Week 11 | Booze & Schmooze: 22.03.10

“There should be an app that churns out interesting chat to have with celebrities.”

Tracey’s World: If You Sow Them, They Will Come

According to an old Spanish proverb, under a tattered cloak you will generally find a good drinker, wise words for the launch of the V&A’s quilts exhibition on Wednesday evening, where we found ourselves elbow-deep in champagne listening to Tracey Emin introduce the exhibition.

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Some elderly Spaniards also say that you should not check the teeth of a horse given as a present, but who knows what that means – I don’t speak Spanish – and after the introductory speeches were over, we needed to think of something to say to Tracey Emin that made sense.

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We know that there’s an app on the iPhone that randomly generates pick-up lines, but there should also be an app that churns out interesting chat to have with celebrities. Wikipedia says that Tracey Emin lives in a Georgian silk weaver’s house in Spitalfields, which would have made for a great conversational starter if only we had found this information out before the event.

As it turned out, the conversation we did have with her barely lasted long enough to swap introductory pleasantries. Somewhat more successful were the dimmed lights disguising our blushes, the canapés comforting our stomachs and the DJ – a sexagenarian with a handlebar moustache – dazzling us with some of the best knob-twiddling we have ever seen. 

The exhibition of British quilts has apparently racked up more pre-sales than any other V&A exhibition, an announcement that prompted smug grins from the gaggle of women standing in front of us and a raucous football terrace chant of something which sounded a lot like: “And they said no one would want to come…” Hmmm…catchy!

And it is not only quilts that are making a comeback…

Empire Strikes Back

On Thursday evening, Vitra, the furniture designers and patrons of the Saatchi Gallery, invited us to view a new exhibition at the gallery called ‘The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today’. 

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After a champagne reception, the invitation said we’d join a ‘select small group’ on an ‘exclusive after hours viewing’ of the exhibition, followed by a tour of the rest of the contemporary art gallery conducted by the artist, writer and curator Patricia Ellis. 

We were already sold on the promise of our second champagne reception of the week, but the invitation went on: ‘It is hard to put into words how special this event is, and rest assured you will be blown away…’ And on: ‘It truly is an amazing space packed with some exceptional art…’ 

Not quite the moon on a stick preserved in formaldehyde but by Jove, nobody does the hard sell quite like Charles Saatchi!  

For us, the Richard Wilson piece ‘20:50’ was the highlight of the evening. Named after the type of recycled engine oil used in the installation, 20:50 is basically a room in the basement of the gallery flooded with enough black gold to warrant an American invasion.

Our guy from Vitra, Steve Fitch, warned us about the smell of the oil, so we held our noses long enough to have an interesting chat with him about his recent trip to the new VitraHaus, a high-end version of an IKEA showroom, which is used to display the Home collection at Vitra’s HQ in Germany. 

The Herzog and de Meuron designed building looks like a train of disused tube carriages has been piled on top of farmer Giles’s funky farmyard barn in the middle of a rural scrap yard. Take a look: http://www.dezeen.com/2010/02/19/vitrahaus-by-herzog-de-meuron-2).

Leaving Las Vegas

After two evenings on the three C’s, champagne, cocktails and canapés, the morning-after website routine in the aberrant studio can go on a little longer than a cursory look through BBC online. On the one hand, wasting time trawling the Internet doesn’t really pay off when you work for yourself, but on the other hand, there is no fear of getting caught. Plus, typing in ‘aberrant architecture’ into Google to see what hits come up can be passed off as work. 

Out of interest, if Google-stalking is when you look for other people online, what is the inverse pursuit called? I.e. when you look for other people mentioning yourself…‘Google-frottage’ maybe, or ‘Grottage’ for short?

Whatever it is called (suggestions welcome), whilst we were grottaging ourselves the other day, we came across this website for Beatrice Galilee, the architectural curator and journalist who we worked with on the Hong Kong/Shenzhen biennale. Go check it out: http://www.beatricegalilee.com.

Sideways

Contrary to how it may seem from the above, we have managed to get some work done in the midst of all the schmoozing, though the cynical amongst you may think the booze has permeated our research into flexible working… 

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Following on from the weavers of Spitalfields, we have been looking into the forerunner of the modern day pub, the beer house.

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Prior to 1830, large breweries held a monopoly over beer sales and a large portion of the population were hooked on gin. The Beer Act 1830 lifted restrictions on producing and selling beer, enabling anyone in possession of a cheap licence to brew and/or dispense beer, ale or cider from their own home. 

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The legislation succeeded in weaning the populace off its gin dependency and led to the beer house rapidly superseding the predominance of taverns, inns and alehouses in the nation’s drinking habits.

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Nearly two centuries later, we have happy hours, binge drinking and pub crawls, but back in the day, successful beer houses were divided up into three areas: a ‘public’ space for the workers, a ‘saloon’ for management and a ‘private’ enclave for the beer house’s most influential patrons, who might use the watering hole as a place of business as well as leisure.

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Our preliminary search of RIBA’s collection has revealed a number of interesting drawings and plans that demonstrate this mixed usage. Two in particular are for separate pubs called ‘The Elephant and Castle’, which sadly no longer exist. The first is a design for a beer house by Alfred A Webbe, listed in the collection – somewhat bizarrely – as ‘location unknown’, and the second is an Erno Goldfinger’s design for a public house more definitively destined for Southwark. 

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Anyone fancy a pint?

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