Because I spread my newspaper reading throughout the day, I didn’t see this gem from yesterday’s WSJ until after I’d posted for the day. Besides, as it’s a WSJ story, I don’t even know if many of you can get to it. It’s about a pair of Bernard Madoff’s more unusual victims; I’ll try to clip judiciously and summarize efficiently.
Hed: Couple’s Dreams of Immortality at Death’s Door, Thanks to Madoff / Artists Who Design Homes to Prolong Life Lost Their Life Savings; Undulating Floors
Of all the dreams that were crushed by Mr. Madoff’s crime, perhaps none was more unusual than (Arakawa and Madeline Gins’), of achieving everlasting life through architecture. Mr. Arakawa (he uses only his last name) and Ms. Gins design structures they say can enable inhabitants to “counteract the usual human destiny of having to die.”
The pair’s work, based loosely on a movement known as “transhumanism,” is premised on the idea that people degenerate and die in part because they live in spaces that are too comfortable. The artists’ solution: construct abodes that leave people disoriented, challenged and feeling anything but comfortable.
They build buildings with no doors inside. They place rooms far apart. They put windows near the ceiling or near the floor. Between rooms are sloping, bumpy moonscape-like floors designed to throw occupants off balance. These features, they argue, stimulate the body and mind, thus prolonging life. “You become like a baby,” says Mr. Arakawa.
Yes, what Japanese designers are to fashion, so too are Arakawa (who is himself Japanese) and Gins to architecture — insane. The slideshow of the couple’s work is simply hilarious; the description of “sloping, bumpy, moonscape-like floors” doesn’t really do justice to the real article, which look as though even a crawling baby would have problems negotiating them. The story quotes a curator at the Guggenheim, who says “many of their supporters don’t literally accept the couple’s message on immortality but appreciate it in a ‘metaphorical’ way.”
Well, that’s comforting. And what about the clients?
At least one tenant says he feels a little younger already. Nobutaka Yamaoka, who moved in with his wife and two children about two years ago, says he has lost more than 20 pounds and no longer suffers from hay fever, though he isn’t sure whether it was cured by the loft.
There is no closet, and Mr. Yamaoka can’t buy furniture for the living room or kitchen because the floor is too uneven, but he relishes the lifestyle. “I feel a completely different kind of comfort here,” says the 43-year-old video director. His wife, however, complains that the apartment is too cold. Also, the window to the balcony is near the floor, and she keeps bumping her head against the frame when she crawls out to hang up laundry, he says. (“That’s one of the exercises,” says Ms. Gins.)
Alas, however, this architectural fountain of youth is at risk of drying up, as the couple invested their life savings with Madoff, and you know how that story ends. They’re trying to sell their “seminal work,” a series of 84 eight-foot-high panels, for $17 million, but failing that, their dream of building a “‘reversible destiny’ village with homes and parks that would combine their theories of life into one community,” alas, will, dare I say, die.
Which I can say I appreciate in a metaphorical way.
(Peter’s going to show up to lecture me for being a Philistine any minute now, I’m sure.)
Actually, I’m sorry to see Arakawa and Gins’ work be compromised. When the only people Madoff was stealing from were run-of-the-mill greedheads, you could make an argument for complicity. But when he came for the artists? To quote Bugs Bunny: This means…war!)
As I looked at the slideshow of Arakawa and Gins’ work, I thought about the purposes of the avant-garde, not just in architecture, but elsewhere. Are they cultural stalking horses or just…Bjork? Take Newt Gingrich, embryonic Catholic. I vote, in this case, for “just an asshole.”
The morning is slipping away and I have a 39-page bolus of copy to plow through, part of a new project I’m working on, which I’ll tell you about in due time. (It’s not a book.) There will also be some minor housekeeping announcements here and there, but nothing that will change your NN.C experience, except in the sense that I’ll be spread even thinner and more easily distracted. However, I’ve learned over time that when that happens, it’s rarely the blog that suffers, mainly because I have so many supporters who keep me at it. Take, for example, my webmaster J.C., who sent an e-mail yesterday announcing he’d been messing around with “SQL queries, and had identified the times I’ve duplicated headlines for a post, followed by a damn list:
(Groan.) (2 times.)
A day away. (2 times.)
Can’t talk now… (2 times.)
Cancel my subscription. (2 times.)
Caught up. (2 times.)
Discuss. (2 times.)
Dry. (2 times.)
Excuses, excuses. (2 times.)
Following up. (2 times.)
For your consideration. (3 times.)
Good news, bad news. (2 times.)
Grr. (2 times.)
Happy Halloween. (2 times.)
Happy new year. (2 times.)
Homework. (2 times.)
I ask you. (2 times.)
It’s a tough town. (6 times.)
Link salad. (2 times.)
Memento mori. (2 times.)
Monday, Monday. (2 times.)
Moving on. (2 times.)
My back pages. (2 times.)
No comment. (4 times.)
Ouch. (2 times.)
P.S. (2 times.)
Proud to be an American. (2 times.)
Recommended. (2 times.)
Ripped from the headlines. (2 times.)
Saturday morning market. (3 times.)
Sigh. (2 times.)
Snicker. (2 times.)
State fair. (2 times.)
Teevee. (2 times.)
The tyranny of choice. (3 times.)
Thinner. (2 times.)
Tids & bits (2 times.)
Tuesday night pie. (2 times.)
Update. (2 times.)
What’s it worth to you? (2 times.)
Wrong number. (2 times.)
Yawn. (2 times.)
This is sort of comforting, because I thought it would have been more. “It’s a tough town” is actually an old Knight Ridder joke, so obscure I don’t dare detail it here. But now you know.