Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Seeing Voices: Inside BT Archives

For those of you living in the London area, consider making the trek to the London College of Communication for a group exhibition that discovers and interprets BT Archives. Get in touch with me for information regarding the private view on 2 March!

Seeing Voices: Inside BT Archives
2 March – 11 March — London College of Communication, SE1 6SB
This event is free and open to all.

Look closely. Carefully nestled away and stacked high upon shelves, 150 years of history rustles and whispers, waiting to be discovered.

Seeing Voices: Inside BT Archives explores the archives that lay behind the company’s vault-like door in High Holborn, London.

Seeing Voices suggests that a telephone is more than an everyday object that connects us; the icon represents a vast social history of exchange. By unraveling histories through archival material, students of MA Design Writing Criticism at the London College of Communication capture historical moments from the boxes of BT. These snippets present everyday stories where the meaning and impact of telephony is not only visible, but also enchanting.

Though each story is distinct, the multi-media exhibition connects the seven projects through shared social dialogues about telecommunications: a campaign’s power; a wire’s beauty; the face of advertising; the origin of etiquette; the lost exhibition; the intimacy of long-distance; the fairies in your phone.

By going back to original source material, we find authenticity and raw stories to tell. We learn that narratives lie in every archive and every object. They can speak to us, and we can listen.

Seeing Voices: Inside BT Archives runs from 2 March– 11 March in the Well Gallery, London College of Communication.
Private view on Wednesday 2 March, from 6-9 p.m.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

9:17 a.m. Account of a Greenhouse

Box of Books

The glass box glowed. It glowed so brightly you could not see inside. What you could see was what came out of it: a swirl of lacing smoke and the ambient light that feathered into the black like slow fog fades into first blush. We walked closer. The canary luminescence and glass sparkled. We tripped across grotty stone steps that had been thrown into the ground as if a giant had plodded his sloppy fingers into cold dirt. The wind galloped. The nearer we came the less box-like it seemed. We knew, of course, that this wasn’t a glass box at all. The illuminated prism we approached was a greenhouse. It was full of books.

I pushed against the door to escape the wind. But glass doors to glass structures don’t swing open. They slide. Within, flimsy shelves protruded from the right and left sides. The greenhouse was small — no bigger than our front room. But it was warm. Inside, it smelled like outdoors. At a desk in the corner, a man in a thick sweater and scarf sat next to the wood burning stove. As it was a very small area and there was no one else inside, we exchanged hello’s and shuffled near the fire. It was 9:00 and no one had visited since before dinner. The Internet was down. A slow evening. But The Paris Review on display made for good company. Thrice we exchanged interests, taking turns swapping accomplishments, learning backgrounds, discovering commonalities. No music played. I was surprised the howling wind was not louder against the glass panes. I ventured if the space was unbearable in summer. Yes, the man said. On some days, it swelters. There were cushions near the front, stacked high. Upholstered in seersuckered summer — red-and-white striped canvas that conjured beach vacations and cold drinks. I imagined hazy glass in July’s late dusk, the earthy smell of perspiration lingering between visitors. Once crisp stock wilting below humid swells of air, its youthful sharpness would go limp to the touch. The clear door would remain open, allowing in a breeze far different than the one from which we sought to leave this very evening.

All while we spoke, I could not shake the peculiar feeling of being inside a glass case at night. The synthetic light inside glared and reflected on the walls. Our bodies looked to be outside, and the blustery evening came in close. Suddenly arriving upon a greenhouse bookshop seemed a perfectly natural occurrence. We browsed the shelves, and forgot to look up at the stars. From within, we disregarded exteriors. Time left. I bought a book. Our words weakened into repeated salutations and wishes for one another. We said goodbye, slid open the glass door to screaming wind and stumbled across the grey stone path.

Later from the window of the restaurant, we would watch the man walk outside and tie up his scarf. Just beyond the fading yellow glow he would light a cigarette, a burning ember flickering red near his lips, dartling at his fingers, moving near his hip. And then it was gone, smashed on the stone steps. We would watch as he walked back into the greenhouse, leaving us with only our own glimmering reflections.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

5:42 p.m.

Happy Hour!
The small but exciting beginnings of the bookshelf dry bar, replete with new tumblers, coasters, dishes and garnishes. Don't let the Bombay worry you. The Hendrick's will make an appearance next week.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Giant Concrete Animals

The entrance to Penguin Park sits at the corner of Norton Avenue and Vivion Road, across the street from a small, unremarkable building that houses American Family Insurance, and another, slightly larger, but still unremarkable building that houses Planned Parenthood. Scattered through a haphazard collection of ordinary swingsets, seesaws and rusted monkeybars, are prodigious, concrete animals — static, smiling, Transformer-sized versions of childhood zoo favorites. This pocket of Kansas City was once a nice place to play and picnic. Now, though, Penguin Park and the area surrounding is not a recommendable destination for playgroups or field trips.

Once my mother me took Penguin Park. She thought it would be as oversizedly magical as it once was. I remember walking inside the bottom of the Penguin and looking up at its concrete, hollow insides. The soft ground smelled of damp and stale urine. I can conjure the memory now — that dark hole, with just a beam of light sweeping through the top and the realized stench of how I imagined the undersides of highway bridges to smell. But I wanted to climb to the top and slide down. Knowing I would cry and not stop if I wasn't allowed just one slide, my mother climbed up with me. I remember the ascent — the putrid air that slowly faded to something fresher as we neared the top. I don't, though, remember the slide down and out of the penguin.

Later, to no avail, I would try to convince my mother to let me swing on the swing whose corroding metal chain was held in the mouth of an enormous giraffe. And then I wanted to climb into the Kangaroo's pouch.

Penguin Park should compose the impossible material of those dreams that rapidly become traumatic, sweat-induced nightmares. Why does anyone want to climb a ladder inside a dark, concrete penguin?

I was catapulted back to the bird's belly when a suggestion was made to visit Crystal Palace Park. Among the regular playgrounds, walks and wintry vistas of the South London grounds is the Dinosaur Park. We didn't know anymore than this, and the thought of research never crossed our minds. On the train to Crystal Palace, I recalled a few years ago — when, one day in June, we found Dinosaur World in Beaver, Arkansas. At the entrance were turtles made of decaying plaster that chipped away to reveal broken skeletons of wire and mesh. We considered trespassing, but turned around and left.

These visions of empty marsupials and broken clay reptiles haunted the train ride and walk into Crystal Palace. I know a thing or two about parks that feature giant concrete animals as an attraction. I was skeptical.

The dinosaurs of Dinosaur Park aren't any less bizarre than the animals of my childhood. But the overall feeling of disquiet that comes from staring at a 3-story kangaroo for too long doesn't exist here. Crystal Palace Park is an active park. There are no creaking, lonesome swingsets. There is laughter. And ice cream cones if you want one. There are a lot of dads too, and save for the one who loudly barreled down a pathway with his daughter's wrist in one hand and a Carlings in the other, they are doing normal dad things: pushing strollers; jogging in grey sweatsuits; taking photos; relinquishing dignity for the small delights of their spawn.

Everyone likes the dinosaurs. I liked them too. Maybe it's because, unlike Penguin Park or Dinosaur World, the presentation is tactful. They are, of course, gargantuan, but the painted, iron beasts are well camoflauged under cute bridges and well kept, artificial marshes. Oddly, the scenes are not contrived. The dinosaurs are where they should be — on that island looking into the distance. Their swelled chests exude majestic, Jurassic pride. Despite their iron builds, they are clustered into graceful dino-cliques. They are lovely. They are not true depictions, but interpretations that incite points, laughter and a genuine appreciation for tasteful novelty (if there is such a thing). The dinosaurs enchant the grown-ups too, and everyone is relieved there are no slides coming out of the Brontosaurus.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

3:35 p.m.

Considering I've looked like this a lot lately:
Drawing by T!

I'm excited to go here this afternoon:

I'll let you know what happens.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Size Issue

It's been a long-time coming, but BodyTalk is finally here. Our fifth issue — The Size Issue — is out, and you should probably go enjoy it.