19 November 2014

Poking around in and around the Barbican

The Barbican was planned in the heady days when "everyone" travelled by car, so getting there on foot is a labyrinthine trek. Either you go up narrow stairs, along a windswept plain, down shallow steps - and up yet more steps, internal this time, to the art gallery ... or you dodge between temporary fences along the  upper levels - as we did, and on passing the Conservatory found that it was open.
It was built to camouflage the fly tower of the theatre, once and possibly still the highest in Europe, or at least the UK or perhaps London. It's a nice addition for events held in the adjacent halls, and is open to the public on Sundays, 12-5.

Our destination was the Constructing Worlds exhibition - photography dealing with architecture. You can see some photos on the website, and read the exhibition wall texts. This image (found here)
appears with the Audioguide on the website - it's by Lucien Herve, taken at Chandringar, Le Corbusier's designed city in India - I did try to draw it in order to make sense of it. (Look how important that one little person in it is...)

While I was writing down the name of the photographers and extracting "one little fact" from the wall text, not once but twice a member of staff came over and mentioned that the texts could be found on the website. Which was nice.
I'd been interested to see this show because of having to wait for a train and having a chance to draw the interesting structure on the poster for the show, which also appears on the cover of the book -
It's the Monument to Progress and Prosperity on the banks of the Yangtze River, photographed by Nadav Kandar.

Coming out of an exhibition like this, you see your familiar surroundings in a new way -
Outside the Barbican Art Gallery
While in the building we had a quick look at a little exhibition about the architects of the Barbican itself - these are the "old fashioned" tools of Geoffry Powell -
Another visual delight was the lighting in the cafe -
And then we went to The Curve - wow - 12,000 cyantopes! -

The artist, Walead Beshty, photographed the front and back of each piece as it was made (over more than a year) and the photos are being assembled at half size in chronological order in huge books. Two are on display ("don't touch!") and there will be 41 eventually. The words stamina and endurance come to mind.... Not only in the making, but in the week or more it took four people to install it all. It's on till February ... read more about it here.

Walking back to the tube, we saw this sign, amid others pointing what used to be where now modern buildings stand ("Thanet House was on this site, demolished 1878" etc). (Ironmongers Hall in the background is a survival from the 1920s, though Pepys mentioned the previous Hall, on a different site, scorched but not burnt in the Great Fire) -
"The probably site, where, on May 24, 1738 John Wesley "felt his heart strangely warmed." This experience of grace was the beginning of Methodism. This Tablet is gratefully placed here by the Drew Theological Seminary of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Madison, New Jersey, U.S.A. August 1926"

What a mixup and layering of history London is, not just in grand places but on ordinary streets.


Heather James said...

Fascinating post.

Plum Cox said...

I agree with Heather - fascinating! Thanks for taking the time to share this with us and remind us to look everywhere with fresh eyes!

Stitchinscience said...

That is so funny about how to get in to the Barbican Margaret. It really puts me off going there, unless it is for something very unique.