represent harmony with nature.

And here is the artistic epitome of the fundamental difference between Eastern and Western theology. You may have noticed that most of the traditional structures discussed here have been religious: churches, mosques, temples. After all, man has “made God in his image”, as Feuerbach put it, for thousands of years. But while Western religious structures (well, originally Middle Eastern) are focused around building a place to praise and worship an anthropomorphic deity, all Chinese structures are focused around worshipping ideals, and this extends beyond structures with expressly religious purposes. This is very much aligned with Taoism, which – as is characteristic of Eastern religions – does not worship a deity, but a lifestyle, a path, and can thus be conceptualised as a sort of pantheism. Perhaps, then, man also makes art in his image. Just as religion was seen as projection of human desire by Feuerbach, Freud and others, art is also a form of wish fulfillment, an expression of what is through what should be. To no art form is this more applicable than to architecture, which quite simply consists of humans playing at being nature, and creating their own world to interpret and transcend their surroundings.

This little pictorial experiment has been fascinating, illuminating and pleasantly dialectical. Above all, it really does demonstrate how much art can tell us about societies and cultures, and how imperative it is that we preserve the art of the past and continue to tell stories, whose subtlety could not otherwise be conveyed, through art. There is a tendency, in this age of strict divisions and subject stratification and the dominance of “core subjects”, to view art as a discipline which exists in an altogether different dimension from the natural or social sciences. But using art as a lens through which to observe and analyse society, as I have tried to do, shows that such a division is quite demonstrably fantastical. And the adeptness of art at providing a lens is precisely the reason I love it so much.

 

Exhibition Review: The Fabric of India

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The final review in this project is of the Fabric of India exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum, which takes us back to my lovably chaotic homeland: the Indian subcontinent. Unlike Bend it Like Beckham, this exhibition didn’t focus on emigration from India and its cultural effects, but delved deep into the subcontinent itself through the medium of textiles. This, in my opinion, was a very effective way in which to paint a picture of a country which produces x% of the world’s textiles and has a rich history of creating fabrics for rulers the world over, from Maltese sultans to Japanese emperors. On the whole, the exhibition portrayed Indian history through textiles and culture richly and colourfully and I found it very illuminating.

The exhibition displayed a spectacular collection of fabrics, dyes and tapestries, some of which had been originally collected and displayed in the India Museum, which educated 19th century Londoners about the “jewel of the British Empire” from 1801 until its closure in 1878. The time span covered by the exhibition was equally impressive: it was noted that the earliest surviving cotton threads from India dated from 4000BC and the oldest dyed textiles from 2500BC, and although many pieces from the Mughal and British Raj eras were on display, there was a lot of coverage of indigenous practices relating to textiles too. The exhibition was divided into six main sections, each of which had its own rooms one on the various forms of textile-related art in India, one on fabrics’ religious uses, one on fabrics as an expression of class, one on the global textile trade and India’s position in it (particularly during the modern era of mondialisation), one on the uses of Indian textiles during the British Raj and post-independence periods and one on uses in fashion. Indirectly, the ordering of the sections also corresponded to the chronological order of different periods of Indian history, with each section apart from the religion one focusing on a specific period. This layout worked well and highlighted the evolution of subcontinental society.

The first section of the exhibtion was actually my least favourite. It wasn’t badly-executed or uninformative, but the information itself centred on the dyes and fabrics from different regions of India in and of themselves, and for that to be captivating for a textiles novice, a good deal of context and explanation of relevance needs to be provided. I don’t feel that this was done quite well enough, but this is perhaps because I don’t have much of an interest in textiles and am far more interested (particularly for the purposes of this project) in their sociocultural contexts. That being said, there were a few interesting tidbits I learnt from this part of the exhibition. The regional differences in Indian textiles perfectly captured the pluricentrism of the country’s culture. Assam was known for its silks and the distinctive blue dye from the Indigo plant (whose name comes from “India”) worn by its inhabitants, the Lhota people. Bengal produced cotton and muslin, and in keeping with the segregated nature of its religious communities, Hindus wore plain muslin and Muslims wore patterned. The Baluchar sari was also particular to the Bengali Hindu community, since it depicted human figures. Since Muslims couldn’t wear silk against their skin, they had special saris made from cotton-silk mixtures known as mashru (meaning “permitted by Sharia law”) saris. Embroidery was mostly a preserve of inhabitants of Northern and Central India, with each region having its own distinctive style: modern-day Uttar Pradesh was distinguishable by its lavish Chikan embroidery, a favourite of the aristocracy of Lucknow, while West Bengali embroidery was more resourceful, using recycled saris and dhotis. Southern India was the source of most Indian dyes, and the state of Tamil Nadu produced quite distinctive, dark red saris with gold borders. The “gypsies” of India, the Banjara people, also had textiles as a central part of their lifestyle, using woven bags to store supplies as they travelled and searched for work. This contextual information was highly interesting, and I would have liked to have seen more of it.

My wish was granted in the next few sections of the exhibition, the first of which covered religion. I would have liked this section to go more in depth and look at the bigger picture a little more, since it didn’t seem to relate any of the religious customs it described back to India’s wider culture and situation, but it was full of fascinating little stories and highlighted several religious – and therefore cultural – differences. As you may expect, Hindu and Buddhist embroidery was mainly pictorial, while Muslim embroidery came in the form of Koranic inscriptions for garments which had a talismanic function, perhaps to bring good fortune to Mughal warriors in battle. The closest Muslims came to embroidery with narrative purposes was on their prayer mats, which served and still serve as reminders of Allah and the events of 610CE during prayer. Hindus and Buddhists, however, went all-out on the storytelling/pictorial symbolism front. Buddhist hangings were embroidered with lotuses and other symbols of purity, enlightenment and the knowledge of the bodhisatvas. Hindu hangings, meanwhile, told literal stories of episodes from the Mahayana or, in contrast to the peaceful Buddhist stories, victories in battle. But despite these contrasts between religions, as ever, there are points of confluence: since the 14th century, both Muslim and Hindu pilgrims have brought large coloured flags to the shrine of Muslim warrior Ghazi Miyan in exchange for his blessing and healing powers.

The exploration of religious divergence and convergence through textiles continued into the next section of the exhibition, which focused on the usage of textiles by the various élites of India. Extravagant textiles at royal courts were signs of wealth and skill, and skilled weavers and embroiderers were held in high regard. Around the Deccan plateau area of Central India was a clear dividing line between the Muslim world of the Mughal sultanates and the Hindu world of the relatively undiscovered southern provinces. North of this line was a rapidly modernising and outward-facing Muslim nation, with a workshop for every sultanate producing elaborate silks and cottons inspired by Islamic, Persian and European art. Hindu rulers in South India were more self-contained, drawing on local painting decisions to create narrative textiles (often religious). They were more human- and narrative-based than Muslim textiles, which were often just patterned, and sometimes depicted the lives of their owners.

Perhaps my favourite part of the exhibition was the next few sections, which dealt with the changing position of textiles in modern India and India during the periods of the British Raj and Industrial Revolution. After the British invasion, India was unified and industrialised, and the arrival of faster and more efficient mechanical methods of textile manufacture drove many petty artisans out of business and into industrial, urban labour, much like it did in Europe. Combined with the influx of foreign-produced textiles, by the 1890s, India’s textile culture was threatened, mirroring the threat posed by British and Anglosphere culture and by globalisation to all of India’s traditions. But India, perhaps by virtue of its population size, turbulent history and diversity, did not allow its traditions to be stamped out as those of the Native Americans and Australian aborigines effectively were. During the 20th century, there was a resurgence of traditional culture and Indian, as opposed to Commonwealth, patriotism, which of course culminated in Indian independence in August 1947. And as this exhibition documented so well, Indian cotton and textiles were at the forefront of this resurgence: people would buy and use Indian textiles as a symbol of national identity and protest against the British Raj and globalisation. The exhibition finished with a display of modern Indian fashion: a fusion of traditional motifs and materials from all over the subcontinent with cutting-edge Western design and inspiration from haute-couture in Europe and the States. Just as textiles demonstrated regional and religious differences and the opulence of royal courts in the past, today, they continue to demonstrate the essential character of modern India: a vibrant country of old and new, tradition and modernisation, and the pulsating heart of South Asia. This exhibition conveyed this brilliantly.

Charcoal.

A/N: I haven’t been doing any Arts Award work lately, so here is a romantic “fanfiction” I wrote on a bus in Paris in early 2015 for an art-obsessed friend of mine. We spent most of the Paris trip planning out each other’s love lives, as every single person with too much time secretly does.

(Names were changed.)

No one appreciates art anymore. It’s too slow for the world of fast food and rush hour and speed dating. And now, more than ever, it’s only a preserve of those who will allow their time to be slowed down enough to appreciate the “finer things.” Normally, Maja would regret this, would want art to be something the whole world – regardless of such arbitrary things as class and location and upbringing and social codes – can share. But in this unusually bright evening, where the sun painted the sky a deep, rich orange and London was a sea of glinting rooftops, she was glad to be alone in a room of the Tate Modern. Just her, her sketchbook and pencil, and the sculptures that now faced her. They were fine postmodern originals, the sort that were so abstract that one wonders if they were made in some other dimension external to known reality. The pencil flew across the page.

A scratching noise came from across the room. Maja tried to block it out; she liked to draw in silence. The noise persisted. Inexplicably, it really irritated her. Scratch, scratch, scratch…

“Could you stop making that noise?” asked Maja, her eyes still on the sculpture. The noise paid no attention.

Sighing, she stood up and began, “Hey, I’m trying to -”

She stopped. The noise was charcoal on paper. In the corner of the room was a boy, quite tall and slender, dressed in a blazer, dark jeans and a cotton printed scarf. His long, black hair fell over his face as he concentrated on his drawing. Their eyes met.

“Sorry, was I bothering you?” he asked. His voice was low-pitched, yet had a certain softness to it.

A blush crept up Maja’s cheeks. “No, no, it’s fine. I mean, I like drawing in silence, but you know, charcoal sounds nice too, I guess,” she babbled. Real smooth.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I wasn’t even aware that I was making a noise. I was just so-”

“Immersed in the drawing?” Maja blurted out.

“Yes!” The boy laughed. Maja noticed how nice his eyes were: large, oval and grey, framed by long eyelashes. Piercing. “When I draw, it’s like I’m somewhere else. Somewhere I can express everything I want to without being judged.”

Maja nodded; she knew exactly what he meant. “Yes. It’s like speaking another language, except rather than having to abide by someone else’s grammatical rules, you can create your own rules. You can interpret what you see in whatever way you want to. I think that’s what’s so attractive about art: whatever you create is unique, and presented in a unique way. You have total autonomy.” She blushed even more; why did she suddenly sound like a Sartrean aesthetics chatbot? And what was it about this boy that made her want to tell him all this? “Sorry I just, er, went off on one there.”

“No, no, I completely understand.” He gave a hint of a smile. “It’s nice to find someone so passionate. Most people just think I’m crazy for hanging out in art galleries and drawing everything that inspires me the way I do. I mean, it’s not exactly what most teenagers do.”

“Same here,” said Maja.

She saw him quickly add a stroke of charcoal to his drawing. She was curious. “Which sculpture are you drawing?”

“Um, it’s not exactly a sculpture. Well, it could be one metaphorically, but…” he stuttered, blushing.

The temptation was too great. She shuffled next to him, peered at his sketchbook, and gasped. On the page was a perfect charcoal sketch of…herself. Her long, straight hair, her coat adorned with badges, her chunky jewellery, the focused expression on her face as she lost herself in drawing.

“Sorry, this probably seems really weird…” mumbled the boy.

“No, it’s, I…” Maja was lost for words. “It’s beautiful.”

“I said I drew things that inspired me,” he said shyly.

They gazed at each other. The moment seemed to last for a century.

“What inspired you about me?” she asked.

“You looked like you were really into what you were doing, really passionate. That’s rare these days,” he replied. “I thought you might actually understand me. And…you did.”

There was nothing to say. Language couldn’t express the warmth she felt. She just smiled, and so did he.

“We should go out sometime,” he said.

She nodded.

 

Culture Through Art (A Preface)

A preface for this thing I’m doing.

“Are you sure you don’t want to paint it, Ashna?”

It was 2006, I was 5 years old, and my supply teacher (spare a thought for her, dear reader) had just accomplished the incredible feat of getting me to do something I didn’t want to do: make a car out of cardboard and attach wheels to it. The next step was getting me to paint it, and by now the poor woman didn’t have the energy left in her to deal with another round of coaxing.

“I don’t like painting,” I maintained. What I should have said was that I didn’t like being forced to do things, I didn’t like doing pointless things (and no, a number in a markbook does not count as a “point” when it comes to art), I didn’t like my inability to adequately express myself through painting, and therefore I did not want to paint. But alas, my 5-year-old self was unaware of the intricacies of her dislike. She only knew that she was “bad” at painting and that she didn’t like it. This feeling extended to all aspects of art, design technology and physical education.

And so began my loveless relationship with the arts at school, that very moment when my supply teacher, relieved to be rid of me, gave me the “ok, dear” smile and left to heckle some other children. From then on I spent my art and design technology lessons distracting my friends, surfing the internet and doing last-minute chemistry revision, and it came to a point where my beleaguered art teachers would just let me do what I wanted, because I ostensibly hated art so much that it didn’t even matter.

The thing is, I don’t hate art, and I never have hated it. I love it. From a very young age, I have been singing and acting, visiting art museums and theatre productions, reading and writing voraciously, and above all, just being creative and expressing myself. And it’s sad, and symptomatic of the murder and burial of art and all autonomous action caused by our Prussianesque education system, that this has been misunderstood.

But I’m far too good at making unwarranted political criticisms and dragging my politics into my writing and analyses, so this project is going to be entirely apolitical. For once, I have been allowed a good bit of creative freedom within an institutional framework, by the Silver Arts Award programme. And I’m using said freedom to do something a bit different – different both from the kind of political and philosophical enquiry projects to which I’m accustomed, and from what you will generally see when you read Arts Award documents.

This portfolio, document, whatever you want to call it is not so much a documentation as an ode. I tend to write critiques; this, in contrast, is one big compliment. It is a song of praise to the world and its many contrasts and cultures and contradictions. And the challenge I’m setting myself isn’t to learn one single discipline, as such: it’s to learn and try out as many things as I can which give me a new cultural experience, which I can then analyse and connect to things I already know. Hopefully, this challenge won’t just open my eyes to the world’s complexity, but will also make for an interesting read.

 

Three very different moodboards

Mood boards are visual art’s answer to ‘word vomit’: they’re a way, at least for me, to vomit ideas out onto a page in a haphazard yet somehow organised manner when no known visual art form will do them justice. Of course, they are used a lot more professionally than that in interior design and other such fields, but I prefer to keep them raw, as jumbled representations of vague ideas. I’m an amateur, deal with it.

The mood boards which I’m about to show you are pretty much the only semi-good things to ever have come out of my design technology classes, because like all art forms, design technology became rigid and dull as soon as the education system got its hands on it. But I got a rare taste of autonomy when making these mood boards. Here are the results:

1. Revolutionanarchy moodboard.PNG

Yes, this was made during my anarchist days (don’t judge me, you were an anarchist too at some point) and it was the product of sheer desire for something really badass. I had just finished binge-reading about anarchist resistance during the Spanish Civil War and was very much inspired by what I’d read, hence the logo of the CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo) and the nods to anarcho-syndicalist symbolism. But this mood board would be better described as an ode to rebellion, to kickassery, than merely as an anarchist mood board. The leather, colour scheme and references to breaking free and making a mess in the process represent this.

 

 

2. A little piece of quiet

cosy moodboard

Remember when, all of a sudden, a trend for ornaments and cushions reading ‘love’, ‘home’ and other similarly cutesy phrases sprung into existence? That trend – well, perhaps the logical extension of that trend – was my inspiration for this mood board, which, needless to say, is a tribute to home comforts and everything kitsch and cosy. This is the kind of décor which makes you cringe, but which inexplicably makes you feel warm and fuzzy at the same time.

 

3. Stuck Inside of Mobile

memphis moodboard

The final mood board is based on one of my favourite art movements: Memphis. I’ve always had this dream of buying a tiny studio apartment tucked away in a corner of some European city and furnishing it all Memphis-style, with an eclectic mix of futuristic shapes and riotous colours. It’s going to happen one day.