Last night I was fortunate to be able to go to the Hinterland event at the derelict St.Peter’s seminary in Cardross. As some of you know, my love and fascination with Brutalist architecture goes back a long time, and my years of living at the Barbican centre in London will forever be enshrined in my memory as perfect architectural bliss. The site of the abandoned St.Peter’s seminary has been on my architectural radar for a while, but I had always hesitated to make the trip there for fear of unexpectedly bumping into some of the vandals that have been steadily dismantling the site. I am not talking about some of the absolutely stunning graffiti that has happened there over the years, but rather the smashing of the fairly sizeable altar stone (how???) and other such random acts of destruction. So when the Hinterland event was announced as part of the opening event of the Festival of Architecture 2016, my tickets to go were booked immediately.

Arriving at the site by shuttle bus, we were handed illuminated walking sticks to navigate through the dense woodlands along a footpath that featured a rather spooky sound installation on some sections and led to the small back door of the sacristy. The outer wall of the sacristy immediately reminded me very strongly of Le Corbusier’s Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut, with its incredible thickness and tiny square windows set deep into the wall. The highly regarded chapel was completed in 1955, a mere eleven years before the seminary opened in 1966. Le Corbusier was reportedly a significant influence on architects Gillespie, Kidd & Coia, and this is evident in many of the features of this beautiful Scottish Brutalist masterpiece, such as the long columnar walkways, the open layout of the main spaces and the tiny dimensions of the novice’s individual cells.

Following a sloped, spiral walkway into the main hall of the seminary to the broken altar, the light installation staged by NVA created a surreal and fantastical colourful landscape on the graffitied walls and pillars of the seminary. In what used to be the central area of the knave, an oversized ceremonial pendulum was suspended over a shallow pool of water and occasionally set in motion by two priest-like protagonists, spewing forth thick white smoke. This was accompanied by eerie abstract choral singing and a ritual of welding steel inside a cage situated on the far side of the pool, creating an incredible interplay of shadow and bright white light on the ceiling, columnar wall and surface of the water. Progressing through the seminary, it became obvious what a tranquil and meditative space it used to be, and this struck me most when coming out of the recreation block into a secluded inner courtyard. The seminary is much more compact in scale than I expected and from ground level a warren of complementary geometries opened up like a darkly lit multistorey labyrinth. We spent about two hours at the site itself, and even though photography was not permitted inside the building, I managed to take a few of the outside as seen from the garden, although many more beautiful professional images have been released online since the event opened last week, and there is also some video footage  by others on Youtube.

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Arts organisation NVA have recently taken on the site, with an exceptional vision to turn it into a venue where experimental art and community engagement events can take place – head over to their website to watch the beautifully shot promotional video that explains their plans better than I could, and maybe make a small donation? Further funding of £4.2 million has just been announced and it now looks like all the pieces are in place to go ahead with the building plans and hopefully re-open in 2017/18. I was particularly pleased to hear that they want to remake the large lantern skylight that was lost over the years, and which was a particularly stunning feature of the original building. For a glimpse of what the seminary was like when initially built and used by the Catholic church to train priests, have a look at this fascinating footage from the 1972 architectural documentary “Space and Light” by Murray Grigor. In 2009, Grigor also released the shot-by-shot re-make companion piece “Space and Light Revisited”, visually contrasting the current decaying state of the seminary with its pristine original condition. I am already very excited about seeing the restored building in the near future, hopefully to return and take some more competent photographs.

Barney…and Björk

As one of my all-time favourite artists I would definitely have to rank Matthew Barney. I was fortunate to see his Cremaster Cycle when it was touring the world in 2002, after he had finished the final part “Cremaster 3”. The exhibition actually opened in my German home town of Cologne, at the Museum Ludwig, which is where I saw it the summer before I started art college. I made my now-husband sit through most of all the films (we left half-way through Part 1, which was screened last, after nearly 6 1/2 hours in the cinema), and the experience has stayed with me since then. For me, being able to remember something you saw nearly 13 years ago in vivid detail is a sign of great art. My favourite part by far was Part 3, which was eventually partially released on DVD (unfortunately only 30 minutes though, which a) makes very little sense unless you have seen the rest of the cycle and b) doesn’t nearly scratch the surface of its visually complex narrative). I would love to see the whole cycle again in its entirety, but screenings are so rare and I am so bad at finding out about things early that there is practically no chance of that happening other than by some crazy stroke of luck. In the Cremaster Cycle, Barney seems to have achieved what many artists strive for – to realise a vision so compelling, visceral, complete and utterly original that it could not be anyone else’s.

Gooo....so much goooo
Gooo….so much goooo…

Of course, I was not surprised when it later emerged that Barney was in a relationship with Icelandic performance artist extraordinaire Björk. After seeing the Cremaster Cycle, it just made complete sense to me that two people with such unique creative vision would share a deep connection. Björk herself is high on my list of “People I would like to make a massive semi-unwearable piece of jewellery for”, and I admire her ability to completely re-invent herself in always unexpected ways for each of her releases. She really pushes the boundaries of what constitutes music, and the themes of her 2011 album Biophilia album particularly strike a chord with me. The MOMA New York is staging a massive retrospective of her work right now, which I am sure despite the mixed reviews is worth seeing at any rate, even if only for the amazing costumes. I love the outfit Björk is wearing for her latest album Vulnicura, as usual pushing the boundaries of wearability and blurring body adornment and fashion:

bjork-vulnicura-2015-press-billboard-650Vulnicura of course is a break-up album, conceived as a response to her recent split from Barney. Maybe that in itself was also an inevitability in the grand scheme of things.

3D painted fish…

Today I came across the work of a very cool Japanese artist who takes the concept of 3D printing back to more traditional techniques – Riusuke Fukahori. Obviously a lateral thinker, Fukahori uses traditional painting techniques and glass clear resin casting to create almost hyper-real sculptures of fish swimming in bowls. He painstakingly paints small fish on layers of cured resin, adding more resin after each layer. In that way the process works exactly like 3D printing….except with paint and resin. Check out his amazing work, including a video of his process here.

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