Monday, June 13, 2005

2 things.

My girlfriend is away in Europe. Walter Benjamin illuminates my feelings:

“Flag . . . .

How much more easily the leave-taker is loved! For the flame burns more purely for those vanishing in the distance, fueled by the fleeting scrap of material waving from the ship or railway window. Separation penetrates the disappearing person like a pigment and steeps him in gentle radiance.”

Also, it turns out that the Bauhaus photographer, Wolfgang Sievers, about whom she is writing her thesis, took a series of photos of Monash University's Menzies Building in the 1960s. They're quite incredible:

Photograph: Wolfgang Sievers, 1963

Incredibly, it seems that there is more to the Menzies Building than its being generally acknowledged as "the ugliest building in Melbourne". Imagine that - there was a concept that drove the construction of that dominating, grey, Soviet-style monument.

And now it's the place that has housed the best part of my undergraduate degree.


Blogger Mel said...

I think you've picked the best picture of the lot. I found myself becoming really excited when I saw the stark lines of the building rearing up with no trees and hardly any people to disturb them. How sublimely modern it was.

Do you think the building has lost its power these days? I still feel a kind of awe walking through the square outside the library towards the Ming Wing. My parents tell me that's where the student rallies used to be in their day. The architecture seems to lend itself to such revolutionary activities. Melbourne Uni really doesn't have an equivalent awe-inspiring area for congregation, and RMIT's city campus seems to have been designed deliberately to prevent congregation.

12:11 pm  
Blogger Catherine said...

It is sublimely modern - Wolfgang Sievers is an Australian photographer, but he's German-born and Bauhaus-trained. I've only seen bits of his work while looking over my girlfriend's shoulder as she writes her thesis, but I must say that I quite like his stuff - apart from all the clean lines of buildings (which makes one feel chillingly alienated, I feel), the glorified, precise figure of the worker is central to his work.

(I suggest searching the State Library website for his things if this sounds interesting - they have a good collection available online.)

And as for the Menzies Building's power - I must say that I was also drawn to Monash after hearing my dad's stories of the days in which you almost couldn't get to lectures, because of the mud and lines of police with batons and Vietnam war protesters. And then I heard about this mythical left-wing place, ''Wholefoods'', where activists hang out... Probably reading Noam Chomsky, discussing anti-globalisation protests over lentils... I was in the height of my pseudo-socialist Naomi Klein-reading, French Revolution-studying period too, so the projected image of ME leading the underground revolt against capitalism from Monash's far-flung grounds swayed my VTAC preferences decisively. I didn't even go to another uni's open day.

Needless to say, it didn't quite turn out like that. But gosh, what a romantic prospect it seemed.

4:22 am  
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12:09 pm  
Blogger Crritic! said...

Now the great Wolfgang Sievers has died at a grand old age.

I would extremely interested to know more about the thesis. Which institution? When will it be available?

9:12 am  
Blogger Catherine said...

It was an Honours thesis at Melbourne University. I'm not sure how you access those. The author's name is Dunja Rmandic. I think she has a paper coming out in some Melbourne online art history journal in the next week or so, also about Sievers.

2:07 pm  

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