Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

The Idea of North - Cut Up Architecture and the TyneDeck

We were asked to make a short contribution to the Baltic's Current Exhibition on the Idea of North. This was in response to the 1969 proposal to culvert the river Tyne.  Here it is in full with all the references (and some illustrations) included ...

The artist Brion Gysin is accredited with developing the ‘cut-up’ montage technique – a new form of writing whereby text and image fragments are intuitively pieced together to form open associative narrative structures. This method of ‘cut-ups’ has since been utilised as a method of writing, from the earliest automatist techniques influences of Dadaism and surrealism, through to Tristan Tzara pulling pieces of poetry from a hat[1]. One of the most interesting examples of this approach can be heard on The Cold Spring Tape (a legendary cassette-only release of 100 copies)[2]featuring readings and interviews with Genesis P. Orridge of (at that time) Psychic TV, William S Burroughs and Brion Gysin, where they explain their procedural rules of ‘cut-ups’. This ‘rule-based’ method of creating has been likened to a disruptive technique arising from a distrust of order and rules within language[3], thus making it ironically most suited to the development of a new vision for the city that is in part a critique of traditional urbanism.The legacy of this cut-up town planning method is evident from the post-modern writings on ‘Learning from Las Vegas’[4]through to the work of Rem Koolhaas’ and his treatment of the ‘city as an object’[5].
So in transferring this creative methodology and critical theory to architecture and urban planning we inevitably have something that is either paying some unspoken homage to this disruptive and creative ‘cut-up’ process, or part visual and intellectual plagiarism of architectural forms. And this appears to be the origins of the Tyne Deckas a montage of both architectural forms and of ideas.
As a form, it clearly borrows from Le Corbusier’s rejected 1932 competition entry for the design of the Palace of the Soviets. As an idea it also has a lot in common with this historical modernist future proposed for a then young communist nation in need of an administrative centre, just like the newly formed Tyne and Wear County Council.
Corbusier's 1932 competition entry for the Palace of the Soviets.
I first saw this design in Rowe and Koetter’s Collage City[6], an important academic critique of modernist architecture and city planning, where they presumably used Le Corbusier’s project as a poor example of how architecture presented as utopian ideas, was often little more that egotism. As an alternative, Rowe and Koetter promoted architectural pragmatism in the choice of working methods and theoretical grounding; as intellectual pragmatism is an inevitable part of the design and construction of the modern city where multiple agents gets their hands into the messy decision-making ‘creative hat’ that is full of competing theories, concepts and process.It was about following a process or a set of alternative rules, and it was a rejection of more traditional (a.k.a. capitalist) methods[7].
Corbusier's proposal for the Palace of the Soviets next to the Tyne Deck - Spot the difference.
Yet the timing of the Tyne Deck proposals, from 1969, significantly predates the publication of Collage Cityand is contemporaneous with (and so I assume inspired by) the early ‘cut-up’ creative lyric collaborations between William Burroughs, David Bowie[8]and the magnatic tape-splicing undertaken by Cabaret Voltaire[9]. “… The inspiration of Dada offered a guidebook of how to go about deconstructing a world that did not adequately represent the one we actually inhabited … like others, we filtered, collated, and cut up visuals in true Gysin style … (t)he sights and sounds were strange pre-echoes of the Burroughs-esque dystopian world we inhabited”[10]. Now tell me that that ‘cut-up’ description doesn’t fit the Tyne Deck as it sits as part of our collective “ransacked heritage”[11].
As an ironic postscript, the building of the eventual neo-classical winning entry for the Palace of the Sovietswas aborted by the war and later had its’ foundations converted into the world’s largest open-air swimming pool. The Tyne Deckalso remains unrealized and similarly full of water.

[1]Robinson, E.S. (2011) Shift Linguals: Cut-Up Narratives from William S. Burroughs to the Present (Rodopi, Amsterdam).
[2]Cold Spring (1989) Limited Edition, C90 Cassettecan be heard at; (accessed 16thApril 2018)
[3]Lydenberg, R. (1978) “Cut-Up: Negative Poetics in William Burroughs and Roland Barthes”. Comparative Literature Studies15(4) 414-430.
[4]Venturi, R., Scott Brown, D., Izenour, S. (1972) Learning from Las Vegas(MIT Press, Cambridge MA).
[5]Dağlioğlu, E.K. (2016) “Karl Popper’s architectural; legacy: An intertextual reading of collage city”. Metu Journal of the Faculty of Architecture33(1) 107-119.
[6]p70 in; Rowe, C., Koetter, F. (1978) Collage City(MIT Press, Cambridge MA).
[7]This was most clearly described by; Debord, G. (1967) The Society of the Spectacle(Black and Red, Petersberg Florida).
[8]Wien, K,. Fallows, C., Genzmer, S (Eds.) (2012) Cut-Ups, Cut-Ins, Cut-Outs: The Art of William S. Burroughs(Verlag fur moderne Kunst Nurnberg, Nürnberg).
[9]Named after the restaurant that was supposedly the birthplace of Dadaism; Sandqvist, T. (2006) Dada East: the Romanians of Cabaret Voltaire(MIT Press, Cambridge MA).
[10]Quotation by Stephen Mallinder, one of the founding members of Cabaret Voltaire, takenfrom the forward and introduction to; Reed, S.A. (2013) Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music(Oxford University Press, Oxford).
[11]Fish, M. (2002) Industrial Evolution: Through the Eighties with Cabaret Voltaire(SAF Publishing, London).

Find out more about all the other ideas here ...

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Isotype parody - It's a Square World 1963

While undertaking some work researching isotype and infographics, we came across this very timely infographic presentation in the style of the Open University circa 1963, bu Michael Bentine and Bob Godfrey.

Monday, 2 April 2018

The Great British Eccentric

Part research and part pathos ... inspirational even when being a straight man.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Alvin Toffler's Future Shock

Alvin Toffler's 'Future Shock,' narrated by Mr. Orson Welles VIA from on Vimeo.

Currently undertaking some reading on historical futurism and found this amazing video of Orson Welles explaining or paraphrasing the influential work of Alvin Toffler. Retro and futurist at the same time ... Toffler, A. (1970) Future Shock (Pan Books, London).

Thursday, 14 December 2017

UK Music Map

Now then ... this interactive map has nothing to do with us but it's so cool to come across this in the midst of a government policy website (Creative Industries Council if you are asking) that we thought it is definitely worth sharing ... interactive means clicking to hear.

Embed this app
Click the image to open the full interactive version (via

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Champing = Church Camping

This is just a cool idea for a fresh experience by the Churches Conservation Trust ... book your place here. And like true faith Anglicans, you can also pre-book your wine ready for your arrival. What's not to like about this?

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Development of the barter economy

Starting an interesting collection of LETS and barter economy groups as the idea progresses throughout the internet and social media for specific interests ...

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Sex and Drugs and Rock & Roll

There seems to be an evidence base at last for the proposition made by Ian Dury & and the Blockheads  ... have a look at this research paper to discover that what you always suspected about music is grounded in evolutionary biology. 

It does seem that music gives you please in the same way that sex and drugs work ...

Reference: Mallik, A., Chanda, M.L., Levity, D.J. (2017) "Anhedonia to music and mu-opioids: Evidence from the administration of naltrexone". Scientific Reports 7(41952) 1-8.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Season's Greetings

Look forward to a leaner, greener and more optimistic new year for community support and sustainable development. Recycled e-card based on a street paving rubbing from Barcelona as it seemed very snow flake / fractal-like. 

Friday, 14 October 2016

Pocket Money Loans by Darren Cullen

Amazingly funny and not funny together ... Pocket Money Loans as a form of satirical art. Darren Cullen visited Newcastle with this exhibition in October.

Alternative Music Blueprint

We saw this featured in Wired magazine and need to post a link to share (and remember where to find it again) ...

A simple but great approach to the ontology of information and illustrating the complexity of networks and influences ... but based on alternative music movements ... available for purchase from Dorothy here.

Monday, 26 September 2016

First computer generated music

We've been undertaking some research into early sounds and the development of digital music and came across this amazing reference to the work of Alan Turing in 1951. Amazing innovator and an amazing brain ...

... worried about your own brain and want to take the Turing Test (copy of the 1950 academic paper hereyourself then have a go at it here (more or less) ... 

Monday, 27 June 2016

3D Printed Audio

So impressed with the idea and delivery of this project ...

... as it is manufactured and presented as 'materialised audio' ...

Thursday, 12 May 2016

The Fatima Mansions

We’ve always been intrigued about the interface between architecture and popular culture and got particularly excited around the recent listing of the former Sex Pistols’ London flat at 6 Denmark Street[1]. Wall graffiti being protected by Grade II* status seems to officially give historical weight and significance to the cultural importance of the punk movement. Or at least the need to protect and maintain what physical legacy of the movement remains. It got us thinking about the similar Irish legacy and the lesser known The Fatima Mansions (with their back catalogue playing in the background of the studio … here I would recommend their cover version of ‘Shiny Happy People’ on their 1991 ‘Bertie’s Brochures’ album) who named themselves after an entire social housing estate in Dublin’s southside, although they seemed to have been based in Newcastle for much of the 1990s.

There is an interesting academic review of the estate, development history through to regeneration and the role that media representations had on the perception of the area[2], including references to the band.

[1] Brown, M (2016) “Not pretty, not vacant: Sex Pistols’ London home given listed status”. The Guardian 22nd March. [accessed 22nd March 2016]
[2] Conway, B., Corcoran, M., Cahill, L (2012) “The ‘miracle’ of Fatima: Media framing and the regeneration of a Dublin housing estate”. Journalism 13(5) 551-571.