I think I’m going to start a new collection of buildings whose designers deny the obvious when confronting criticism of a work’s imagery. For example, the buildings above. They are actually a sculpture, yet the interview containing the denial is headlined “Are Those Two Buildings Having Sex?”
But hey! Buildings? Sculptures? What’s the difference!
I don’t think it can be interpreted as the headline seems to suggest. Is the Centre Pompidou having sex with “Domestikator,” by Joep Van Lieshout? Certainly not. After seeing how the two main elements of the sculpture are positioned, the evidence is clear who’s doing it with whom (or what). It does not matter how many words the sculptor may waste trying to deny it, the truth is there for all to see.
For my new collection, three buildings are very good examples. One is the People’s Daily News headquarters in Beijing that looks like a penis, another is the late Zaha Hadid’s stadium in Qatar that looks like a vagina, and the third is the proposed and as yet unbuilt apartment complex by the Dutch designer MVRDV for Seoul, which looks like the Twin Towers being rammed by airliners. Each set of designers denied the obvious.
“Domestikator” was kept out of the Louvre by the good taste of one or more of, no doubt, a quadrillion committees there that decide what is appropriate to put on public display. Unlike the committee, I have no problem with the subject, although it is a bit raw, as was the image by Le Corbusier that author Malcolm Millais decided not to print in his recent book Le Corbusier: The Dishonest Architect; it’s the aesthetic treatment of the sexual act depicted by Van Lieshout to which I object. Here, at the risk of offending the readers of this family blog, is that illustration, sent to me by Millais.
Let me be clear: I do object as well to the growing coarseness in culture around the world that enables such tripe to be acceptable for public display in the world’s great museums, not to mention embodied in major public buildings. It may be reasonably argued that by displaying them here I am fostering the same coarseness. If I must plead guilty, at least permit me to argue that the display works hand in glove with my objection.
Actually, it seems a lot more difficult to figure out what’s going on in Corbusier’s pen and ink wash drawing than in Van Lieshout’s sculpture, or even whether the work’s title, “Two Lesbians,” is, um, accurate. But hey, that’s Corbu for you. His writing was indecipherable, and so were his buildings. Why not his art? At least the founder of modernism’s sensibility was consistent in his confusion!