First lecture UNSW 2009

First Lecture as Design Tutor

(Assisted by Andrew Scott – Associate of the firm)

There were four parts to my brief from Andrew Scott who assists me here:

  1. That I tell you a little about my work and my office
  2. That I tell you a little about what the exercise I have set at Customs House at Circular Quay in Sydney
  3. That I tell you a little of what I expect from the paper cut and
  4. That I provide you with some of my ideas

All in ten minutes

So I will do only one of these and the others follow anyway.

Andrew gave me a little video this week with birds flying together; they make patterns of the universe, vortexes, three-dimensional parabolas, they all fly in and out of pattern is sorts of cone forms, impulsed by the most minor of turns by any one of the birds and the others follow; full forms of flight and yet like dust in the sky, everything is in their flight and yet it is nothing in context; gone a minute later.

It reminds me of the nomadic tribes or the patterns people make from living in cities; perhaps the patterns people make by living in cities.

And this sort of thing excites me because it reminds me we are like these animals in our essential terms; requiring the company and efforts of others but resisting this. Moving things to influence the others; to seduce the others to come our way.

This ‘resistance’ is our creative urge; “suffering” through this is part of this resistance and part of our nature.

I am then reminded of Albert Camus’ take on the horrible mythological story of Sisyphus who was damned by the ancient Gods so that he had to spend his time rolling a large boulder up a mountain only for it to roll back down and for him to have to start all over again. I think Camus was not sadistic when he wrote:

“I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Another story starts with the same author and ends in the gypsy traditions in Rumania; Camus elates “there is no sun without shadow” and it is easy to forget this.

Another myth exists in the gypsy culture whereby God had run out of room for souls, not able to find a place for their eternity in heaven and one day he heard a child sing a song. The song was so beautiful that he spoke to the child and asked it where did it come from? The little child kept singing. God then chose to allow people to die but in their death the essence of their life was kept in the songs and that is how the gypsies maintained their eternity.

There are many ways to determine our space on this earth. To enable a shadow of eternity to touch our existence and give it light.

Like Camus, I will give you tedious and difficult tasks,

you will need to measure the city and record it for no other reasons but that you love our place, for no other reward but the inner gratitude of deep simple knowledge.

you will need to measure the flocking birds in the sky, seek an understanding of their patterns and relate them to our patterns of movement and works in our place –

you will need to distinguish the visceral from the apparent

you will need to see yourself in the context of all other things

the numbers of the universe, the leaves in the trees;

such simple tasks will become difficult in their repetition but influential in their intent and in how you think about things.

We must as artists deal with how 2+2 will equal 5 as Albers put it. Otherwise we are but technicians.

As for my work, I will show you my work in your work; it will become our work and sometimes you will lead and sometimes I will lead but we will enjoy the difficulty of the magic we are able to produce together.

I promise.